Costs of Living in Canada
Canada is an affordable place to live. In Ontario, there are a wide range of cities and towns to suit every lifestyle and budget.
Depending on where you are from, the cost of living may be higher or lower than what you are used to at home. Understand the costs ahead of time so you can prepare to support yourself.
The Canadian government has helpful guidelines for preparing financially.
Tuition, textbooks, and supplies
Ontario offers affordable tuition for international students compared to many other places in the world. That being said, tuition and fees will likely be your biggest expense while in Canada.
Typically you pay tuition and fees to your school before the start of each semester. Check with your institution for costs and payment deadlines.
You should also prepare to pay for these expenses:
- course materials and supplies
- computer or laptop
- software subscriptions
Many institutions provide estimates for these expenses. Check your school’s website for more details.
Your housing costs will be different depending on whether you live on or off campus.
If you choose to live on campus, these costs will be covered by your residence fees. On-campus housing varies depending on your institution and whether you have a single room, double room or room in an apartment-style suite. Costs range from roughly $6,500 to $20,000 per academic year (September to April).
If you live off campus, your rent may or may not include heat, electricity, water, telephone or internet service. This is an important thing to ask your landlord, as these costs can add up. Typically landlords expect rent to be paid on a monthly basis. Rental costs depend on the city, ranging from roughly $600 to $2,000 per month.
Contact your institution for help finding a place to live, estimating your housing expenses and understanding your rights and responsibilities before you sign a rental agreement.
Basic expenses will make up a significant portion of your monthly costs in Canada. These include:
- Food – Many schools offer prepaid meal plans for eating on campus. While this can be convenient, it can also be more expensive than making your own meals. Eating at restaurants or buying specialty items can double your food costs.
- Clothing – Make sure to budget for clothing for both warm and cold weather. Most Ontario cities offer a wide range of clothing options for different budgets. These range from affordable second-hand shops to designer stores.
- Transportation – Many international students walk, bike or use public transportation. Access to public transportation will vary depending on where you live. Your school may provide a student pass that gives you cheaper rates for bus or light rail services. If you decide to lease or buy a car, you will also have to pay for gas, parking, maintenance and monthly payments, as well as car insurance and registration (required by law in Ontario).
- Mobile phone service – Be prepared to purchase a mobile phone that works with Ontario networks. Mobile phone service and data is more expensive in Canada. Check with your school to find the best option.
- Other expenses – Make sure you budget for personal items, haircuts, gifts, entertainment and activities. You may also need to pay for laundry using coins or a prepaid card.
Health insurance is provided by your institution and paid through your student fees. Check with your school for details.
International student health insurance plans typically cover the cost of basic health and medical expenses. Be prepared to pay for prescription medication out of your own pocket.
Taxes and deductions
In Ontario, a harmonized sales tax (HST) of 13% is added to many of the goods and services you purchase. Some products are exempt, but be prepared to pay this tax on most purchases.
If you work during your studies, you will see deductions automatically taken off your pay cheque. These deductions usually cover things like income taxes, Canada Pension Plan (CPP), employment insurance, union dues (if you are part of a union) and any other deductions you and your employer agree to in writing.