What it costs to live in Canada: Expenses and income for the average family
Main categories of expenses of an average Canadian family, total amounts and whether Canadian salaries are enough to live comfortably.
Where you live has a big impact on the cost of living. I live in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Real estate is quite expensive here — it's one of the main cost items. But if you take the larger cities where most immigrants tend to move to, which are Toronto and Vancouver, things are even more expensive there. I'll be naming specific cost numbers.
If you plan to rent a home for the first time after moving to Canada, the average rental value across all property types in September 2021 across Canada was $1,763 CAD. All amounts will be in Canadian dollars.
The cheapest apartments to rent are studios at $1,285 per month, two-bedroom apartments are a hall and one bedroom at $1,574 per month, and three-bedroom apartments are $1,857 per month. Let's further calculate on that number. In Canada, most people live in detached houses, and the average rent for homes in August was $2,743. In Ottawa, it's even higher at $2845.
If you like big cities, you can get on average $2,000 for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto and $2,630 for a two-bedroom apartment. Ottawa is a smaller city, and rent costs less — $1,600 and $2,000 respectively. Winnipeg is somewhere in the Canadian wilds, so it makes sense that renting there is cheaper — a two-bedroom apartment will cost $1,460.
You usually have to pay extra for water, electricity and gas when you rent. Add another $100-200 per month if you live in an apartment. On average, your rent is $150. But sometimes everything is included in the rent, so read the ads carefully. There is some nomenclature, and it takes time to understand Canadian things, so it is better to get a good grasp of things before you move in.
In this category it is very difficult to identify average expenses, because you can live alone, or you can live with five people, like in our family. And we also have a dog, which is a big separate expense item. You can save money and eat pasta and rice, or you can eat without restricting yourself. Quite a lot of people eat in cafes and order take-away food. On one website I found that with this approach will go somewhere $44 per day per person. If you cook yourself, it will be much cheaper.
I found a report that cited an expense of $13,907 a year for a family of 4. That comes out to $1,159 per month, and I agree with that number, our expenses for 5 are probably close. We usually go to the Costco wholesale store once a week and buy groceries there.
If that number shocks you, you should know that almost all new immigrants for the first few months, or even the first year, can get free food at all from help centers or food banks.
If you live in the centre of a major city, you can only make do with public transport. That said, you will spend a lot of time travelling, and it's a little scary to be on the same bus or subway car as other people during a pandemic. I think you should still own a car in Canada, and preferably two if you have children in your family.
You can buy a car for cash, on credit or take it on lease. This year I leased a car and I really liked the procedure. Unlike a loan, the payment per month for leasing is half as much. But after the lease ends, the car has to be returned. On average, Canadians pay $500 per month for a leased car.
Of course, the car must be insured. The average price across Canada is $110 per month. It is believed that the most expensive insurance in British Columbia, followed by Ontario, Alberta, etc. In Quebec the cheapest.
This is comprehensive insurance. A huge number of factors influence the price: your age, car, driving record, which province you live in. But often even the area is taken into account. Here we have a quiet area and not many accidents, if you live somewhere in the center, it will be more expensive.
The average Canadian spends $145 a month to fill up their car. I think in reality the amount would be higher. Parking costs an average of $50 a month. You have to be careful with that, because for parking in downtown Montreal just for a day you can pay half of that amount.
And the last sub-category of car spending is maintenance. On average, it's $100 a month. In Ontario, you have to put stickers on your license plate, so add $10 a month.
Be prepared for the fact that internet in Canada is very expensive. Since my wife and I work from home and the kids have been homeschooled for almost a year, I didn't skimp on the Internet. We have fibre optics and for a gigabit unlimited channel it's $110 a month. A slower channel would be about $50 a month.
Apart from the internet, mobile phones are expensive in Canada. I pay for 4 numbers, from 3 to 10 GB of internet. It costs a total of $195 per month. Let's assume that on average a family has $100 to spend on communications.
I don't name computers, printers, scanners, cameras, lighting and other things, I buy electronics for business and write them off with taxes. By the way, that's also how I partially write off utilities and even my mortgage. Still, something is bought into the house all the time and just for fun, let's put a $100/month figure on it.
I don't even know what to say, in our family it is one of the minimum expenses. In Canada, as compared to Ukraine, the format of entertainment has changed. We usually go to a national park or festival. It costs cheap. Before we used to go to cinema, but now we watch movies at home. So we have to pay for Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Video. If we don't count travel, we spend $300 a month on entertainment and birthday parties.
Going to a restaurant can be considered entertainment. I'm sure you can leave more money at a fancy place at once. So it is up to you to decide how much to save for entertainment.
Speaking of saving, I think it's very important to invest money, especially for expatriates who won't be able to get a full pension in the future. The more you invest at a young age, the more comfortable you will be in retirement. And don't forget that in said calculations, you're renting, and you need to save for a down payment. Start saving at least $500 a month. It's a lot, I understand, but it's necessary.
If you have a family, I strongly advise you to insure your life. Imagine if you are the breadwinner in your family and you are gone, how hard it will be not only morally, but also financially for your family. So set aside the cost of insurance from $100.
Childcare costs are high, but I won't count them, they should be covered by childcare. When we moved to Canada, we didn't know about it, and then at first it was really nice to just get $1500 a month. As your income increases, the amount of the benefit decreases.
You can find cheap clothes in Canada. I don't even know how much to charge per month. T-shirts sell for $10, winter jackets for $100, shoes are more expensive. Let's count $100 a month. Although, if the family is large, you need more.
It's time to add up the expenses. It comes to as much as $5,361 a month. That's $64,332 a year. That's about $87,000 before taxes. If there's two people working in the family, that's $43,500 each.
Is it a lot or is it normal? Let's turn to official statistics and see what Canadians' income was in 2019. If there were no pensioners in the family, after taxes, the median income was $93,800.
That's almost $50,000 more than I calculated. That's not a bad amount, do you think? Even if I missed expenses in some category, which I definitely did, that reserve should be enough to live comfortably.
Forgot about the cost of pets. Veterinarians in Canada are very expensive. When we go to them, I prepare to part with at least $300. If you have, say, an older dog, the surgery could be in the tens of thousands of dollars. If you're just getting on your feet in Canada, consider keeping the animal in your home country with relatives and moving it over time.
Alex Pavlenko, Founder of Immigrant.Today
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