Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Learn how I paid back my Ontario Student Assistance Program OSAP loan fast so I could save for my future.
Table of contents
- A Student Loan Is A Big Deal
- My OSAP Loan Story
- Money Was Not My First Passion
- McMaster University
- Surprise Pregnancy
- Baby, OSAP, And Returning To School
- Graduation + Osap Loans Debt Reality
- How I Paid My OSAP Loan Back Fast
- Tips for Students
- Teach Financial Education
- What Is An OSAP Loan?
- Subscribe To Canadian Budget Binder
A Student Loan Is A Big Deal
When I finished my education, I never dreamed of having such a large OSAP (Ontario Students Assistance Program) loan.
Sure, I would sign off twice a year to receive the money, but when you only accept a couple of thousand at a time, it is hard to picture the total amount of money I had been given.
If I only knew then what I know now, I may have made different financial choices.
I hope all the parents and students who read my story can take away some valuable tips to use along their path to financial freedom.
My OSAP Loan Story
My name is Carla, and I grew up in a second-generation Italian home in a nice neighbourhood with my parents and two siblings in the Greater Toronto Area.
As kids, we never went without; our parents put us in many activities, sports, etc.
We did not go on fancy trips but still had a lavish lifestyle.
My parents never involved us in finances nor explained budgets or bills; everything was always paid for, and that was just what was expected.
My parents saved for some of my education (roughly half of my first year’s Tuition) but told me I would need to save for further years and other expenses.
Money Was Not My First Passion
I did not understand the concept of money and where it would come from to pay for my education but that it would be paid for.
At this stage, I was nineteen going on twenty, but I can honestly say I never quite understood the concept.
I knew I should save money, so I did before moving out, but I would also spend just as much on silly purchases (cottages, movies, clothes, haircuts, etc.).
Honestly, I did not understand the concept of finances and budgeting until I was around twenty-two in my fourth year of university.
I had a great job teaching swimming at a local pool, but I spent at least half of my income.
The money would be spent on going to the movies, purchasing designer clothes, etc.
I remember my worst purchase being a pager I had to hide from my parents.
A pager is a small device where people can call and submit their number, and it would beep to let me know to call them back. It had a monthly cost as well.
I did not need it but wanted it to keep up with everyone else.
Money to me at that stage had no meaning – I did not understand the concepts of utilities or paying for groceries – it was always taken care of for me.
I was thrilled when I was accepted at McMaster University in the Kinesiology program.
My original goal was to become a chiropractor (a lot of this was family pressure).
The first year’s tuition was just over $5000 and overwhelming for me.
I paid for that first year in full before moving to Hamilton, Ontario, where McMaster University stands.
At the time, I did not qualify for OSAP due to my family income.
I thought I would be okay, and this ‘school debt’ problem everyone was worried about would not happen to me.
Books my first year (something I did not calculate!) came out to just under another $1000 (and I even purchased some second-hand!).
I decided to live off campus – when we worked out the numbers, it was cheaper to rent off-campus and purchase my food than live on campus and purchase their food plans.
About three months into my first year, I was pregnant.
It was a scary and exciting time for me.
My husband (boyfriend then) supported me and encouraged me to continue my education.
It was about three months after that reality hit.
I was almost seven months pregnant; I had run out of money, had no job, no family or friends in the area, and did not know where to turn.
A visit to our school’s financial department for help made me break down in their office.
They gave me an emergency subsidy and helped me find a job.
It is something to this day that I will never forget.
I still donate to McMaster’s bursary fund, which touched me so much that it gave me shelter, food in my stomach, and hope.
Baby, OSAP, And Returning To School
In August, I delivered my son; he was a dream, and I was so in love with him.
I made the tough choice to go back to school, and this time I did qualify for OSAP and several of the bursaries they handed out.
My schooling was always paid for first, then books; the rest were for living expenses.
Many students I knew used their loans to pay for trips, new computers, and alcohol.
I still feel the maturity and the understanding of the concepts of debt are not there at such a young age in all students.
Could I have been smarter with my money?
I never made silly big purchases, but I could have been smarter with my loan (if only I knew then what I know now!).
Graduation + Osap Loans Debt Reality
When I graduated, I received a lovely letter stating that I owed $16,000 in OSAP loans and had to re-pay the loan over ten years at a rate of $210 a month!!
At that age, ten years is so long!!
I knew I wanted out of debt and that we had to make big decisions.
We worked together and developed a budget.
A woman at the bank helped us understand essential finances.
I was taught how to save, follow a budget, and why it is essential to pay off our debts.
We had so many goals!
I doubled up my OSAP re-payments and paid bi-weekly to increase the number of payments.
We started a savings fund for our wedding.
Five (long!) years later, we saved up enough for a wedding and paid for it in full with cash!
We were married three years after I graduated from University.
My OSAP loan was paid in full (what an incredible feeling off my shoulders!), and we added another member to our family, a son!
Sadly, I did not find a job in my field.
To use my degree, and would have to go on to post-graduate studies that were too expensive for me.
I had to focus on my young family, which meant finding a job.
It took me two months to find my first job and another seven to find the job that I currently am in now.
My income was not what was expected!
But I was not the only one who found this problem (unless you went into nursing!).
We all found very few jobs, and the income levels were much lower than expected.
How I Paid My OSAP Loan Back Fast
- I only took what I needed (I did not take the extra and use it to travel or go out!)
- Applied for bursaries and grants
- I made double payments monthly and paid bi-weekly (they only wanted $220, so I paid $440)
- Budgeting and cutting out the extras that weren’t needed >>> Download your free budget now.
- Purchasing clothes on sale- (I learned quickly that a $100 pair of jeans is NOT worth the expense!).
- Keeping it simple, opting for generic labels– In the kitchen (ex., using store brand products for everyday grocery staples), generic medications (Life brand versus Advil or Tylenol)
- Extra work on the side
- Earned extra cash online or using a mobile app
Tips for Students
My best advice for students is to understand how a budget works and use one.
Understand what the debt will do to you and how you can pay it off.
Be realistic and work if you can during the school year part and full-time in the summer to save up for school.
Only take what you need from OSAP; if you don’t need it, don’t take it.
You never have to take the total amount.
Do not be shy to head into the financial department at your school and see if you qualify for bursaries or if you are stuck if they have emergency funding.
After you graduate – make a plan and keep on budgeting!
If you can make double payments, apply tax refunds to your debt, work weekends, or live at home with your parents to help pay it off quicker.
Teach Financial Education
For parents, please teach your children the concept of money and debt from a young age.
Help them understand the family finances and how much life indeed does cost.
Get them to help out with groceries, organizing budgets, and what the meaning of earning money and responsibility is.
We are honest with our children and tell them where the money is going, how much things cost; if we buy this item, we cannot get another, etc.
My son amazes me when he offers up his allowance to take us all out for McDonald’s if he wishes, and it makes my heart melt!
What Is An OSAP Loan?
Looking back at my OSAP loan and my years at University, I wish someone had made me see how much that loan would cost me.
I would have saved more if I had known more about OSAP and finances.
Unfortunately, I had every opportunity but did not and would have worked more hours or odd jobs to save more.
Lastly, I would have spent wiser.
OSAP can be a helpful tool, but it needs to be used appropriately.
Students must be taught how to control better finances, proper spending habits, and the consequences of improper spending.
Click the link To learn more about OSAP and how to apply.
Find out how much OSAP you qualify for or if you can get FREE Tuition with the online OSAP Calculator.
How did you pay your OSAP back fast? Share your tips in the comment section for other students looking for help.
Thank you, Carla, for sharing your personal story, which was very motivational.
You explain that any obstacles life throws our way, we can still reach our goals.
I hope it inspires students and parents to encourage children to save, spend less, and budget through school.
Contribution Post by:
Carla D works full-time in the Department of Medicine and is married with two young boys.
Budgeting and financing have been a long and arduous journey for them as a family, but it has been the most successful.
We have found that budgeting and taking control of our finances have allowed us to grow as a family and achieve our individual goals.
Do you have a story or a question you’d like to share on CBB? Email me at email@example.com
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