I know…I know…There’s tons of these articles out there. Especially if you really are concerned with how to pay for flight school.
I know they’re out there because I searched for them myself!
Obviously, you decided you wanted to be a pilot because you’re here. Now whether you want to be an airline pilot, or just a recreational pilot who flies for fun, this will help you get the training you need.
There is a huge issue with a lot of these “how to pay for flight school” articles. It seems to me like all those articles/YouTube videos/podcasts and all possible media, ignore a few things: First, they play on the younger demographic that doesn’t have debt and can accept some. Second, these “ideas” tend to revolve around the “get a loan and pay it back after you’re a pilot” mentality. Third, I swear they expect me not to still have a career and bills because they all say to quit your job and go super hard in on flight school. Last, I don’t know what the deal is, but I have way too much pride to just set up a Go Fund Me to allow me to go to flight school. I never want to get someone else to fund my dreams because it won’t feel like I earned it really then.
My wife has been incredible in making a better person. One thing she continually has taught me is that no matter what, you can work harder and make more money.
To me, I’ve always had a “cut back” mentality. I would rather give up all the things I enjoy to be able to afford stuff. She taught me there’s no point in giving up the things you like because then you will have a boring and sad life. Instead, work harder, work more hours, get a second job, find a way to make it happen.
See, she taught me this mindset when I had things like credit card debt and I wanted to buy an Xbox or Playstation. It only became more valuable when I found something that I truly wanted and NEED in my life.
That “need” being flight school. I want to become a career pilot, so I can do what I love for a living. When I think of it like that, nothing can stop me.
But I work on a humble flight attendant income, so I had to learn a few things along the way. So, without further explanation and just filler words; LET’S GET INTO IT.
I know this kind of sounds like a pretty self explanatory thing, but it’s absolutely crucial. I don’t mean to just “set aside some cash for flight school.”
When I say budget, I mean pull up your last 3 months of paychecks to get the basic trend and use the average of that money to budget your life. You need to know where every single penny is going.
That means if you get paid $500 a week, you better know what happens to all of that money. You have to know that you spend $100 on groceries a month, $50 on gas, $300 on bills, and the last $50 goes to fun stuff. You need to know exactly where those dollars go, but more importantly, where those pennies end up.
I swear to you, I bought an Xbox One the day it came out because I did the math when I was in high school and put $1-$2 aside from every shift I worked as a waiter to get the game system and a game when it came out. So, that proves that every little penny counts.
If you need further explanation on budgeting and how to manage money, I highly recommend checking out what Dave Ramsey puts out. It’s the method my wife and I are using to pay off student loan debt and still be able to save money for our future AND pay for me to go to flight school.
Get a Planner (AND USE IT)
When I was in Elementary School through High School, the school district would give every child a planner to use for school. Until high school it was a requirement to write due dates and get parents to sign every day that they were also aware of what you had to do.
I absolutely despised this.
Nothing made me more annoyed then having to get home and deal with more school crap before I could just go play. I hated having to do homework before I could watch Yu-Gi-Oh and Mucha Lucha! It was straight torture for me.
So, when I got to high school and my football coach was the one giving us the planner that they would check weekly, not daily, and I didn’t have to get my parents signature, I would start out using it correctly for like a week or two then I would “get too busy” and would just write out some stuff before the coaches checked it.
Yes, I was so dumb that I thought I was “too busy” to plan…
Don’t worry, I know how stupid that is.
It was Brian Tracy that said, “Every minute spent planning saves ten minutes in execution.”
I finally embraced that within the last two years and have started planning. I got a fancy little planner and began using the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize my tasks for the day. This has helped me become considerably more productive and I could finally quit saying, “I want to start a podcast and a blog” because I now have both of those things and am consistently doing it.
This is all because I finally got serious and started planning my days. I write the tasks I need to do the next day before I go to bed. Then I wake up and can organize my day out over the morning coffee.
This helped me to be able to be more organized and have more free time to study and to work more.
I know this kind of sounds like a bunch of nonsense, but there are literally thousands of scholarships out there for flight school.
You can literally get free money to go to flight school.
I mean there are opportunities to get free money for regular college as well, but this is different. You can get money to play with airplanes for the rest of your life. It’s absolutely incredible.
There are tons of different scholarships, most of them have little to no competition because people just don’t ask for them.
It’s free money, so it’s stupid to not try.
On top of that, if you plan well and know you want to get into aviation for college, you can go to a college and major in aviation. Then you can use these specialized scholarships as well as other scholarships and really put a dent in the price of flight school.
Shoot, you may end up going for free!
Get a Side Gig
Remember how I said my wife taught me there is always another way to make more money?
Yeah, I wasn’t kidding.
If you use that planner correctly, then you will be able to easily balance a side gig. This could be waiting tables after you get off work from your 9-5. It sucks, but there is a saying that you can endure any “how” if you have a strong enough “why.”
That means if you want to be a pilot bad enough, you can figure out a way to make it happen.
Since I work the world’s weirdest schedule because I’m in aviation, I have a few things I do: when I’m not working and don’t have house cleaning I have to do, I do Favor (like Uber Eats but in Texas only and can get groceries too) and because I get some down time on layovers, I do freelance writing too. It helps I got my degree in English too.
I think freelance writing is a viable option for literally anyone. Everyone knows something, so they can write about it. I’m talking you can write about movies, books, video games, airplanes, hunting, fishing, makeup, fashion, YouTube, marketing, social media, and so on. There is literally a writing niche for any topic.
On top of that, you can get a second job and only work a few hours. There’s also bartending, serving, any night life for that matter, and that’s not even touching the driving gigs you can get.
There’s an app for almost anything, so get Uber, Lyft, Door Dash, Favor, or any other app where you can just drive around to get some side cash. These are especially nice because you can work for an hour at a time. All you need is a car to get this done.
There are plenty of side gig options to get some extra cash. Then there is garage sale flipping. Go to garage sales and buy stuff to flip on eBay for a profit. There are tons of resale sites and apps that you can use to do this too!
If you have a hobby of creating something, like whittling or putting designs on shirts or cups, you can turn around and sell those on Etsy, eBay, or Amazon.
Side gigs are one way to truly make some side money and have some fun learning a new topic along the way.
Create Passive Income
To be honest, this is one of the least viable options of things you can do to make extra cash for flight school. Passive income is difficult to get started, but amazing if you can do it.
Some ways to do this are: writing a book (this already puts you in a very exclusive group because not many people can say they’re truly published authors), create a YouTube/Podcast/blog to make money with ads (I’m doing this too, so it’s truly easy to get started. All you really need is a phone to get the right apps.), invest in stocks (this usually takes a while to get some growth, but you can also do penny stocks and continually trade in and trade up), play the crypto currency game (I know nothing about crypto, but I have a friend that is using this to actually pay for flight school and a Disney World Wedding), if you have enough money already then you can even invest in property (not always viable, but my CFI did this to get his ratings).
You might have noticed something with every tip so far: They all require you to put in some serious work before you put in even more work to study and learn to fly an airplane. I promise all of these are viable options, and if you play some of these correctly, you might find a new approach to living and aviation would end up as the side gig you do for fun.
Work at the Airport
When I say work at the airport I don’t mean you have to become an employee at an airline, though that might help get you some connections there too.
I mean at the airport that you are going to flight school at, ask your flight school owner if they have any work you could do on the side to help offset the costs of flight school. They don’t always do. But if the rest of the team employed there is too busy (which I always hope is the case) then you could come in and clean planes. I offered my school to even lick the tires if they wanted me to (thank the good Lord above, they haven’t asked me to do that).
Flight schools tend to get really busy when the weather is nice, so you will likely be a great relief to some busy instructors if you clean the airplanes for them.
On top of that, bugs and various debris add drag to the airplane, so you could help make it aerodynamic to add some speed/fuel efficiency saving them money in the long run.
That was kind of a joke. Yes it adds speed, but it doesn’t really help that much long term. It may only add 1 knot of speed and that’s only if the airplane was absolutely disgusting to begin with.
But seriously, it’s super worth it to ask if there is anything you can do there. Not only will this give you more time around airplanes, which is always a plus, but it will help you network. If you want to make aviation your career, you need connections. Cleaning planes does that.
You can also offer to do clerical work or shadow the mechanic to help out and start changing oil and helping with minor maintenance on the airplanes. This is another way to get some extra cash as well as learn the airplanes even better.
Whatever you do, find a way and be the best at what you do.