Personal Finance

canadian two dollar coins

One of the most important factors in your personal financial situation is how much you earn, versus how much you spend. It’s important not to spend more than you earn, but many Canadians get caught in too much debt, trying to “keep up with the Jones” — in other words, have everything you want, from cars to electronics, even if you can’t afford it.

The cost of living in Canada depends greatly on the area in which you chose to settle and on the size of your family. Large cities attract the bulk of new immigrants and offer the most job opportunities, which means that living costs are also higher.

Rent

New immigrants to Canada often make the decision to rent an apartment as their first means of accommodation. Typically, rent prices for a small one-bedroom apartment begin at $700 and can be as high as $1,500 per month.

If you are looking for short term housing assistance, a good place to start is the YMCA and YWCA.

When renting, make sure that you conduct a thorough research of the apartment building and its surroundings and then outline the positives and negatives to see if it is the right place for you. Perhaps the property is close to amenities like shops, swimming pools, libraries and public transport which depending on your requirements, may make it an attractive option for you.

Here are some useful resources to help you:

Rentseeker.ca

Canadian Residential Rentals

Realtor.ca

Canada Rentals

Rent Canada

Bills

You will need to factor in the costs of electricity (hydro), heating, telephone and cable and internet.

Many rentals include heating and some include even hydro in the cost of rent. If you have to pay for electricity, the average hydro bill for a one-bedroom apartment will set you back $40.

When it comes to internet, cable and telephone, the best option is to shop for bundles (combined service plans) at the different providers in your area. A bundle can cost anywhere between $60 month to more than $100 per month.

Cell phone plans range from $15 per month to more than $150, depending on the number of free minutes and text messages and the data usage limits. Voicemail activation usually costs extra. You can start with a basic plan and upgrade according to your needs.

While not a bill per se, the cost of doing laundry will be fairly similar from one month to the next. Apartment buildings come with laundry rooms with coin or card-operated washing machines. A washing cycle costs between $2.25 to $3.50 depending on the length, and a dryer cycle has a similar cost.

Insurance

Even if you are only renting, it is a good idea to purchase renter’s insurance to protect you against damage and theft. The insurance can cost up to a few hundred dollars a year. Auto insurance is $1,000 or more a year.

Depending on your province, you may also have to pay health insurance premiums, which vary from province to province and according to the size of your family. You will also need to factor in the premiums for any private health insurance you may choose to buy.

Transportation

A monthly transit pass can cost anywhere between $70 to more than $150 depending on the city and on how many areas it covers. You can purchase individual tickets starting at $2.50 but be aware that the trips will add up quickly when you are exploring a new city, so purchasing a monthly pass may be the better option. Children and seniors benefit from discounts on public transit.

Food and other groceries

The cost of your food bill will depend largely on your dietary limitations and personal standards, but also on the area in which you live. The stores and supermarkets in popular posh areas will be more expensive and will offer more high-quality gourmet and organic products, while cheaper areas will have more low-cost options. Food can set you back anywhere from $100 per month for a single person to several hundred. Cooking at home and planning your meals will help in balancing cost and nutrition.

In terms of personal care items and other supplies, costs can start at $1 at dollar stores, but you will often have to compromise on quality. Supermarkets have their own store brands that are usually cheaper than name brands and, in many cases, of comparable quality.

Clothing

Again, your personal standards will have the final say when it comes to clothing. You should bring with you quality items that will last you for a while, because clothes shopping is best kept until after you find employment. You can pay anywhere from a few dollars on an item of clothing at a cheap retailer or a thrift (second-hand) store to hundreds and even thousands at high-end designer stores.

Entertainment

Movie tickets can cost from $7 to $15 depending on the movie and the time of day. Most theatre tickets usually start at $20, and concerts of popular performers can cost well over $100. You can take advantage of local libraries to borrow DVDs and look for community theatres with free performances or performances by donation.

Other expenses

Big cities can be very tempting with their variety of cultures and cuisines, so you will probably want to treat yourself and your family to occasional restaurant outings. The costs can be anywhere from a few dollars per person at fast food restaurants, to more than $30 per person at an average restaurant. Never forget to factor in the tip, which should be at least 15 to 20 per cent of the bill.

Staying fit and healthy should always be a priority. Some rental buildings come with their own gyms and the price may be very low or included in the rent. If you plan to subscribe to a gym, always read the fine print. The monthly cost is usually $40 to $60, but most gyms charge introductory fees and substantial cancellation fees.

Personal care costs also cover all the range from basic to luxury. Expect to pay at least $25 for a simple haircut (plus tip) and anywhere from $20 to $60 on a manicure.

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