Here's What Canadians Spend Their Student Loans on Instead of Tuition


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Here's What Canadians Spend Their Student Loans on Instead of Tuition

If you're going to get a government credit card you can't afford, you might as well max it out.

All photos by the author unless otherwise noted

All dollar amounts in USD

Every year, over 400,000 Canadian students go deeper into student debt. Some provinces are better than others for giving grants over loans, but many Canadian students eventually have to bite the bullet and take on some form of increasing financial slavery. By the end of a four-year cycle, the average student will end up with at least $18,700 worth of tears for bill collectors to feast on.


Most money that students take for school is necessary to get by. Tuition, textbooks, living expenses—all of these things make up the bulk of what most young adults are borrowing for. But, let's be real, not all of it is spent wisely. There are a few of us (i.e. many of us) who use our money on personal expenses not related to education at all. Dinners, booze, fast fashion, Ubers, and trips to Cuba. We chalk it up to psychological relief—this is the era of mental health after all.

To get an idea of what Canadian students were blowing their borrowed bucks on, I visited and called students from different programs and walks of life to hear about their most regrettable spending decisions.


Photo via Joon

Notable purchases: expensive Sennheiser headphones for anime ($260), expensive audio mixer for anime ($260), Steins; Gate 0—an anime video game ($50).

VICE: So you submitted your loan application late this year, and your parents are supplementing you until then. Do you feel bad spending your money on bullshit?
Joon: Not really. I never ask for the money. They just give it to me, and I already feel bad taking their money in any circumstance. My little sister cries and screams to get money from them, so my mom is always like, "Joon, you're such a good kid!" I guess it balances out.

OK. Sort of, I guess. Anything you almost ended up buying but held back to save your dignity?
Yeah, there was a video game I wanted to buy called Steins; Gate 0, but it's only for consoles that I don't have—PS4, PS3, Playstation Vita. I was literally about to buy a PS4 just to play this game, even though I knew I would probably never play it again. $300 down the drain. I eventually decided against it, but it was tough.


Do you think you're good with money?
I'm good at not going broke, but not necessarily saving it to be rich.

Total of student loan wasted: $375–$750 per month

Lauren, Radio and Television, Toronto

Notable purchases: a table from Honest Ed's ($22), assorted food ($37), a toaster ($26), a kettle ($22), a Vans hat to look like "one of those hot girls with backwards caps" ($30), a baby plant ($18).

VICE: Why did you buy all this normal stuff? Like, more power to you for saving money, but come on. Why didn't you buy some crazy shit?
Lauren: Well, it's just a bunch of shit that I see and think, Oh, I'll need that! And then I buy it, and sometimes I use it. A lot of the stuff here is just the essentials, though. I don't like to spend too much because I don't like having shit that I absolutely don't need. I'm not about clutter. I feel very crowded with my stuff; I need to get rid a lot of it. I hate owning things. It just stresses me out.

How do you feel about other people's spending habits?
Seeing other people splurge on ridiculous stuff with their student loans gives me anxiety. Like, you're spending so much money on stuff you're not going to ever need and going into debt because of it. Oh my God, I don't even want to talk about it.

You clearly value your food. What is important here?
Oh, oh! [She pulls salt-and-vinegar popcorn seasoning off the shelf.] I saw this at the grocery store a while ago, and I never tried it before. I put this on fucking everything, I swear.


Total of student loan wasted: roughly $150 per month

Syona, Fashion, Toronto

Notable purchases: an Adidas tracksuit ($112), a pair of Jordans ($150), liquor ($75/month), drunk spending she can't remember.

VICE: You're like the female Drake—tracksuit, Jordans, overall finesse. Do you spend a lot of your money on clothing?
Syona: Not a lot, but definitely some. I mean, it's kind of part of what I do in fashion—having an aesthetic and all that. Plus, sometimes I just go into the Jordan store and think, Do I really need this pair? I already have a pair like this. I'm pretty good at saying no for that kind of thing.

How much money do you spend drinking?
Oh God. Uh, probably $75 on average a month? It fluctuates, though. I'm probably much more of a lightweight than you.

Are you ever concerned about how much you spend partying?
Sometimes, but I think a lot of it works itself out because I'm happy at the end of the day. I'm sure I could save it, but I'm at a point in my life where it doesn't affect me too much, and I don't really want to.

Total of student loan wasted: roughly $1,500 per semester

Josh, Business Management, Montreal

Notable purchases: a Gucci suit ($1,900), assorted Zara jackets ($450), a 2010 Ford pickup ($2,250)

VICE: I have a bias—I'm convinced business bros are the worst when it comes to buying douchey stuff. Please tell me you are the exception.
Josh: I bought a truck with my student loan, and I didn't need it. Is that douchey?


Yeah, to be honest, it is. But at least you're self-aware. Do you feel like you have to spend more money to fit in with the suit-wearing business student crowd?
I haven't been in another program, so I can't speak for things like arts or media, but business students party hard and like to look good while doing it. All of my boys wear suits when we go out. It's a mindset, you know? It's kind of preparing you for after school.

Why didn't you buy an Audi instead of a truck then!?
Well, business textbooks are expensive and the insurance on my truck is cheap.

Total of student loan wasted: roughly $4,500 per semester

Kyla, Marine Biology, Calgary

Notable purchases: six science textbooks ($750), a MacBook Pro ($825), an e-reader ($112), school supplies ($75), four months of metro passes ($320), eats out five times a week ($180 per month)

VICE: You seem pretty responsible with your money. Does it upset you when other people spend their money on luxurious stuff instead of the necessities?
Kyla: No way! I'm not upset. I mean, people got this money given to them. They can do what they want with it. Most people go into debt and accept that responsibility when they accept loans. The people, at least from what I find, who spend their loans on dumb stuff are people who already have money. My family doesn't have much, so I just learned the value of money at a young age.

But surely, you would buy extravagant stuff if you had money, no?
I don't know about extravagant stuff, but I wouldn't fuss over the small things. Being able to sit down and grab coffee, food, take a cab without having to worry about my bank account would be amazing.


You must have splurged on something by now. Don't be afraid—we've all done it.
Ugh, I bought a cake for a friend's birthday from Dairy Queen, and it was something like $50. A really nice ice cream cake. Problem was, when I got there, someone else had already bought him a cake and everyone agreed that it was the better cake. I had the receipt, so I could have just returned it, but I decided to keep it and ended up eating it in one sitting. Real regrets.

Total of student loan wasted: about $750 per semester

Victoria, Broadcast, Toronto

Notable purchases: a Drake Degrassi T-shirt ($30), a pug pillow ($38), a can of Simpson's Duff root beer ($15), a Santa onesie ($75), a Darth Vader mask ($22), a 3D-printed sculpture of herself (free, with a ticket to Fan Expo), a Victoria's Secret bag (priceless: because her name is Victoria), furniture for her apartment ($225 every few months)

VICE: This stuff is very cheesy. Would you say you're a bit of a nerd?
Victoria: I just like to grab things that I think are funny or sentimental. All of these things mean something to me, but they don't mean that much. Some of them are also just very me—like the Santa onesie. It has some liquor stains on it.

Do you ever worry that you're not spending your money on the right things?
Not at all. I think these things enhance my life, and I've been really tight with not spending too much on textbooks or unnecessary binges. I like to think I have a good grip on my finances!


Alright, that Drake shirt is lit. Did he really look like that back in 2006?
Yeah, he changed a lot. He's really swole now.

Total of student loan wasted: about $1,500 per semester

Julie, Computer Science, Halifax

Notable purchases: a maxed-out Visa ($1,800), accumulated interest ($375)

VICE: Wait, so what'd you buy with the credit card?
Julie: I don't even remember at this point! It was all consumable stuff—tickets, drinks, food, cabs. I just got to a point where I didn't really want to look at the bill.

Isn't the interest on this card fucking crazy? What are you doing?
I need to wait for my next grant to pay it off. I wasn't really paying attention and got a little ahead of myself on the holiday break.

I'll keep you in my thoughts.

Total of student loan wasted: about $2,250 per semester.

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