Advice for parents about the career options for their children

Ideas for saving up for a Gap Year

A gap year is simply a break from education, usually taken just before university. Students can either defer their entry or take another year to consider their options before leaving home and diving into a degree. Gap years are a time to step back, consider the future, enjoy the present and experience new things - and they are growing increasingly popular.   

Studies show that the average gap year costs about £4000, and parents often contribute a large bulk of the expenses. Round the world trips don't come cheap and it is important to know how to fund gap years in a responsible way, for both parents and children. So here are some ideas for saving up for that once in a lifetime opportunity.   

Encourage your child to get a part-time job 

The most obvious and important way to save up for a gap year is through working. There are numerous jobs out there for 16-18-year-olds. By working evening and weekend shifts, students can earn extra cash. Throughout the summer holidays, it is possible to save thousands of pounds. Hotels, bars and restaurants continually hire young people as front of house staff. Other possibilities include working as a barista, for a festival or on a reception desk. Those with work experience might be able to get jobs closer to their career interests, such as through paid internships, creative arts programmes or business administration.   

Start budgeting early 

If you know your child has their heart set on taking a gap year, then help them by planning in advance. Put aside a small amount of money per month while they are still at school to provide support in the future. It can be whatever amount is reasonable depending on your budget. It can just be a small amount, just to encourage your child also to save money. Budgeting skills are something your child will have to perfect throughout their travels. By being an example of financial responsibility, you can teach them how to enjoy their gap year without throwing away money.   

Consider working abroad 

Working abroad during a gap year reduces the need to save a lot of money in advance. Instead, students and parents can put aside a small amount of savings, knowing that they will have an income while travelling. There are numerous websites discussing gap year job opportunities, from teaching English abroad to volunteering with an international organisation to getting a working holiday visa for somewhere like Australia and New Zealand.

Save during the gap year 

Gap years in themselves can be a time for saving money. It is common for young people to save for half the year then travel, volunteer or work abroad for the other half. So help your child decide their priorities. Would they rather save for nine months and travel for three months - leaving some spare money for university? Or would they rather save for six months and travel for six months - spending all their savings on their gap year experience?

Motivation by matching their savings 

According to 2016 research, around 2.5 million students take a gap year before university. The same study reveals that 20% of parents help to fund their children's experiences.  One popular way parents help raise gap year funds is by matching every penny earned by their child. This method doubles profits and inspires a spark of inspiration into their work. Not only does it encourage their independent income but also ensures enough money is saved to allow a safe and rewarding gap year experience.

Be strict! 

Alternatively, there is nothing wrong with encouraging children to pay for their gap year by themselves. In fact, research shows that 60% of parents restrict their funds to their children while travelling to teach life lessons in financial independence. Gap years are the first taste of life away from home and students will begin to learn lessons that only become clearer during university, concerning freedom, safety and budgeting. If students know their parents won't always bail them out, it can motivate them to work even harder towards their goal. Sometimes, giving less financial support can be more supportive in the long run.

With increasing tuition fees, rising university accommodation costs and general inflation for student lifestyles, starting a degree in debt is not a good place to start. Gap years should be full of excitement and exceptional experiences, not tainted by financial burden. So plan ahead and budget accordingly so you can help your child embrace only the best elements of a gap year - adventure, independence and, most of all, captivating and unforgettable experiences.