1. Get a Social Insurance Number
Obtaining a Social Insurance Number (SIN) is the first step you need to take in order to navigate the Canadian system. You will need this nine-digit number to open a bank account, apply for health insurance, get employed and access certain services. Visit Service Canada for instructions on how to apply for a SIN.
2. Open a bank account
Opening a bank account at a local bank will allow you to better manage your finances and avoid significant transfer fees from your accounts back home. Pick a bank close to your home or work for convenience, and, when you apply, it is a good idea to set up online banking as well. You can open chequing and savings accounts on the spot and walk away with a debit card. For credit accounts, you will need to wait up to a month.
3. Get a credit card
Credit is an essential part of a person’s financial trajectory in Canada. You will need a good credit history to get a loan or a mortgage, and sometimes even to rent a home or obtain a job. Getting a credit card in Canada requires either a previous credit history or a deposit that will protect the lender in case you fail to pay your bill. This is also known as a secured credit card. A credit card may also come with incentives such as air miles or travel rewards.
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4. File a tax return
You can file for a tax return in Canada and access certain tax benefits such as the Canada Child Tax Benefit even without having a Canadian job history.
5. Apply for health insurance
You should apply for health insurance for you and your family as soon as you arrive. Depending on your province, you may have to pay a monthly premium. You can find the application forms at immigrant settlement agencies, doctor’s offices, hospitals and pharmacies. In Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and New Brunswick, you will have to wait three months before you can access the provincial health insurance plan. During those three months, it is highly recommended that you purchase private health insurance.
6. Assess your monthly expenses
While exploring your city, take a tour of the popular supermarkets and get an idea of the prices for basic items. Visit different cell phone and internet providers and compare plans and special offers. Do not be afraid to ask for additional explanations and never let yourself be pressured into signing any contracts before you are ready.
7. Make a budget
Once you’ve found a home and arranged for transportation, draw up a weekly or monthly budget. Even if you are usually a careful spender, do not underestimate the stress of setting up a new life and the myriad of things you will have to learn. A budget will help you keep an eye on where your money is going and give you a sense of control. Your rent is likely to be the largest portion of your monthly budget.
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8. Access free and low-cost goods and services
While it is tempting to start your new life exclusively with shiny new items, it is not always financially sensible. Visit free classifieds websites such as Craigslist.org and Kijiji.ca to check out free or low-cost items. Immigrant settlement organizations can direct you to places where you could access donations of furniture and appliances. In large buildings, renters who move out often place ads to sell their furniture cheaply. Garage sales are a national pastime in Canada. Library cards are free and allow you to borrow books and save on entertainment. Everywhere you look, there are opportunities to cut down costs; you just need to take advantage of them.
9. Shop smart
Get into the habit of shopping smart as soon as possible. Use coupons, avoid customer traps such as extended warranties, apply for discount cards at the major stores and resist the lure of special offers on items you don’t really need. Give a chance to smaller businesses such as neighbourhood produce stores or butcher shops, because they sometimes have better prices.
10. Shake off bad financial habits
Often , newcomers experience a state of excitement similar to that of tourists on holiday. While it is fine to enjoy your first weeks in Canada, the reality is that you are not on holiday, so avoid spending like you are. A new start is the best opportunity to develop good financial habits and get rid of bad ones. Whether you never keep track of your loose change or hate sticking to a budget, now’s the time to start fresh and control your finances better.