The big question: ‘Can I afford a gap year?’ Well yes, yes you can. Simply put, if you want to do something badly enough you can raise the money. This is a quick guide to working out a budget for your gap year, getting a job and earning money, raising cash through fundraising events, and – wait for it – getting your hands on ‘free’ money through sponsorship and grants. Read through these top tips and you’ll have reached your target in no time.
How to budget
Set your target
Work out a rough budget for your trip so you know how much money you need to raise. How much money you will need depends on where you are going and how long for. You need to pay for travel, accommodation, food and fun. And don’t forget to budget for insurance, vaccinations and medication, as well as the kit you need before you go. If you’re taking part in a supported placement you will be given a fundraising target, but remember to add the cost of any travelling after the project is over. If you plan to work while you’re away, you will need to raise the fare to your destination and some funds to tide you over until you receive your first pay packet.
Be realistic about the amount you’ll spend on your travels. If you can stay with friends or family some of the time that will save money. If you have to fend for yourself, you will probably need at least £30 a day for food, accommodation and travelling costs – but obviously that figure can vary a huge amount depending on where you’re going. It’s also a fact that almost everyone spends more than they expected while travelling, so it is worth adding in extra funds for emergencies… or that bungee jump.
Do some fundraising
Rather than you slogging away behind a bar, why not get others to put their hand in their pocket for you? All you have to do is come up with some imaginative ways to make people want to do that. Here are some suggestions:
Sell your unwanted stuff
Hold a car boot sale, hire a stall at your local market, or even sell stuff online. Ask all your friends to save their unwanted clothes, CDs, sports gear etc. for you and you’ll be amazed at what people will buy! Maybe even put an advert in your local paper or on social media to publicise the event.
Make money by helping others
There are numerous ways of raising money. You could wash cars, walk dogs, design and sell T-shirts, make cakes and biscuits for a market stall, baby-sit, mow lawns or deliver leaflets.
Have a party
It is worth getting together with friends on social events – it’s more fun and you’ll have more people to invite. Why not hold a party? Rope in plenty of help, tell all your friends and their friends about it and send out lots of invitations. Hire a local hall or club. Charge a modest admission fee and have a paying bar. Maybe you could get a DJ to play for free or ask one of your friends to do the music.
Earn your way to freedom
Get a job
Depending on how long you’ve got before you leave for your gap year, you could take one or even two jobs and stash the money away. Thanks to the minimum wage, even with expenses you should be able to save £150 a week from one job. If you have longer to raise the money then there is less pressure to hit your target. For example, if you have ten months to raise £2250 it could be raised through a £6 per hour job working 37.5 hours each month, that is less than ten hours a week or just two evenings a week in a pub.
Type of jobs
Look online, in the local paper, jobcentre, students’ union and so on for vacancies. Likely jobs could include bar work, waiting, cleaning, admin and clerical duties, factory work, shop assistant… the list goes on and on. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty – it’ll all be worth it when you’re drinking from a coconut in Koh Phi Phi.
Getting sponsorship or grants
Do a sporting activity
Do a sponsored marathon, bungee jump, abseil, parachute jump, trek, bike ride, and long-distance swim – whatever takes your fancy! Get your friends, family and local businesses to sponsor you. Offer to write a newspaper article or talk to your local council to raise awareness of what you are doing. It might be a good idea to combine fundraising for your trip with fundraising for a good cause – then you can give half the total raised to a charity and more people may be more willing to sponsor you. It’s a win-win situation.
Write begging letters
Write to companies and grant-making trusts, your old school, local church or other local associations. This route is most likely to be successful if you can demonstrate that your gap year is going to be of benefit not only to yourself, but to a disadvantaged community or a conservation project. Also check the criteria of each grant and tailor your application to fit those categories. Be professional, focused and keen – trusts and companies get numerous requests for sponsorship and donations each year. Don’t waste your time applying for grants whose criteria you don’t match.