Being an international student in Toronto, Canada offers plenty of opportunities for skills development, career advancement and permanent residency. The country’s ability to maintain world-leading educational systems is a popular reason many foreign students choose Canada as their next destination in life. On the other hand, while the benefits and opportunities seem enticing, one of the biggest challenges international students face is regarding their finances. Despite their income, the expenses that come with being a foreign student in Canada is overwhelming to many. Despite these challenges, Study Permits are still in constant demand and thousands of international students are enrolled in a Canadian institution each year, especially within Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Students have developed ways in accommodating their expenses, from saving methods to working part-time jobs.
Last November, the Government of Canada recently announced that full-time international students that inherit a Study Permit on October 7th, 2022 or prior, are allowed to work more than the 20-hours per week limit (until December 2023). This will not only help the ongoing labour shortage in Canada, but will significantly help students with their finances. Nevertheless, international students need to know effective ways in handling their income and expenses when living in Toronto.
According to Statistics Canada, Ontario has the highest tuition fees compared to its fellow provinces, with an average of CAD $45,242. A popular method to save on tuition is through scholarships. There are different kinds of scholarships, from school-specific scholarships to government funded, all designed to support student’s funds and celebrate achievements. These awards may require documents proving you are in need of financial aid, as well as how well you are performing in your studies.
Toronto consists of multiple diverse cultures, meaning a large variety of food selections. International students find themselves surrounded with all kinds of meal options such as fast-food franchises, all-you-can-eat dine-ins, local diners, bakeries and vegan restaurants. The average price for a meal in take-out style restaurants is around CAD $15.00, while higher end restaurants average up to CAD $30.00 per person, double the amount. Students need to be mindful where they decide to eat. Higher end restaurants are recommended for celebrating special occasions and local diners and fast food franchises are more for your week to week.While it is tempting to eat out every day, having a prepared meal at home can save a large portion of your finances. Grocery stores such as NoFrills, FoodBasics, Wal-Mart and Longos are some examples of places where you can find quality ingredients at a fair price. By visiting their website, you will find their weekly flyers and coupons showcasing various deals and discounts.
The average price of renting a bedroom in the Greater Toronto Area is around CAD $900/month. This price is commonly found in houses/apartments with three to four other bedrooms, also rented by other occupants. For students with families looking to rent the entire unit space, the average rent is up to $3500/month (typically for 3-4 bedroom units). The cost may or may not include utilities, laundry equipment, furnishings and internet, thus the price may fluctuate based on its included amenities. Students must carefully review their priorities in regards to the “must haves” inside their home before anything else. While the price varies depending on the size and amenities, the location plays the biggest factor. The closer you are downtown, the higher the price. For those living just outside the city, they will find themselves using a method of transportation to get to their school/work.
Newer students in Canada may not have the necessary funds to purchase their own vehicle, and renting one is recommended for everyday use. The Greater Toronto Area consists of multiple and complex transit systems, allowing residents to travel throughout Toronto with ease. The always evolving transit systems come in handy for those living just outside the main downtown core who may require to travel to the area for school or work. This is also helpful for those with no vehicles or those wanting to avoid driving in the traffic. The TTC, Toronto’s transit system, offers popular monthly passes for passengers that commute daily, with just CAD $156.00. A Student monthly pass is also available for CAD $128.00. These passes are highly recommended for students in Toronto with daily in-person classes, as it grants them unlimited access on buses, subways and streetcars throughout the month, while saving hundreds of dollars. If you live in cities just outside Toronto such as Mississauga, Brampton, Markham and Vaughan, visit their respective municipal transit websites to learn similar student passes. Another option outside the monthly passes is Presto, a transit fare card that eases that payment of fares with just a tap of the card. Not only does it come with a guarantee transfer, but a Presto fare is slightly cheaper than a standard fare. The city’s transit system may also come with discounts based on your current situation. For example, GO Transit offers a 40% discount for post-secondary students. Visit your local transit system website for prices and discounts.
Health coverages are mandatory in Ontario under the University Health Insurance Program (UHIP). This not-for-profit insurance plan would be included in your school student account, and range from $250.00 to $750.000 (for one year coverage) per student depending on when your program starts. Visit UHIP’s official website to learn more details regarding the coverages and costs. International students with a spouse or partner and are planning to bring them to Canada via an Open Work Permit, the partner will be eligible for OHIP, Ontario Health Insurance Plan. The plan covers family doctor appointments, walk-in clinic appointments, emergency room visits and medical tests and surgeries. As long as the partner inherits a valid work permit and has worked full time in Ontario for a minimum six months, then they will be qualified for OHIP.
Mobile plans differ from one phone company to another. The average price of a mobile plan in Toronto is about $30/month. However, most cell phone providers offer dedicated student packages with additional benefits or a discounted price. Students have the option to either pay as you go or through an annual contract.
Although the priority for all students is their schoolwork, the Greater Toronto Area offers exciting opportunities for recreation and leisure activities. It is important for your physical and mental health to have a proper balance of work and hobbies, especially during stressful times. Plenty of Toronto’s recreational and leisure activities offer free of charges or discounted payments via:
Taking advantage of these discounts can significantly save you money while relieving any stress of work and having fun with peers. Visit the recreational activity you are interested in to learn more about details and fees.
- Certain days of the week (Cineplex theatres offer discounted movie tickets every Tuesday).
- Birthdays and special occasions
Let’s come up with a budget breakdown; keeping in mind the Government of Canada’s requirement for international students to bring the CAD $10,000 (outside their tuition expenses) to support themselves throughout their first year of study. You, the international student, work at a part time job (20 hours per week) on the minimum wage of $15.50/hour – you make around CAD $1,200 a month. The following chart illustrates the budget (with the average monthly costs listed above) you need to keep in mind.
Let’s see how working a part-time job can help with your monthly total expenses. NOTE: Tuition and housing is likely going to be your biggest expense, hence it is appropriate to use your CAD $10,000 for those purposes
|EXPENSES||COST (CAD $) PER MONTH|
|Health Insurance ||62.50|
|Eating Out ||50.00|
|Leisure Activities ||75.00|
By working the part-time job, you can cover the monthly total expenses and have a surplus of CAD $694.50. With this amount you can increase some of your monthly expenses, decrease your tuition/rent or place it all to your overall savings. It is recommended that you make a similar budget breakdown in order to manage your finances accordingly.
|FINANCES||CAD $ PER MONTH |
|Part-Time Job Income||1,240.00|
|Monthly Total Expenses||-545.50|
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