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Top Budget Considerations for International Students in Canada

Top Budget Considerations for International Students in Canada

Living in Canada can be quite costly especially for international students. Hence why financial advisors always recommend students to come up with a bulletproof personal budget. First off, what is a personal budget? A personal budget is a monthly financial plan for your income and your spending. A budget helps you decide what you are going to do with your money. And It will help you save money on the things that don’t matter so that you have more for things that do. It is common for students to overlook some of the costs of living as they plan out their life in Canada. For instance, costs such as transportation, and travel fees commonly get neglected or underestimated when thinking of daily living costs. Therefore, below are the major budget considerations of students that you need to look over when making your personal budget.

1. Tuition Fees

Tuition fees are every students’ worst nightmare. This variable cost depends on a number of factors such as the school, number of courses per semester, the program and more. Tuition fees are especially demanding for international students as they are required to pay up to 2-10 times the amount an average PR or Canadian citizen has to pay for an undergraduate program.

(1) Colleges & Universities

Different colleges offer different prices for their programs. And depending on what type of program you are going to study, the fees may differ greatly. For instance, as seen in the chart below, an undergraduate program in dentistry can cost an average of $55,000 while an undergraduate degree in education cost $19,461. Due to its’ high cost, post-secondary education in Canada can be quite straining on international students. That’s why many consider different options such as language schools.

Average Annual International Tuition Fees of Canadian Colleges (2018-2019)

Field of studyUndergraduate (per year)Graduate (per year)
Education$19,461$15,236
Visual and performing arts, and communications technologies$22,950$14,144
Humanities$26,175$13,520
Social and behavioural sciences$24,808$14,304
Law, legal professions and studies$29,756$15,941
Business management and public administration$26,395$22,442
Executive MBANot available$56,282
Regular MBANot available$37,697
Physical and life sciences and technologies$29,067$14,664
Mathematics, computer and information sciences$30,187$15,553
Engineering$30,742$17,753
Architecture$24,654$24,178
Agriculture, natural resources and conservation$24,101$14,016
Dentistry$55,802$21,635
Medicine$29,905Not available
Nursing$20,354$13,713
Pharmacy$34,726$11,642
Veterinary medicine$60,458$9,088
Other health, parks, recreation and fitness$23,192$16,590
Personal, protective and transportation services$20,453$13,948

Source: Statistics Canada

(2) Language Schools

Language schools are a good and cost-efficient alternative to colleges and universities. Many international students decide to enroll in these language schools to better their English while studying. Here are some tuition examples for popular language schools in different parts of Canada:

  • Toronto: 12-week English language school = $3,515
  • Quebec City: 12-week French language school = $3,570
  • Vancouver: 12-week English language school = $4,083
  • Calgary: 12-week French language school = $3,446

Source: EduCanada

2. Accommodation Costs

Another common major concern in students’ budget is accommodation costs. Students often aim to either rent a shared unit or live in student dorms to lower the strain of high rent costs. The average cost of a university residence in Canada is $3,000-7,500 per year which also includes meal plans. In addition, private shared accommodation is around $250-700 per month or $8,400 per year. Some students choose homestay services which typically charge an initial placement fee of $200 and the average monthly cost of $400-800. However, the above costs vary based on a number of different factors (such as your location).

Source: The World University Ranking

3. Food

When talking about budget, food is one of the first things that come up. It’s often tricky to talk about food and budget due to a large number of contributing cost factors. Examples include factors such as; brand vs generic groceries, bulk vs individual purchases, organic vs non-organic, etc. According to Global News’ analysis of Statistics Canada data, Canadians spend an average of $200/month per person on products bought in stores.

There are multiple ways for students to save money on their food and groceries. For instance, some students purchase groceries in bulks and create a meal plan. Weekly meal plans allow you to save time and money by preparing food for longer periods of time. In addition, some students also substitute certain food products with their frozen counterparts. Although there is controversy around the use of frozen food products. These products are cheaper and still contain the nutrients you need.

Source: Global News Canada

4. Health Insurance

In Canada, each province/territory provides universal health care to its citizens. This coverage is free and applies to all Canadian citizens. However universal healthcare may not apply to international students depending on your area of residence. Hence why international students need to determine whether their province or territory includes health insurance for them. In provinces where there is no coverage, your school will have medical insurance plans for purchase.

Here’s a list of provinces and territories that offer health coverage to international students:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Northwest Territories
  • Saskatchewan

Note: This health coverage depends on the length of the international student’s stay.

Sources: AlbertaBCManitobaNewfoundland and LabradorNorthwest TerritoriesSaskatchewan

5. Other Educational Fees

There are a number of other costs of living that students tend to underestimate when it comes down to budgeting. Some of which include transportation and course material (books, iclicker, etc.) fees.

(1) Course Material

Courses often require you to buy material such as books, devices, notebooks and etc. And unfortunately these materials are not cheap by any means. On average students spend $600 per academic year on books and materials they need. To save money, students often buy second-handed books and sell them after their courses are complete. But what about the students who are not a fan of second-handed books and are looking for ways to save money? For them, Ebooks are a recommended alternative. Ebooks are offered by many courses and they tend to be cheaper than hard copies.

Source: The World University Banking

(2) Transportation

In Canada, you can easily transfer from one mode of transportation to another. But moving from point A to B is not always free. Public transportation requires a ticket or a transit pass and driving requires gas money and additional services. Hence why another big part of budgeting is transportation costs.

  • Taking Public Transit

Students that use public transit often can benefit from U-Pass which is provided by most post-secondary institutions in Canada (but not all). However, it’s important to know that U-Pass is not a free service, it’s included in your tuition fees. In BC, for instance, U-Pass costs $41.00 per month. So, if you don’t use public transit often, you should opt out of U-Pass via your school’s website and reduce the burden of tuition. If you are a frequent public transit user and your school does not provide U-Pass services, be sure to purchase monthly passes instead. These tickets allow you to take transit as often as you can per month. The price for monthly passes ranges depending on your location.

  • Driving Costs

But if you are you prefer to drive, then you must consider additional costs such as car insurance, gas, and additional services. According to Global News Canadians spend between $8,600 and $13,000 a year on their car on average. Keep in mind that this average is highly variable since there are multiple aspects that affect the annual cost of cars. Some of which include, the car’s fuel efficiency, maintenance rate, your residence area, etc. There are also additional surprise maintenance costs (other than your monthly maintenance service) which you need to keep in mind. Some examples include tires wearing out, brakes deteriorating, etc.

Current Gas Rates in Canada

6. Entertainment & Travel

Life in Canada is not all about work and no play. And It’s important to take time to relax while you are here. Hence why entertainment and travel fees is a must-include in your budget plan. Everything from club and theatre visits to Netflix or video games falls under the entertainment category. And anything from a short trip to a nearby island to travelling to another country falls under the travel costs. For travel fees consider cost variables such as major and minor transportation fees, food and meals, accommodation and activity fees.

Useful Tools for Budgeting

There are a number of resources and tools which can make budgeting easier for you. For instance, the Government of Canada’s website provides a useful budget calculator that includes all your income sources, savings, and daily costs. Another commonly used budgeting tool is accessible apps that track your banking information and give you a detailed summary of your living costs. The most popular among these apps is Mint. This app also provides you with additional helpful features such as credit and budgeting tips and bill notifications.

Creating an effective budget is hard at first but once you get the hang of it, it will change your life for the better. An effective budget is especially important for international students in Canada since they often need to spend more on things such as education and health insurance. Now after learning about the tools and budgeting information, you can begin your budgeting journey in Canada.

Also read:

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