Where to get the money for your family gap year abroad?

About this time three years ago, we were ready to move our little wanna-be free-flowing family abroad for a family gap year that has now turned into 3. That’s 3 years without work! Can you imagine? It’s actually more like 3 years of working at home and from home, at least for me as the wanna-be ๐Ÿ˜‰ happy househusband because Ania has been working part-time. So, at this time 3 years ago we were on the fast-track, pedal-to-the-metal, full on moving mode to freedom!

But wait! Why do all that? Wouldn’t you want to have more family time with your kids, especially at this time in their developmental stage? Or if you don’t have children, wouldn’t you wanna have more time for yourself to do the things that you’ve always wanted to do? Isn’t that worth it?

I, the idiot ๐Ÿ˜Š husband, had persuaded my wife–the mother of dragons–by addressing the key questions she needed answered before even considering for us to quit the job and life in the U.S. and move to Spain, two young kids in tow, three summers ago.

Picture of a boy with a baseball cap, a banana tree and the head of a Buddha on white smooth sands of a beach with Andalucian blue sky and the Cadiz bridge in the background.  Caption reads: a year without work by www.freeelectrons.family.  Description: Our family begins our year without work. . . from the winter chill of Washington DC to the warm embrace of Andalucia.
Our family begins our year without work. . . from the winter chill of Washington DC to the warm embrace of Andalucia.

I had already addressed the money aspect (How much do you need for a family year-without-work abroad?), my career, health insurance, a little bit about our plans for the kids’ school, the cost of moving, storage units, shipping household goods, car purchase abroad in case you want to have a car, flight tickets, passports, final medical/dental check ups, how to get a long-term visa for Europe/Spain… and many more. Whew!

It was a lot to think about (much less write about) but the END GOAL was well worth it. Even though we do not agree with it, some friends and family called this crazy plan of ours “vacation”. If it is, then it’s a great one because it has gone on for 3 years and counting. We learned a language (ok, maybe for me, not yet) and got an insight into Spanish culture. We have had two 6-week long summer camping road trips across Europe. We have shared good times with friends and family, renewed old acquaintances, and made new friends. Best of all, we have changed a family lifestyle and enjoyed more quality time with the kids and each other, and I’ve learned to become a full-time father and househusband. By the looks of our bank account though, this may be our last year before we have to move again.

I know we have been slow to wrap up the posts on our big family move that many of y’all have asked about. Well, that’s the plan for the next couple of months before the summer vacation kicks in. What? Another summer camping road trip ahead? Hmm..travel yes, but not necessarily a road trip.

Where to get the money for your family gap year?

Winter.  Trees without leaves. Blue sky.

Picture of an modern apartment building with a smaller blue building next to it with big printed letters on it that read "THIS IS NOT NORMAL".


Description: Own a house? Rent it out! That's one of the many ways you can fund your family move abroad with kids for a year without work.  This is not normal.  Big Smile!
Own a house? Rent it out! That’s one of the many ways you can fund your family move abroad with kids for a year without work. This is not normal. Big Smile!

There’s a long list of questions to ask yourself before moving your family abroad, with the money aspect being at the top of it (You know, how much money will you need and where to get it?). The bottom line is that you will have to use your savings (if you have any), or start saving as soon as you’ve decided to go, and start selling your possessions. If you do not downsize your stuff, you’ll have to store them. And that costs a chunk of money. If you have any loans, you’ve got to pay them off, unless you plan on having a new identity with your newfound vagabond life! Even that costs money too (I think)!?!

$Savings. Start Saving. Pay off debt. In our case, we had already paid off our credit cards before this plan came into play. Then, with our savings we had paid off my student loans, car loan and all our other debts, except mortgage on our house.

Retirement Plan. This can be a big one for you. You’d be surprised how much money you may have accumulated in your retirement plan. For us, it’s not a lot but enough to sustain us for a year or two. So, we cashed in the little money that we have in the Thrift Savings Plan (not a wise decision according to financial experts). A word of caution: I am not advising you financially here. It’s likely a bad thing to do is what “they” will say. But it’s our money and we needed it “now” because our future is now. Weโ€™re all in! We would rather use that money to better our life now rather than spend it when we’re too old to walk anywhere. Together with the little leftover savings, we had enough to live on for this plan. Later, weโ€™ll have to be creative with generating income. And that’s for later.

Own Your Home? If you own your own house, RENT IT OUT! Even before you move out. Rent a room while you’re still there. You’ve heard of AirBnB and others like that, right?A friend of ours make $800 a month doing that. So, you can easily make $10K in a year! Shortly after moving out, our tenants moved in. We were (and still are) able to pay for the mortgage and get a little extra to pay for our cost of living abroad. The extra pays for our apartment, utilities and then some–big ticket items! Being landlords has its ups and downs. So, be prepared and do your homework. We have a local management company deal with that for an 8% management fee. You can save that money or give it to your trusted friend to serve as landlord on your behalf.

Picture of a yardsale with toys in plastic boxes and stuff on the lawn in a small yard and on the sidewalk.  A little kid, back turned, plays with a car toy.

Fundraising for a family move abroad.  Getting rid of all the things you think you need but don't even know you had.  Sell s*it!  It will set you FREE!
Fundraising for a family move abroad. Getting rid of all the things you think you need but don’t even know you had. Sell s*it! It will set you FREE!

Downsize. Sell stuff. You will be amazed at how much money you can accumulate by selling the stuff that has cluttered your home (and garage, and storage. . . and likely, in our case, mind!). What you gain does not only fund your transition into well being. The process of getting rid of excess–of all the things you think you needed but did not even know you had–was quite liberating. We sold our third rickety car for 900 for example and it paid for our plane tickets, just about. Cutting off that attachment was the first step to the minimalist lifestyle that we strive to have (at some point). “Poquito a poco“, as they say here, “little by little”. The clothes that Ania put for consignment, by the way, had not only given us hundreds of dollars. They kept on giving for two years after we left… (every little bit helps).

More work. WTF? If you have not had enough of work and have the time, there are side gigs that you can do while planning and preparing your family move abroad. (Not me, I had plenty of work–busy, stressful, but good work; and never had enough time). I knew people who did Uber while they had full-time jobs and other part-time jobs. There are also freelance jobs, depending on your expertise. You’ve heard of Fiverr? Upwork. Sidework… Blackwork, Redwork, Greenwork, Clockwork Orange, Crapwork… Well… haven’t you?!?! ). Soundtrack: “Everything counts in large amounts” (opens on YouTube)…by whom?

Two young boys at free play at the tree-lined park just outside the Aljaferia. The EU, Spanish and Aragon flags fly above the castle-fortress in the background. Text reads: Zaragoza with a symbol of a heart and an arrow behind it, and "www.freeelectrons.family".
Shaded free play at the tree-lined park just outside the fortress palace of the Aljaferia in Zaragoza, Spain.

Co-funding? Ask your supportive friends or family to give you in-kind gifts (such as funding for the family’s health insurance) instead of more toys or material stuff for holidays or birthdays. Our parents gave some funds for their grandchildren’s “world schooling” and my mother continues to sell some of the stuff that we had left to support the children’s education and cultural immersion. One of my former bosses collected some money tongue-in-cheekily couched “to pay for diapers. . .!”. . . mine, he said!

You get the idea. Be creative! Money you can always make. You have the brains. But you can never make time. Peace out!

Now, do me a favor and write some comments below, give me a question to answer, like us, follow us, share this, print this out and wrap your dog’s poop with it as long as the name is advertised…. I’m begging you please, perdy pretty freaking PLEASE, I need to make some MONEY!!!!!!!!! No, seriously, your engagement helps us keep this going!

What do you think? Let us know below! Big Smile!

A father's (failed) attempt to homeschool; a dry run for the free electrons family life abroad.

The picture shows a child with a funny face who seems to be rebelling against this lesson.
A father’s (failed) attempt to homeschool; a dry run for the free electrons family life abroad

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