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International students in Canada: Ways to save on living expenses while in Ontario

Here are some of the most common expenses that international students will encounter during their stay in Canada
Caption. Credit: Weekend Images/iStock

Living costs in Canada can get really expensive. Such costs can vary from city to city, a student’s lifestyle, and several other factors.

In order to have the best experience while studying and living in Canada, it is important for international students to ensure that they have the proper budget to cover their studies, accommodation, and food. 

On-campus accommodation

Many international students choose to live on their university’s campus for the first year of their studies. This gives them time to acclimatize to living in Canada. Costs of on-campus living can include residence fees, meal plans, and more.

The total costs will differ based on the city and university, but you can expect to pay between $3,000 to $7,500 per year.

Off-campus accommodation

Once students are more familiar with living in Canada, many choose to move into better and more private housing options away from campus. These can range from living with a host family, renting a house, or staying at luxury student-orientated residences like The Arc in Winnipeg or The Quad in Toronto.

Since off-campus living options are so varied, one can expect to pay anything from $500 to $2,200 per month.


Students who live on-campus or who can walk or bike to their nearby university might not have to worry about any transportation costs.

If they live a good distance away, then they will have to budget for car fuel or the costs of regular train, ferry, subway, or bus trips. It’s important to keep in mind the price of plane tickets for students who are planning on visiting their family. Since many students can get traveling discounts, one can expect to pay between $80 to $156.


Food-related expenses can vary wildly depending on whether students like to eat out a lot, cook for themselves, or opt into one of their university’s meal plans. For this reason, it is difficult to give a price estimate that covers every student. 

It is best for students to familiarize themselves with their food options before setting aside a budget for groceries. For example, when preparing meals, look online at the prices of goods at any of Canada’s major grocery chain stores.

Health insurance

In order to enjoy their stay in Canada and complete their studies, it is important for students to look after one’s health. Besides staying fit and eating well, it’s also important to ensure that they have health insurance. Students need to determine if the province or territory they are staying in will provide them with health insurance as an international student. 

In most cases where a territory or province has no coverage for international students, the university will provide medical insurance plans that they can purchase or include insurance in the tuition fees for full-time students, covering services like vision, dental, and prescription medication.


Most educational institutions offer free Wi-Fi. Students can log in with their own student password and access the Internet for research, studying, handing in assignments, and even entertainment. 

For students who don’t have a laptop, many campuses have Internet-connected computers in the library or study halls that are usually free to use. 

Phone and utilities

This is another group of monthly expenses that will vary based on personal situation. Phone bills are determined by contracts and usage. Water and power bills at a rented house will also be more, or extra, than staying on-campus, where all utilities are usually included in the residence fees.

Tips to save as an international student

Knowing where to get discounts and how to save money can reduce the expenses related to living and studying in Canada. Below are some of the best-proven tips for spending less. 

  1. Track finances
    Keeping a record of one’s income and expenses can keep students informed about how much money they have left for the month, along with where they might be spending too much. A financial record can also help students budget better, spend more wisely, and even save.

  2. Get a part-time job
    Studying full-time and showing up for part-time work shifts can be hard to balance, but a well-paying side job can significantly relieve financial pressures.

  3. Apply for scholarships
    There are scholarships available for students based on merit and other factors. Winning a scholarship can remove a huge financial burden for the duration of one’s university studies in Canada, which could last several years. International students can start applying to scholarship programs before even visiting Canada.

  4. Apply for student cards
    Student registration cards can get students significant discounts on transport, cafes, shopping, trips, entertainment, and more.

  5. Try public transport
    Public transport tends to be more affordable than renting or owning a car. This is why many international students are happy to use public transportation. With a student card, students can get an even better-discounted price.

  6. Shop second-hand 
    Buying things second-hand is a great budget saver. This can include textbooks for school, clothes, or furniture. Some second-hand shops offer really quality items at a great price, meaning that students can save your funds for something else.