12 ways to stop yourself going broke on a gap year

By David Ellis
13th March 2014

Gap years are fabulous. Of course they are - after all, you're propping up both Australia and Thailand's economy. The thing is, though, they cost an awful of money. Travelling doesn't have to be a fortune, but don't buy into the 'it costs practically nothing to live once you're out there' shtick - it will always be more than you think. Sure, hostels might not cost much but this is your gap year, so you'll want to do things. And things cost money.

Make sure to budget well, and have emergency funds too.

Once you've sorted that - go! Explore!

1. Work, work, work

Work before you go - or work while you're out there. This site and this site should help you find something.

Why not exchange your labour for accommodation? Sites like this one are set up for that exact purpose.

2. Eat local

It will always, always be cheaper.

Don't be afraid of street food: it's cooked right there in front of you, so you'll know what's in a dish. Exercise a little common sense: if a place is busy, it's probably good. If it's not, it won't have the best reputation.

3. Go all in

This depends on which country you're thinking of exploring. If you're headed to a notoriously expensive country - say, the USA - where hotels and even hostels cost a fortune, an all-inclusive package will very often slice a sizeable chunk off your overall costs.

The only way to know whether you stand to save money is to add up your costs and directly compare them. Tours often boast of all sorts of experiences which justify their price but it's important to be sure whether you actually want those experiences... sure, having a bungee jump thrown in seems amazing, but if you weren't planning on doing it in the first place, it ceases to be a perk. Don't believe the marketing bluff.

4. Travel to unusual places

Why are you going to Thailand like everybody else? There's no denying it's beautiful but it's also rammed full of everyone else on their gap year, which means it's rammed full of businesses looking to profit from these not-so-intrepid explorers.

5. Blog, blog, blog

It's not especially easy, and it's very time consuming, but blogging is an excellent way to make money and build up a portfolio. The key thing is exposure: work on your blog before you go, build it up and write regularly. If you have an established, engaged audience, you'll find it much easier to monetise.

6. Use a prepaid travel card

You'll get a better exchange rate and they're super convenient.

7. Book early

Make like the joker and get ahead of the curve - the earlier you book, the cheaper it'll be. Besides, it gives you longer to rebuild your funds.

8. Sell and get rid of EVERYTHING

Ebay is your friend - and you probably have a lot of junk lying around. Put two and two together...

9. Walk

… don't use public transport. And forget taxi's, which are perhaps the number one way tourists get ripped off. Walk places and you'll see far more of the country you came to visit.

10. Skype

...instead of phone calls.

11. Set up a weekly budget

Establish a budget and stick to it - this will keep your money in order and will stop the continual 'I'll just get a little more money out...' routine, which finds you half way through your trip begging your long suffering parents for a hand out.

12. Teach abroad

Teaching abroad usually comes as a package, so you'll earn money while you're away, while having enough free time to party and enjoy your surroundings. Go for it.

13. Get a saving account with interest

Saving for a gap year means you'll have a lot of money in the bank - utilise it. Swap to an account with a high interest rate and you'll make money on your money. Fabulous.

14. Stop with the souvenirs

You'll probably drop them anyway. Besides, you'll never keep them. Put the money toward an experience - you'll have a much better time because of it.

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