Taking a gap year is an excellent way to recharge your batteries, take on new adventures and accomplish goals. A gap year is a mini-retirement that allows you to take time off from work and academic pursuits. Many small business owners and independent contractors frequently take a gap year without going into massive debt.

Plan Ahead

The most crucial aspect of being able to take a gap year without taking on debt is to have a clear picture of your finances. Map out your total monthly expenses, debt and other financial obligations. Analyze your expected expenses during your gap year. Figure out how much cash you will need during your time off and balance that against your savings. Often, you will need a lot less cash than you think. Keep a log of how much you spend on extras such as eating out, movie rentals and clothing shopping.

Save and Cut

Prior to taking your time off, save as much money as possible to cover your expenses. Consider cutting extras like cable television, magazine subscriptions, gym memberships and other non-essential expenses. If you will be traveling during your gap year, contact your utility company and ask if they can put your account on a vacation hold. A vacation hold will freeze your payments for the duration of your time away without shutting down your account altogether.
Make extra payments on your mortgage and other debt to cover the period of time that you will not be working.

Earn Extra Income

When planning for your gap year, earn as much as possible while saving as much as you can to give yourself a cushion. Consider adding additional income sources that will be used for savings. Rent out rooms in your home, sell your belongings at flea markets or start a vending route. Use the additional income to cover your debts while you take your gap year. Renting your home is passive income that will still earn you additional cash automatically.

Leave the Credit Cards at Home

If your gap year involves travel to another country, take on work that will earn money or accommodations while you’re there. Teach English to Chinese college students for a little extra. Give art instruction to Mexican school children in exchange for housing. Going to the Caribbean? Volunteer to help tour companies in exchange for free tours and entertainment. Volunteer on a tour bus and see the Mayan ruins or the Irish countryside. Staying at home for your gap year? Usher at shows and score free entertainment. Volunteer at the local food co-op and enjoy discounted prices on groceries. There are many ways to keep your expenses low and avoid debt during your gap year.

Do it Yourself

Many people are unaware at how creative they are until they actually need to use these skills. Learn to style your own hair. Do your manicures at home to save money. Enjoy a morning latte? Purchase inexpensive coffee and make them yourself. Perform simple home repairs with the help of instructional videos and books.

Share Your Success

During your gap year, share your experiences with the world. Write articles about your travels and adventures and publish them online for extra cash. Take pictures of your travels and sell them to travel magazines and online blogs. Make a video about how you were able to take a year off and post it on video sharing sites. Add income generating elements to your site that gives you a share of revenue generated from your video.

You don’t have to go into massive debt to take a gap year. By saving, cutting back your expenses and being creative, you can enjoy your time off without falling into debt.

This article was contributed by Jane Sanders from DebtManagement. Visit her site for tips on credit card debt management.