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Personal finance

Budgeting for life in Canada

November 16, 2023

When planning your arrival in Canada, you'll need to adapt your budget to your new reality, no matter what province or city you choose. Here are some tips and handy information about the most common types of expenses.

Renting an apartement


The average price of a 2-bedroom apartment in Montreal is $1,085/month. In Quebec City it's $985/month. These are the averages, so about half of all apartments are more expensive.1 The cost depends on a number of criteria: the area, city or neighbourhood, type of apartment, total number of rooms, etc. Generally speaking, you'll need to add the cost of electricity, heating and telecommunications services.


Roommates and sublets are permitted and legal.

Electricity

Budget about $200 a month2 for electricity. That's the Quebec average.

These costs vary according to your personal use, the number of rooms, the season and sometimes even the age of the building.

Consumer products

Expect to pay 15% more than the advertised prices for consumer goods due to provincial and federal taxes. Learn more about taxable goods and services.

Groceries

Groceries cost about $340 per person, per month.3 Of course, this amount depends on things like whether you live alone, if you have a family and your food choices.

It is also important to note that there is no tax to pay on basic food products or those sold in containers of more than 6 portions, for example, whereas most processed food products such as ready-to-eat meals or alcoholic beverages are taxed.

Telecommunications plans (internet, television and mobile)

Prices for TV, internet and mobile packages vary according to the service provider and the options you pick. Due to limited competition, the cost of plans in Canada can sometimes run high. 

Public transit

As an example, a regular monthly pass costs $97 in Montreal and gives you access to the subway (known as the "metro") and bus network.

Gas

Gasoline prices vary according to several factors: the province, the city and even the gas station. The price also depends on the type of fuel your vehicle uses.

Home and auto insurance

Home insurance for tenants and home owners isn't mandatory in Quebec, but it's highly recommended. It will protect you from property loss resulting from theft, fire or vandalism, and from bodily injury or property damage you might unintentionally cause to someone else. The price of tenant insurance tends to be low, with homeowners paying more, depending on the coverages you choose External link. This link will open in a new window..

Car insurance, on the other hand, is mandatory. Certain factors will affect the price of your auto insurance, such as your age and the make, model and year of manufacture. The region, city or neighbourhood you live in may also affect the price you pay. For advice on how to save on your premiums, see 8 tips to lower your car insurance premium External link. This link will open in a new window..

Healthcare 

The healthcare system is 98% public. To enroll in the provincial health insurance plan External link. This link will open in a new window., you need to apply for a health insurance card. There is, however, a parallel network of private clinics and doctor's offices.

Depending on your country of origin, you may need to purchase insurance to cover the waiting period, which can be up to 3 months following your registration.

School system

In Quebec, public elementary and high school is free (ages 5 to 16) for Canadian citizens and permanent and temporary residents. In the interest of protecting the French language, all immigrant children are required to attend a French public or private school, no matter their country of origin.

In most cases, only English-speaking Quebecers can attend English schools.

For post-secondary studies, expect fees in both public and private institutions.

Salary

As of May 1, 2023, the minimum wage in Quebec is $15.25, but it varies from one province to another. Barring exceptions, wages are usually paid every 2 weeks. Taxes are deducted at source, so wages paid are net income.

In Quebec, employees are entitled to two weeks of paid annual leave after 1 year of continuous service, and 3 weeks after 3 years of continuous service. Some employers offer more leave than the mandatory weeks to attract workers.

Income taxes

In Canada, you must pay income tax to the federal government and to your province of residence. Tax rates increase progressively with total income. In Quebec, the combined rate starts at 26.53% for income up to around $50,000, and rises to 53.31% for income over $240,000 (rounded figures). The existence of a number of credits, depending on your family situation, can reduce or even eliminate the amount of tax you pay. The annual filing of your income tax returns may allow you to cash in on various social programs if you are eligible.

If you're a salaried employee, you'll see automatic payroll deductions on your pay slips. Your tax deducted at source will likely be adjusted up or down at the end of the fiscal year. Canadian tax returns are filed individually and not by household. Thanks to a bilateral agreement between France and Canada, French citizens are exempt from double taxation. They do, however, have to file tax returns in both countries. Quebec is the province with the highest taxes, but it also offers the most services.

If you’re a wage earner, your taxes will be automatically “deducted at source” from your pay. You’ll see it on your pay statement. Tax deducted at source will likely be adjusted up or down at the end of the fiscal year. Canadian tax returns are filed individually and not by household. Thanks to a bilateral agreement between France and Canada, French citizens are exempt from double taxation. They do, however, have to file tax returns in both countries.