International students need a long to-do list to settle into a new school year, but managing your money can be simplified if you have the right tips.
A healthy financial plan will ensure a smooth and successful academic journey and peace of mind.
At the end of 2022, there were more than 800,000 Study Permit holders in Canada. Numbers have effectively doubled since 2016 and only dropped slightly in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Canada has a strategy to welcome international students and give them a pathway to permanent residence via the Post Graduation Work Permit.
There are also extra points for a Canadian education through the flagship Express Entry system.
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Here are some key steps and considerations to help you create a financial plan:
Tuition and Fees
Do your research; tuition fees come with associated so make sure you factor in any scholarships, grants, or financial aid you may have received.
List your expenses such as tuition fees, accommodation, food, transportation, textbooks, health insurance, and personal expenses and keep track of them. This will help you manage your finances and identify areas where you can cut back and save to maintain a healthy budget.
Living costs in Canada can differ from what you’re used to, so a reasonable budget is critical for international students to secure their future and prevent financial worries.
Find ways to save money while safeguarding your education and well-being. Consider sharing accommodation with other students to split the rent, buying used textbooks, using student discounts, cooking meals instead of eating out, and using your student bus pass for public transportation.
If you’re unsure how to build a budget, use an online student budget calculator to help you estimate basic living costs such as accommodation, utilities, transportation, and food.
Once you have a core budget, see if your bank offers mobile banking, AI, or other digital tools to track spending, refine your financial planning, and maintain your monthly budget.
Your budget is your lifeline, so be vigilant and revisit it often. Try setting a recurring alert on your phone to remind you to review your transactions regularly.
You may need health insurance coverage. Check if your educational institution provides health insurance or consider buying a private health insurance plan to cover medical expenses. Do you have savings in case of a health or other emergency?
If you’re waiting for private or university health insurance to kick in, having funds reserved for a virtual doctor’s visit in case of an emergency can be a good idea. Alternatively, consider checking with your university or bank to see if they have solutions or benefits available to support your health.
Banking and Currency Exchange
- Open a Canadian bank account to manage your finances effectively.
- Research different banks and compare their services and fees.
- Find a reliable, cost-effective method to convert your home currency into Canadian dollars.
Credit Cards and Debt Management
As a convenient alternative to cash, you should investigate Canadian banks’ debit and credit card options.
If you plan to use a credit card, understand its terms and conditions, including interest rates and fees. Use credit responsibly and avoid accumulating debt that may become difficult to repay later.
Most available debit options will offer a no-fee structure for students, so consider other benefits, such as unlimited transactions on debit, rewards points for transactions, or additional rebates and discounts, that can help inform your choice.
You can also apply for a credit card to give yourself more financial flexibility and build your credit score in Canada – but be sure to factor in features like fee structures, rewards programs, and interest rates.
Your credit card can be vital to managing your day-to-day finances, so look for options tailored to international students with higher limits, even if you don’t have a credit history in Canada.
While credit cards make life easy, it’s essential to understand the interest charges associated with your card and to establish a repayment plan that covers what you’ve borrowed.
Bank of Montreal is among the top five Canadian banks for international students.
According to wealthawesome.com, BMO is the best bank for student credit cards for the following reasons:
- Great options with no annual fees, rewards (including cashback and Air Miles) and a standard interest rate (19%). International students are eligible for these cards during their studies (with proof of enrollment.)
- BMO also offers other special perks for international students in Canada, including:
- Free banking during your studies + one additional year after you graduate
- Free e-transfers
- Free and unlimited international transfers (for one year only)
- International student Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) program (available only for students coming from China or India) is a safe and secure investment that protects your principal no matter what happens with the market.
- Free safety deposit box for one year
Explore part-time job opportunities on or off-campus to support your living expenses. Be aware of the restrictions on the number of hours you can work per your study permit regulations.
Scholarships and Grants
Research and apply for scholarships and grants available to international students. You could qualify for financial assistance from your educational institution, the Canadian government, and private organizations. Seek guidance from your academic advisor or financial aid office.
Financial Aid and Counselling Services
You can do your research but also stay informed about financial aid workshops, counselling services, and resources offered by your educational institution. They can guide financial management, budgeting, and debt management.
You may need to file a tax return depending on your income and circumstances. Consult the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or seek professional advice for tax-related queries.
Finally, don’t forget your rainy-day fund. Build an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses such as medical emergencies or unforeseen travel requirements. Aim to set aside a portion of your income regularly to establish a financial safety net.
Remember to keep track of your financial plan regularly, adjust as needed, and seek guidance from financial advisors or student services professionals at your educational institution. By managing your finances effectively, you can make the most of your time as an international student in Canada.