If you’re reading this, congrats! So you’ve saved through high school, or you’ve worked through a gap year, or you’ve ‘come into some money’ (wink wink, nudge nudge) and you’re currently in a financial position where you can question if you should get a government student loan or not…
(Here’s the quick answer- you should.)
I was here too! After deciding to leave college following the first semester of a business program that just wasn’t for me I worked full-time for the second half of the year and through the following summer. With this added income and my savings from high school I found myself in a position where I could afford tuition and living expenses for at least the first year of my degree without drawing a student loan (provided that I kept a part-time position on the side, of course).
If you haven’t already figured this out about me, I hate the feeling of owing money to anyone… for anything….ever! So my natural inclination was to avoid drawing a loan under any circumstances. My other natural inclination was to thoroughly question myself and do some research. Thank goodness I did because my findings helped me bank over $5,000 in grants and savings!
Here’s the deal. I can’t talk about all student loans, but as a Nova Scotian student studying in Nova Scotia I was dealing with Nova Scotia Student Assistance (NSSA) in the most straightforward way. As their webpage titled “Why Student Assistance” explains, when you apply for government loans you become eligible to receive grants that you won’t find anywhere else. For those of you who are totally new to the grant/loan thing, this basically means that if you’re in financial need (like most broke-as-a-joke students, myself included) they will give you FREE MONEY for applying for loans (maybe/probably depending on your financial situation).
Okay, so that sounds pretty sweet but you’re still worried you’re going to spend all of your loan money and get sucked into an endless tunnel of horrible debt. You’re an adult now and you’re beginning to have a more realistic self-image: you know how much will power you do or don’t have. You also know that so many things go on such wonderful sales when school starts up and student loans roll in. You could use a new pair of shoes…or ten….
What if I told you that you could take your student loans, tuck them away in a spot that is workweek-professional-hour-appointment level difficult to get at and make bank off them while they sat, well, in the bank? I ask this because this is what I am literally telling you.
Opening a tax-free savings account (TFSA) enables you to tuck cash away into a little sneaky banking hideout where you can’t easily access it when it’s 2 am and you want to buy all of your ‘new friends’ (the entire establishment) a round. You can move funds from your TSFA into your regular account by making an appointment with the bank if you really need to touch this cash. Aside from helping you hide money from your impulsive self, a TFSA is just an all around good idea. In this bank account you can save money free from tax, build interest (grow that yours money from money you loaned), and do a bunch of other cool things. Once again, I’m not the most qualified person to give you all of the ins and outs of the TFSA as applicable to your account, but I can totally tell you that you should make an appointment and talk to your bank about opening one of these bad boys ASAP!
So there you have it. If you’re smart about it getting a loan can make you more money.
(NOTE: if you’re still cruising the “Why Student Assistance” page of the NSSA website you should take the time to read the full thing and follow the blue hyperlinked text- you will learn even more important information about the stipulations of your loan; and interest, which is differs for national and provincial student loans; and other stuff that I’m not really qualified to tell you about in a straightforward, condensed way that actually makes sense)
(EXTRA NOTE: Seriously you guys, I too have heard so many horror stories about loan debt and I too was horrified about being left at the merciless will of terrifying loan sharks. If you’re here you’re already taking some great steps towards getting yourself on track. Government lenders can totally be the good guys– they actually don’t want you to go into debt, as evidenced by this page on keeping your debt low, but you have to be proactive– educate yourselves!)