Sticking to your Gap Year Budget | Top Universities

Sticking to your Gap Year Budget

By Staff W

Updated March 5, 2016 Updated March 5, 2016

When you're on a gap year, money can run out fast. Here are a few simple tips on how to stick to a gap year budget. After all, money doesn't grow on trees!

One of the first things to bear in mind is that what you choose to do in your gap year will largely determine the cost, as well as any income you may be able to acquire.  Whenever you're away from home, whether it's studying, travelling or working, you will need to budget, and our guide will help you to do just that.

QS Top Universities looks at how to budget on a gap year of travelling, how much you'll need, and where you can save.

Plan ahead

There will be different visa restrictions in each of the countries you go to and more often than not you won't be able to spend more than three months in one place. Therefore, it may pay to divide your gap year savings up into different sections.

Allocate a certain amount each month, each week or even for each region of the world that you're travelling in, and where possible try to stick to this budget. You'll visit some places where the money you have will go a lot further than others. For example, eating out in Thailand is likely to be cheaper than eating out in France! So do some research into the costs of the different places you're going and allocate your budget accordingly.

Costs upfront

With many of the big costs for your gap year being paid up front, air ticket, insurance, possessions (camera, backpack, clothing) whatever savings you have left will essentially be your living costs for the next 12 months.

If you've chosen to embark on a gap year of travelling it's unlikely you'll have the luxury of earning any money along the way. Therefore it's essential that you have enough savings to last the year abroad, and if you're lucky, a few surplus funds to treat yourself along the way. If you need a quick fix to find some extra pennies before you set off, why not sell something on eBay, or talk to your parents very nicely!

Book in advance

Where possible, book your main accommodation and travel in advance. This usually ensures lower prices then booking at the last minute or even on the day. You may be embarking on a gap year activity where your accommodation is paid for, but it's still likely that you will need to combine this with your own travel, which means it's inevitable that you'll have some basic living costs to account for.

Accommodation is a big cost and you also don't want to find yourself arriving somewhere with nowhere to stay. By booking in advance you're not only sure to secure a bed for the night; you will also have your pick of rooms and prices, which will be a bonus if you're staying somewhere for a lengthy period of time.

However, do check what's available because this may differ between continents. Booking in advance is certainly recommended in the US and Europe, but you may find better deals off the street when walking around South East Asia for example.

Look around for the best deal

This doesn't mean spending your entire gap year looking around for bargains, but don't always go for the first thing that you see. Prices vary, so try and do a little bit of research to find out what company offers the best deals and when exploring the localities, there's always likely to be a local around who's happy to offer you some advice.

Talk to fellow travellers about their experiences with different companies and guides and how much they have paid for them. Most people are more than happy to recommend good tours and prices and also warn you away from the bad ones.

Student/ISIC cards

Make sure you arrange to get these before you leave and always carry them with you. These cards are accepted all over the world and there will be more places than you think which offer student discounts so make the most of them. You're only young once (and there are a few years ahead of you yet before you qualify for the pensioners discount!).

Take photos, not souvenirs

Photos are cheap and more importantly they're light to carry. There's no harm in buying a few souvenirs but remember they will cost you and you have to carry them with you as you travel.  If you're happy to remember something with an image then take that option instead. In the digital world, you can share these with friends and family before returning home, saving on postage costs.


First on your list should be to make sure bartering is acceptable in the country you're in. Cultural sensitivity is a must when you're a visitor in a foreign country. You'll find bartering will work in some countries, but not in all. However, there's generally no harm in giving it a go. A spot of people-watching will give you an idea of best practice.

Bartering is a common occurrence particularly in Asia, and not only does it mean you can get your purchase for a lower price; it's an experience you can add to the books. In other countries if you're in need of some extra cash for board or food, or your money is running low, you'll often find you can offer your services and skills in return for a bed for the night.

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in March 2016

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