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Finding ways to save money

Canada has a Westernised, consumer environment, so it is not uncommon to expect to be able to buy most things at a supermarket or mall.

The relatively low cost of living in Canada compared to say, London, may mean you are tempted to go on a shopping spree when you arrive.  However, if you are on a tight budget there are some things you can do to save money.

Houses in Canada are generally much bigger for your money than in the UK.  However, you don’t necessarily need to live in a bigger house.  A smaller house means lower housing costs in terms of rent or mortgage but also, importantly, heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer (both of which are absolute necessities in most of Canada).

Most of Canadian life is based around driving, as the distances are often huge.  Keeping a car is not cheap.  Petrol is inexpensive compared to somewhere like the UK, but about the same as you’ll find in the US (May 2018.) Car insurance varies by province.   However, if you live in a city with good public transport, or live near facilities such as schools and shops, having more than one car in your household may be unnecessary — indeed, having a car at all may not be necessary.  Vehicles notoriously depreciate in value, so it may be that leasing a car long-term would be the right decision for you. Short-term rentals are expensive, due largely to the price of car insurance, which is very high in some provinces.

Eating out may be cheap in most of Canada but not as cheap as eating in. Farmers’ markets are also a popular and cheap source of food, not to mention a great place to pick up some good quality, regional, seasonal, and unusual produce. From the ciders, maple syrup, pates, and preserves available at Marche du Vieux-Port in Quebec City to the Cambodian fare and German treats on offer at Crossroads in Calgary, they present an unmissable opportunity to taste everything that Canada’s multicultural society and vast landscape have to offer.

Canada has one of the most expensive telecom services in the world, due to having few providers, so long distance calling from your home phone is usually particularly poor value for money.  Calling home could become prohibitively expensive.  However, you can save money by using calling cards, using a dedicated long distance provider, using internet-based call services such as Skype or using services such as Freephoneline.


Canada's consumer-focused banking code makes it easy for newcomers to open an account, as long as someone can meet the identity requirements which generally include:

  • Passport
  • Work permit
  • Letter from employer confirming details of income and contract
  • Driver’s license
  • Letters of reference from banks back home

It is interesting to note that Canadian banks are not allowed to refuse an application for an account on the grounds of unemployment or bankruptcy.

Banking is not free at point-of-use as it is in the UK. You are charged a monthly fee for the most basic current account plus a fee per transaction (such as withdrawal or writing a cheque).  It is worth shopping around as there are different services available at different rates, and there are no-fee packages available for seniors and certain other groups. For more information, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) is a really useful place to start.

The best news is that Canadian banks are well-regulated, well-capitalised and well-managed and as such, rated as the safest by the World Economic Forum. Deposits and savings are protected up to $100,000, provided the establishment is a member of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation.

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