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The Cost of Living in Canada - Is it Expensive?

Written by Jessica Steer
Canada is known for being one of the best countries in the world to live in. It has a strong economy as well as good quality of life. Canada has some of the most beautiful vacation spots, embraces different cultures, offers universal health care, and is one of the safest countries in the world.
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    While it is one of the more expensive countries to live in, there are many that are more expensive. Even though this is the case, there are way more factors than just the cost that affects people’s decisions to live here and just because it is expensive to live in Canada, does not mean every part of Canada is expensive. The cost varies based on province and whether you live in the city or in more rural areas. How much does it really cost to live in Canada and are the provincial differences really that big?

    The Average Cost of Living in Canada

    While the living cost in Canada is different for everyone, the average cost of living is estimated to be $736 per month for a single person and $2,323 for a family of 4. It's important to keep in mind that this does not include any rental costs. Monthly costs with rent are estimated to be $1,708 per month per person and $3,911 for a family of four. This is the bare minimum needed to live. In some provinces, this may be more while in others it may be less. Either way you look at it, it’s expensive to live in Canada. And these numbers are before inflation skyrocketed. Many of them have increased since then making it so much more difficult to make ends meet. What’s even more difficult is that the cost of living has increased, but wages haven’t.

    How Much do you Need to Live Comfortably in Canada?

    While it's important to know how much is needed to live in Canada, it's also important to consider how much money is needed to live comfortably? What exactly does it mean to live comfortably? Well, this basically means that you have enough money for the things you need as well as money for leisure activities. You should also have enough to set some money away into savings. This amount is going to vary depending on where you live in Canada. If we take a look at some of the major Canadian cities, you can see that it does vary, sometimes by thousands.
    City Single Person Family of 4
    Toronto $3,551 $6,144
    Vancouver $3,445 $5,955
    Ottawa $2,822 $5,329
    Montreal $2,384 $4,799
    Calgary $2,449 $5,110
    Halifax $2,377 $4,698
    Quebec City $1,871 $4,126

    Cost of Living in Canada for a Single Person with Rent

    As we mentioned above, the average monthly cost of living for a single person with rent in Canada is $1,708. When we start factoring in the ability to save money as well as afford a few luxuries, the average cost of living comfortably in Canada for a single person is $2,771 per month. The average yearly salary needed is around $45,000. The amount needed for a couple is only slightly higher.

    Cost of Living for a Couple

    In order for a couple to live comfortably, it is recommended to have around $3,500 per month or around $50,000 plus per year. This can vary a lot depending on if the couple is a one-income or two-income household as well as the size of the apartment/house you choose to live in.

    Cost of Living for a Family of Four

    Then there is the cost for a family of four. The bare minimum is $3,911 while the recommended amount is $5,230. With all of these living costs, it’s important to remember inflation. It is also recommended to live below your means. If you only make $5200 per money, even though that does include savings, that doesn’t leave much room for unexpected costs or rising prices. These numbers are just an average and can change often.

    Cost of Living for International Students

    For an international student, the average monthly cost of living is between $600 and $800 per month for food and other expenses. Rent outside of campus can cost anywhere between $700 and $2,200 per month and then there is tuition. While tuition is lower in Canada than in many other countries, the average year of an undergraduate degree costs around $28,000 per year. Not to mention the cost of books which can range anywhere from $100-$500 per semester and dorms can cost anywhere from $550 to upwards of $2900. There is also the cost of a vehicle or public transportation and health insurance. While transit costs range between $80 and $110, vehicle costs are much higher and private health insurance can cost anywhere between $600 and $1000. Since there are restrictions on how long you have been in Canada and whether you are a permanent resident in order to qualify for Universal health care. Due to a lot of these costs, international students are allowed to work as much as 20-40 hours/week.

    Cost of Rent by Province in Canada

    One of the biggest factors that contribute to the cost of living is rent/housing. The average price monthly for a rental in Canada is $2730 but this all depends on the size of the rental and the location. While an apartment is going to be much cheaper than a 3-bedroom house, it all depends on your lifestyle and how many people in your family on what type of rental you need. Based on the overall rental prices, here is the average rental cost of each province.
    Province Rental Cost
    British Columbia $2034
    Alberta $1669
    Saskatchewan $1507
    Manitoba $1523
    Quebec $1602
    Newfoundland and Labrador $1463
    PEI $1409
    Ontario $1877
    New Brunswick $1369
    Nova Scotia $1595
    While living in a major city is going to cost more in rent than in rural areas, it’s also important to keep in mind that transportation costs will likely be lower in major cities due to more accessible transit options.

    What's the Average Cost to Purchase a House in Canada?

    While the rental prices per province correlate to the housing prices per province, how much does it really cost to purchase a house per province?
    Province Average Housing Costs
    British Columbia $913,471
    Alberta $401,706
    Saskatchewan $286,000
    Manitoba $321,504
    Quebec $459,955
    Newfoundland and Labrador $321,700
    PEI $335,202
    Ontario $887,290
    New Brunswick $262,200
    Nova Scotia $356,757
    While this does cover the cost of purchase, a mortgage in Canada can either be more or less than rent depending on the interest rate you are able to get. You also must factor in upkeep costs, renovation costs, as well as extra utilities as some municipalities charge homeowners for water usage. And you can’t forget about property taxes.

    Which Province in Canada has the Highest Cost of Living?

    In Canada, the province with the highest cost of living is Ontario. Not only does it have some of the highest housing and rental prices in Canada, but monthly home insurance in Ontario is also around $215 per month, and car insurance averages at $155 per month. The cost of utilities and food doesn’t vary too much across Canada. If we exclude the cost of rent/mortgage per month, it is around $2,244.46 per month to live in Ontario. Because rent can be upwards of $1200 or more, it is possible you could need over $3500 per month just for one person. Again, this all depends on which part of Ontario you choose to live in and if you are close to a city center or not. British Columbia is a close second to Ontario when it comes to the cost of living. The cost of rent and detached housing is slightly higher in B.C. while the cost of home insurance ranges around $149 per month and car insurance at $101. The monthly living expenses excluding rent/mortgage are $2,212.75. This is only a difference of $11.71. If you included the cost of rent/housing expenses, British Columbia could end up being the more expensive province to live in depending on where in BC you choose.

    Which Province in Canada has the Lowest Cost of Living?

    The province with the lowest cost of living is New Brunswick. While the housing costs in New Brunswick are significantly lower than in the rest of Canada, so is everything else. Home insurance averages around $60 per month and car insurance is only around $72.25 per month. The average cost to live in New Brunswick, minus the cost of housing, is $1,415.65 per month. If you added in the cost of rent you would end up somewhere around the recommended income for one person in Canada, possibly slightly more. While some people choose to move to areas like New Brunswick because of the lowered cost of living, others prefer to live closer to the city centers and don’t mind the difference in cost. It is ultimately based on your individual lifestyle.

    Cheapest Province to Live In

    The cheapest province to live in is Newfoundland and Labrador. The food prices here are really the same as the rest of Canada but the cost of rent and taxes is much lower. For many Canadians, there’s also plenty of job opportunities so it’s no surprise that we are seeing the population over there slowly increase.

    Cost of Living in Major Canadian Cities

    While, on average, B.C. does have the highest cost of rent in Canada, what about if you live in the city center of one of Canada’s largest cities? Do they reflect on the provincial averages? Let’s take a look.
    Major Canadian City 1-bedroom apartment rental Cost of a detached home
    Vancouver $1,447 $1,470,265
    Calgary $1,205 $491,394
    Regina $1,018 $320,000
    Winnipeg $956 $300,011
    Ottawa $1,189 $383,793
    Toronto $1,423 $1,200,000
    Hamilton $925 $500,183
    Montreal $916 $325,900
    Quebec City $731 $240,000
    Moncton $662 $178,200
    Halifax $893 $360,586
    Charlottetown $700 $313,000
    St. John’s $843 $245,751
    While rental costs are higher in Vancouver than in any other major city in Canada there are still other factors to consider when you are thinking about the total cost of living. For example, Transit costs $161.00 per month while most transit passes range between $70-$90 per month. This makes it the most expensive transit cost in Canada and cities like Moncton and Charlottetown have much higher internet costs than the rest of Canada. The larger cities like Vancouver or Toronto also have more expensive restaurants and nightlife. This only factors in, however, if that is part of your lifestyle. Even with these differences factored in, Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities to live in Canada with Toronto at a close second. With both of these being some of the popular cities in the country, the cost-of-living differences are minor. The major difference between these two cities would be that the average yearly salary is significantly higher in Toronto than it is in Vancouver.

    The Average Canadian Salary vs. Cost of Living

    Where you live in Canada can also affect the average annual salary. Overall, the average annual salary in Canada is $59,822. This average has been slowly increasing over the years allowing Canadians to keep up with the cost of living. This isn’t true for everyone though. While this is the average median income, there is still a good portion of Canadians that make less than $45,000 per year, this is often in rural parts of the country which is why the average is higher in large Canadian cities.
    City Average Annual Income
    Toronto $98,174
    Vancouver $79,000
    Ottawa $78,500
    Montreal $62,000
    Calgary $58,110
    Halifax $61,000
    Quebec City $71,400

    Cost of Food in Canada

    Another factor that affects the cost of living in Canada is the cost of food. Some Canadian provinces like B.C. and Ontario tend to have a much higher grocery cost than the rest of Canada, it ultimately depends where in those provinces you live in. The rural areas are even more costly than the city. In Canada, while there are plenty of groceries available, a lot of people tend to eat out. The average spent on groceries per month is only $200 which is nowhere near enough. If you were conservative, you could potentially get away with spending $400 per month for 2 people but it would be very difficult. With some foods being very costly, like meat and dairy, many Canadians tend to turn to junk food which does result in eating out. But even that’s expensive and has increased a lot since the rise of grocery prices.

    Cost of Living in 2023

    Since inflation dramatically increased, the cost of living has almost doubled. For a single person in Canada, without rent, the average cost of living is now $1,337.10. With rent, the average cost is now $3,445. For a family of 4, the average cost without rent is $4,779.20 and the average cost with rent is $6,306 per month. This is just an average though, in some parts of Canada, the monthly costs per month can be upwards of $8,000, which is what we are currently seeing in BC.

    Cost of Living for a Single Person 2023

    With just under $3,500 being the cost for a single person to live in Canada, and not even comfortably, many Canadians need to make much more than this depending on where they live. For these reasons, plenty of people are getting roommates or living at home a bit longer until they can find a way to purchase their own home.

    Cost of Living for a Couple 2023

    Having two household incomes makes it slightly easier to make ends meet, but it isn’t always doable. If you are making only minimum wage or just slightly higher, it can be difficult to find a place to live let alone afford the rental payments. And, if you’re a family of 4 this becomes even more difficult being that a minimum income of $5,500 or more is needed to live comfortably.

    Income Needed to Meet the Current Cost of Living

    Before prices in Canada jumped drastically, it was reasonable for a single person to make around $45,000 per year and make ends meet. Now, in order to do so, you should be making an average of $70,000 - $75,000 per year. For many people this is extremely difficult to accomplish. For a couple, $80,000 is the yearly income needed to reasonably make ends meet. For a family of 4 it’s even higher at $85,000 or higher. Having more than one income, it can be a bit easier to meet this yearly income, but not always. Especially with the Current cost of food.

    Cost of Living for a Couple in Toronto

    If you’re a couple living in Toronto, the cost of living will be much higher than the rest of the province. This is because Toronto is one of the most expensive cities in the county to live in . The average cost of rent for a one bedroom is around $2,000 per month and then it only goes up from there. This can make affording the city difficult. That said, there are plenty of towns just outside of Toronto that are cheaper to live in, if you are looking outside of the city.

    Is Living in Canada Expensive?

    While Canada is not the cheapest country to live in it is also not the most expensive. Things like free health care make it a lot cheaper than other countries, the difference being, though, is that we tend to have higher taxes. These taxes help to keep Canada one of the most sustainable economies. However, some things like car insurance are much more expensive in Canada than in other countries. Food prices and fuel prices in Canada are higher than in places like the US and the UK. Even though these costs are higher in Canada than in a lot of other countries, Universal Healthcare, a higher-than-average median wage, and the housing market do make Canada less expensive than other countries. Out of 252 different countries, Canada is ranked as the 24th most expensive country in the world to live in.

    Canadian Taxes

    While Canada does have some higher taxes than most other countries there are reasons for this. As mentioned above, it helps keep Canada’s economy stable and allows for things that distinguish us from counties such as the US. An example would be universal health care. Unlike most countries, Canada does not charge tax on the first $11,000 of your income. The rest of your income is taxed by which province you are in and the amount of income you bring in. It can range anywhere from 4%-13%. In Canada, there are also 3 types of sales taxes. PST and GST and HST. PST or Provincial Sales Tax is only charged in some provinces. In BC and Manitoba, it is 7%, Saskatchewan is 6% and Quebec is 9.975%. Goods and Services Tax or GST is 5% and is only charged is not charged in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, PEI as well as the Yukon. These Provinces charge the Harmonized Sales Tax, also known as HST, instead which ranges from 13% to 15%. These 3 taxes are charged on most goods and services across Canada. These include things like property, vehicles, clothing, and other material things. Necessities like groceries and prescriptions are exempt from most of these taxes. In total, Canada does have higher taxes than other countries, such as the US. Tax revenue makes up 38.4% of the total GDP (Gross Domestic Product) while it is only 28.2% in the US.

    Average monthly expenses for one person in Canada

    While we have gone over rent, purchasing a home, and some of the food costs, what else makes up the total cost of living in Canada?. Transportation, Utilities, Medical expenses, and debt payments also add to this.
    Transportation $595
    Utilities $394
    Debt payments $394
    Food $595
    Medical $99
    These numbers are just the average and, oftentimes, people end up spending more than this. These categories are also very broad so what do they break down to?
    • Transportation: This can vary from fuel, insurance, car payments, transit, taxis/Uber, and even vehicle maintenance. While many parts of Canada are very transit-friendly, there are many areas that have a lower cost of living that tend to be farther from amenities. These places have higher transportation costs since a reliable vehicle is needed.
    • Utilities: Utilities are household expenses such as gas/propane, hydro, phone bill, internet, cable, and whatever other household bills are needed.
    • Debt payments: Many Canadians have some form of debt like credit cards, student loans, lines of credit, car loans, and payday loans.
    • Food: This is the average cost of groceries and take-out per person. For two people this could get up to $1200 and even higher for a family of 4.
    • Medical: While there is free healthcare in Canada certain things like the dentist, chiropractor, physiotherapist, optometrist as well as glasses and contact lenses often are only partially covered by extended medical or not covered at all.
    These are just a few of the main household expenses many Canadians have. Many people also put money into their savings to have access to in case of any emergency expenses outside of their normal monthly expenses.

    Average Canadian Debt by Household

    While we do talk about debt and how much the average payment is per month, how much does this really contribute to a Canadian’s overall cost of living. Well, the average person in Canada has around $20,739 in debt that isn’t mortgage debt. This does vary per person, but it does show the importance of the difference between earning a living wage in Canada and a wage that allows you to live comfortably. While this is not an option for everyone, there are options to bring this overall debt down and lower interest rates to allow you to utilize more of your income.

    Is it Cheaper to Live in Canada or the US?

    When talking about whether it is cheaper to live in the US or Canada, it is a close call. The cost of living in each country really depends on if you live in a city or in a small town. In a large city like New York or L.A., the prices for rent and groceries are higher than in a large Canadian city like Toronto or Vancouver. It also depends on if you rent or own. In larger American cities rent is often much higher than purchasing a home. For example: Canada’s real estate market is currently hotter than the US’s so average house prices are currently much higher in Canada. Although, this does not factor in interest rates, so it is hard to tell if a Canadian or a US mortgage is more. Another large factor in determining which country is cheaper is the cost of medical care. While Canadians roughly pay $4000 per year in extended medical premiums, the American average is $7,392 (in Canadian dollars) per year. Canadians also have free health care which significantly lowers the yearly medical premiums paid. On Average, Americans make a higher living wage than Canadians, but Canadian education costs are lower. If you put all of the factors together it is still cheaper to live in Canada than it is in the US.

    Is it Cheaper to live in Canada or the UK?

    Now that we know living in Canada is cheaper than in the U.S., is it cheaper than living in the UK? Well, in a ranking of the more expensive countries in the world to live in, Canada ranks 24 while the UK ranks 33. While it is cheaper to purchase property in Canada than in the UK, it is harder to get purchasing power there than in Canada. While rent in the UK is technically cheaper than in Canada, if you add in consumer prices then it is 0.06% higher than in Canada. For this reason, Canadians often have more expendable income. Being that the general wages and household bills of those in Canada are similar to the UK, there isn’t a massive difference in cost, but it is there.

    How can Spring Financial help?

    We know living in Canada is expensive and sometimes there just aren’t enough funds to go around. Whether you just don’t have enough to make ends meet for a month or you want to consolidate your debt to allow your monthly income to stretch further to accommodate the rising cost of living, Spring Financial is here. All of our loans are open and can be paid off early saving you money in interest. You can fill out our online application in 3 minutes for up to $35,000 transferred to you as quickly as today. You can also contact us via chat or at 1-888-781-8439, 24 hours a day.

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