How to Budget for Student Life in Canada | Money Management Tips
Every year, hundreds of thousands of students come to Canada with hopes and dreams of graduating from one of the schools or universities in the country that are known around the world. The Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship (IRCC) office said that more than 600,000 international students with valid study permits would be studying in Canada by the end of 2024.
When going to school in a foreign country, many students worry about things like getting used to the culture, finding a good place to live, and making sure they have enough money for school and living costs. International education is expensive, and depending on where you move, the cost of living could be high as well. So, planning your expenses and making a budget are good ways to keep your finances in order, avoid surprises, and keep from getting into student debt.
What exactly is a budget?
A budget is a plan for managing your money that takes into account your expected income and expenses for a certain amount of time. It’s a way to keep track of how much money you have coming in and how much money is going out, as well as putting some money aside for unexpected costs.
Having a budget can help you as an international student:
- Educate yourself. This will help you understand your spending habits and patterns, which will help you cut costs where you don’t need to.
- Monitor and track your finances: It helps you keep an eye on your finances and gives you advice on how to become financially independent.
- Prepare for the future. This makes sure you have a plan for how to pay for any unplanned expenses, big purchases, or big events in your life.
It might seem like making a budget takes a lot of time and work, but it doesn’t. Arrive has a simple three-step process that is easy to follow and helps you every step of the way.
How to budget like a pro in three easy steps: a guide for students
Step 1: Write down your sources of income and the types of costs you have.
Writing down what you earn and what you spend is a good way to get a clear picture of what you spend as a student and will help you plan for other costs. Putting your expenses into categories like education, housing, transportation, food, clothing, medical care, etc. will help you see them more clearly, plan and manage your money better, and stay on track to reach your financial goals.
Don’t forget to plan for the big expenses.
Aside from the direct costs of school, like tuition, books, supplies, and course materials, don’t forget to plan for the big things:
- Accommodation: International students can live on or off campus. Cost is one of the main drawbacks of each option. If you live with roommates, alone, or with family off-campus, your housing costs may vary. College and university websites list exact on-campus and estimated off-campus costs. If not already, budget for furniture and other household items.
- Food and groceries: Groceries alone can cost anywhere from $150 to $250 a month, and if you plan to eat out or order food online a few times a month, set aside $30 to $50 (plus tip) for each meal. If you live on campus, your university or college may offer a meal plan that can help you save money and time on grocery shopping and cooking.
- Car insurance: If you plan to buy a car, you should know that international students usually pay more for car insurance because they have little or no experience driving in North America. At times, the cost of insurance can be more than the cost of renting or leasing a car!
- Phone and Internet: Communication services in Canada are probably more expensive than in your home country, so you may end up paying a lot more for your phone and internet. Before you sign up for a new phone plan or internet service, do some research and talk to other people.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and prescription drugs: If you don’t have private insurance that covers the cost of medicines, you’ll have to pay for them out of your own pocket, which could be very expensive.
- Entertainment: Don’t forget to budget for fun things to do, like hanging out with friends after class or watching Netflix at home.
Step 2: Figure out your savings (or deficit) and find the best way to save more.
Next, take your expenses away from your income to see how much you have save. If you see a deficit, now is a good time to figure out where you can cut back, change, or trim your spending. If your study permit lets you work part-time, you might be able to add to your budget or savings with the money you make.
- Keep an eye out for discounts for students. The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is accepted all over the world and can get you discounts on many things. It can be ordered online and costs about $20. Some stores will give you 10–15% off art supplies, for example, if you show your student card.
- Make shopping lists so you only buy what you need and don’t get sidetracked by deals and freebies.
Step 3: Watch, evaluate, and make changes
Budgeting is not a one-time thing, but rather something that is always being worked on. It’s important to keep track of your income and expenses on a regular basis, preferably once a month, and make changes to better reflect your real-life situations.
- You can find out where your money is going by looking at your bank statements, credit card statements, and mobile banking app.
- If you have an RBC account, you can also use tools like myFinanceTracker and NOMI to help you manage your money better.
As an international student, you may find that Canada’s financial system is different from the one in your home country. It may take some time to get used to, but with the right information and resources, you’ll be set up for success in your life, career, and finances. “Well begun is half done!” as the saying goes.
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