8 Tips: How to Graduate with Minimum Debt in Toronto

As you start saving and seeing thousands in your bank account you may think you have enough to spare but don’t fall for the trap! If your tuition is $8,000/year multiple for 4 years it’ll cost roughly $32,000 for tuition alone. This is if you’re a domestic student, international students costs are much higher.

I’ve shared a completely FREE worksheet to get you closer to graduating debt-free. Try creating a similar chart as the one at the bottom of this page for yourself.

TIP #1: Work backwards: Figure out how much you’ll owe over the 3-4 years and then get rid of it!

Roughly estimate how much your program will cost you. Try to find a program with an internship or paid co-op opportunity (you’ll be able to gain $8,000-$10,000 from this)

Complete the Graduate with Minimum Debt spreadsheet, review it once a year. Put a reminder in your phone’s calendar to be repeated annually right now. You can thank me once you graduate and end up travelling while others pay off OSAP or car payments.

TIP #2: If you’re in high school get a summer job and save every dollar – this will help you also land a position on campus for part-time work

TIP #3: Apply for a Work-Study position on campus IMMEDIATELY

TIP #4: Stay home now so you don’t need to after you graduate

  • Colleges and universities in Toronto are definitely commuter schools. Take advantage of it. You can still spend time on campus without needing to living on residence.
  • The average cost for a 4-year degree for someone living away from home is probably close to $90, 000 compared to about $50,000 for someone living at home. The person living at home can save about $40,000 over the four years. Imagine what you can do after graduating with $40,000 in your bank? Invest in a property? Travel?

TIP #5: Buy Used Books or Borrow & Sell Your Books IMMEDIATELY!

You may think it’s a hassle to find books online but it is much easier than you think!

  • On Facebook, search the marketplace or join your university groups. Sometimes you can even purchase notes with the textbooks!
  • Search Kijiji and make sure you meet people on campus or in a public place
  • Some professors will pressure you to buy the latest version, but most times there isn’t a significant change. Look into whether you can use an older (and cheaper) version without missing out on any key information (99% of the time you can!)
  • Borrow from the library or grab e-books
  • Sell your books immediately at the end of semester, use that money to buy your next semester books 

TIP #6: Take advantage of tax deductions & tax credits

  • Both federal and provincial governments offer tax deductions and tax credits for things like tuition fees, books and more
  • When you get your tax credit, transfer it to your SAVINGS ACCOUNT or in other words DON’T SPEND IT

TIP #7: Use your student card

  • Okay you really want to go out for your friend’s birthday. Why not enjoy a good meal for a discount? Many businesses offer discounts to students, so take advantage!
  • Check with your school’s student association for a list of local businesses that offer student discounts.

TIP #8: Pay off your OSAP right after you graduate

  • Most students are aware of a six-month grace period but few realize that interest will start to accumulate over the six months!
  • Below I show you a VERY simple chart but it is do-able if you put your mind with the additional factors you may need to consider for yourself

Debt-Free Graduation: Example

Kira is in her last year of high school (Sep 2019-June 2020). She comes from a low-middle class family where both parents make minimum wage. Her parents opened a RESP for Kira when she was born and invested $50 every month. When she enters post-secondary, Kira will receive $10,000.

Below is a super simple example, with the following assumptions:

  • Kira lives at home and her biggest expense is tuition.  
  • Works $14/h for 36.25h a week over 4 months for summer job  
  • Works $14/h for 10h a week over 8 months on campus for work-study position

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