How I Paid Off My OSAP Loan Fast

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I never dreamed that I’d have such a large OSAP (Ontario Students Assistance Program) loan when I finished my education.

Sure I would sign off twice a year to receive the money but when you are only accepting a couple of thousand at a time it is hard to picture the total amount of money that I had been given.

If I only knew then what I know now than I may have made different choices when it came to my personal finances. I hope that all the parents and students who read my story can take away some valuable tips to use along their path towards 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 we still had a great 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 they did tell me that I would need to save for further years and any other expenses.

For me at the stage I was in I did not understand the concept of money and where the money would come from to pay for my education but that it would be paid for.  I was nineteen going on twenty at this stage 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, hair cuts, etc.). I do not think I truly understood the concept of finances and budgeting until I was in my fourth year of university around twenty-two.

I had a great job teaching swimming at a local pool but I did spend at least half of my income on going out to the movies and purchasing designer clothes etc. I remember my worst purchase being a pager that 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 I wanted it to keep up with everyone else. Money to me at that stage really had no meaning – I did not understand the concepts of utilities, having to pay for groceries – it was always taken care of for me.

McMaster University

When I was accepted at McMaster University in the Kinesiology program I was thrilled. My original goal was to become a chiropractor (a lot of this was family pressure).

My first year’s tuition came out to just over $5000. I paid for that first year in full before even having to move to Hamilton, Ontario where McMaster University stands. I did not qualify at the time for OSAP due to my family income so 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 made the decision 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.

This was not In the plans

About three months into my first year I found out I was pregnant. It was a scary and exciting time for me. My husband (boyfriend at that time) 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 to. I went into our school’s financial department and broke 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 always remember. I still give donations to McMaster’s bursary fund as it touched me so much as it allowed me to have shelter over my head, food in my stomach and hope.

Baby, OSAP and back to school

I delivered my son in August and he was a dream. 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 that they handed out. I took all of it. My schooling was always paid for first, than books and the rest was for living expenses.

I know many students that took their loans and used it to pay for trips, new computers, 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. I never made silly big purchases but I know I could have been smarter with my loan (if only I knew then what I know now!).


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. We met a lovely woman at the bank who helped us to understand finances, how to save, how to follow a budget and why it is important to pay off our debts. We had so many goals!

I doubled up my OSAP re-payments and chose to pay bi-weekly to increase the amount of payments. We started a savings fund to save 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 3 years after I graduated University. I paid off my OSAP loan in full (what an incredible feeling off of my shoulders!) and added another member to our family, a son!

I did not find a job in my field – to use my degree I would have to go on to post graduate studies that were by far just too expensive for me. I had to focus on my young family and that meant finding a job.

It took my 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 out there and the income levels were a lot lower than what was expected.

Paying OSAP back

how i paid off my osap loan fast graphic

How I Paid Off My Osap Loan Fast

  • I only took what I needed (did not take the extra and use it to travel or go out!)
  • Applied for the bursaries and grants
  • 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 common grocery staples), generic medications (Life brand versus Advil or Tylenol)
  • Extra work on the side
  • Learn more about how to pay back OSAP

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 will be able to pay it off. Be realistic and work if you can during the school year part-time 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 full 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 really 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 kids about money

For parents, please teach your children from a young age the concept of money and debt! Help them understand the family finances and how much life truly does cost. Get them to help out with groceries, organizing budgets and what the meaning of earning money and responsibility is.

We are so honest with our children – we 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 will offer up his allowance to take us all out for McDonald’s if he is wishing for it and it makes my heart melt!

Looking back now at my OSAP loan and my years at university I wish that someone had made me see how much that OSAP loan would cost me in the long run.

If I knew more about OSAP and finances I would have saved more (I had every opportunity to do so but did not), I would have worked more hours and more odds jobs to save more and I would have spent smarter.

OSAP can be a useful tool but needs to be used appropriately. Students need to be taught how to better control finances, proper spending habits and the consequences of improper spending.

Click the link To learn more about OSAP and how to apply.

2017/2018 OSAP Update: Find out how much OSAP you qualify for or if you can get FREE Tuition with the online OSAP Calculator.

Discussion Question:

How did you pay your OSAP back fast? Share your tips in the comment section for other students looking for help.

Editors Note: Thank-you Carla for sharing your personal story  which was very motivational. You explain to us that any obstacles life throws our way we can still reach our goals. I too hope it inspires not only students but also parents to encourage their children to save, spend less and budget their way through school.

Contribution Post by: Carla D who works full-time in the Department of Medicine. She is married with two young boys. Budgeting and financing has been a long and hard journey for them as family but has been the most successful. We have found that budgeting and taking control of our finances has allowed us to grow as a family and achieve our individuals goals.

Do you have a story or a question you’d like to share on CBB? Email me at

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Image courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici/


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  1. Hello, I came across this blog a few years ago (circa 2012-2013) when I was looking for some encouragement for paying off osap. I eventually did but recently remembered your story and looked to see if it was still online. I hope that it keeps encouraging people that it is possible to pay off your osap.

  2. Question – knowing what you know now what is your answer to this question.

    Assume that like your parents we have not saved enough to pay for sons university and we have not saved for retirement and we have consumer debt . Would you recommend
    1) parents paying for school by postponing debt repayments and retirement saving.
    2) parents paying off debt and then investing in retirement. Child borrows for school.

    Assume those are the only 2 options.

    1. Hi Susan
      I would 100% pay off debt and save for retirement. Your child has many more saving years than you will besides a paid education is only nice if parents can afford it. Not many can. In that instance the child should find a job part time during the school year and fulltime during the summer and save money and apply for OSAP or just apply for OSAP. Ideally having a chold participate in education savings is ideal. I’m not sure how old your son is. Hope that helps a bit. I know it can be a tough spot to be in. Do you mind if I use your question on my FB page tonight?.

  3. You did a good job paying your debt off early! Luckily for you though, you didn’t have much debt. I went back to school as a single mother of two young children and I owe about $60,000 to OSAP. My monthly payments are over $600 so there’s no way I can double up my payments!

    1. Yes $1200 a month is a big chunk of money unless you are making big money which most new grads aren’t doing, if ever. Good luck paying it off and remember there is always that light at the end of the tunnel… keep at it. Mr.CBB

  4. it took me 4 years but I am officially free from student loans! I owed 35,000 dollars and it took me a little bit but I am finally free of it! Yahoo.

    1. Congratulations Sara!!! If you ever want to share your story in a blog post email me I’d love to have you help and inspire other students who want the help and guidance.

  5. Carla, what a great example of sober-minded money management! I too know many students who act as if OSAP is free money and spend it with no plan going forward. Good job with the self-discipline.

    I think everybody who actively uses a budget has had a turning point somewhere that jolted them into realizing they needed to manage their money better. Mine was when I bought my first home and I sat down and thought, “man I gotta get my finances organized!” I had dug myself out of foolish debt a couple years prior, but was still spending willy-nilly.

    I’ve been dedicated to budgeting ever since, and not only has the careful planning and tracking paid off – I’ve paid down a significant portion of my mortgage, and I already have the money set aside for my upcoming wedding, as well as ‘savings funds’ for several other future big ticket items – but its actually given me a real sense of freedom to know I’ve got the big things in the future taken care of!

  6. I completely agree that universities need to be more forthcoming with loan repayment realities. If you got an estimate of how much your monthly payment was and for how many years, it could influence how many loans you decide to take. You are an adult at that point in your life, but if your parents have always paid all the bills, you are a bit clueless as to how the real world works. Great job on rolling with whatever came your way. This shows there are really no excuses if you are motivated to pay off debt.

    1. Agreed! I think they should send you a letter throughout your studies explaining your current debt load, interest rate when it comes up, how many years it will take to repay, etc….Thanks again!

  7. I wish my son would have the “Ah HA” moment that you had. You have a bright future ahead because of your grasp of financial responsability.

    As a parent we can only teach our kids what they are willing to learn. In my case my son did not want to know about money management and personal financial responsability. I tried and the harder I tried the angrier he got. When I quit footing the bill for him, and had no more to give he attacked me for saying no, there is no money.

    We can, and do try to teach and prepare our kids for their future, but some kids just don’t want to listen. They feel they will always know better than their parents.

    1. It took a long time Lindsay for me and came with a lot of tears but it did come. I am glad and grateful it did though. We worked really hard as a team to pay it all off. I hope my children learn from our mistakes. We are very honest with them. I am so sorry to hear about your son. I know people that have gone through the same thing and it is the most difficult thing to go through. I think sometimes the best thing in the end is to cut them off (as hard as it is too!).

  8. Great job paying off your loans and great advice on taking only what you need in terms of school loans. I was in a similar situation of having a lot of loans and really was not taught much by my parents in terms of being financially prudent. I think one of the most loving things you can do for your children is teach them the importance of making wise financial decisions.

    1. I learned a lot from my own mistakes. I think as a parent we want to shelter our children from
      “bad” things but we should show them that money is not just there, we need to budget, food is expensive, loans have to be paid back and the interest is hefty!, etc…I wish I had someone teaching me that from the beginning! I am trying really hard to teach my boys this lesson.

  9. We’ve been saving $500 a month for our kids education from the month our first was born. We consider it a bill and a non-negotiable one. Hopefully our kids will find alternative ways to get money for college, but we’ll be prepared for when the time comes for them for leave and learn.

  10. Well done for going back and getting it done after having your son! I also applaud you for now giving back to the bursary funds. I wish more of my friends who benefited from scholarships and bursaries were giving back to them, to pay it forward.

    1. Thank you Anne. It was a hard choice but one I wanted to do for myself. I think paying it forward is so important, especially to the bursary funds! Every little bit counts. That bursary gave me so much more than money – it gave me hope and courage to continue on in my studies.

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