Money and living expenses in Canada
Make the most of your money
You want to enjoy a healthy and happy study life in Canada. Knowing how much you need for living expenses is a great starting point, but keep in mind the cost of living may be higher or lower depending on where you live.
EduCanada suggests you will need to budget between $7,000 and $20,000 Canadian dollars (CAD) per year to cover the costs of accommodation, food and compulsory health insurance, but you will also need to account for your tuition fees, plus any relevant student, administration, application or permit fees. And don’t forget to include extra spending money for things like socialising with friends, going travelling or attending events.
There are some handy websites you can use to help budget for your time in Canada. One option is Expatistan, which calculates the cost of living in Canada using up-to-date, crowd-sourced data. You can also use EduCanada’s Step 1-2-3 tool to see how costs may change based on where you live.
Your banking and payments options
In Canada, you generally pay (and are paid) in dollars and cents. You might hear individual coins called by their nicknames - nickel (5 cents), dime (10 cents), quarter (25 cents), loonie ($1) and toonie ($2).
Most Canadian banks will be happy to open an account for you while you’re living in Canada. To open an account, you will generally need:
- Your passport
- A document confirming the school, college or university you are enrolled with
- Proof of your address at home and in Canada
- Reference and statements from your home bank.
Some banks offer special student accounts, with extra benefits such as free banking and travel discounts. You should ask if your bank offers student accounts and if you’re eligible for one.
No matter which account you choose, you should read the fine print to ensure you know all the important information, including what fees may apply.
Getting your phone and internet organised
You’ll probably want to get your phone and Internet sorted pretty quickly after arriving in Canada.
When it comes to phones, you have three main options:
1. Landline: usually only relevant if you live off campus. You might be able to get a better deal by bundling your landline with internet access, or you might choose not to have a landline at all and stick with your mobile.
2. Mobile: prepaid: gives you control over how much you spend and you can stop using whenever you want. Pre-paid SIM cards are widely available from Canadian shops and supermarkets, as well as from mobile phone providers, and include a set number of calls, text messages and data.
3. Mobile – contract: Depending on how much you use your mobile and what for, a contract with a Canadian mobile phone provider could be cheaper.
Making international calls
International calls can be a lot more expensive than calls within Canada. You might want to buy an international calling card (which gives you better rates) or use online options like Skype or FaceTime instead. You can buy international calling cards from most convenience stores.
- To call a Canadian number from overseas, you need to enter the country code - 1 - followed by the area code and then the telephone number.
- To call another country from Canada, enter 011 followed by the relevant country code followed by the area code (if required) and then the telephone number.
Accessing the Internet
You will have lots of options for internet access in Canada, but it pays to shop around to find the plan that offers the best price and download limits for your needs.
Most educational institutions provide free Wi-Fi which you can access with your student log-on and password. If you can’t access the Internet through your own laptop or computer, you can usually find one to use in the student library, at an off-campus public library or internet café.
Some places offer free Wi-Fi, but some Internet cafes for example, will charge by the hour. Don’t forget to check the security of the network you are connecting to.