2023-05-04T12:45:36-04:00Jan 3, 2020|

7 ways to plan your finances and arrive prepared in Canada

Every year Canada welcomes an increasing number of permanent residents (PRs), international students, and temporary foreign workers. Canada’s current multi-year immigration plan will see approximately 350,000 PRs enter the country by 2021.

Whether you’re planning to move to Canada in the next few weeks or the next few months, being prepared is key! Almost all basic action items: finding accommodation, exploring local transportation, and grocery shopping, are dependent on personal finance and budget. So, once you have your finances figured out, that will reduce some of the stress associated with moving.

Here’s how you can be stress-free and financially ready for your move to Canada:

1. Plan your short-term accommodation at least a couple of months prior to arrival

Whether you’re moving alone or with family, it’s a good idea to book suitable accommodation for at least one or two months (short-term). Finding permanent long-term accommodation may take time.

Some popular sites to find temporary places to live are: Airbnb, hotels, and hostels. Websites like Booking.com, Trivago, Expedia, and Kayak are well-known for deals. International students can reach out to their campus coordinator to find the best options available to them.

2. Research and prepare for permanent long-term accommodation

Before deciding to sign a lease, get to know the neighbourhoods, inspect places in-person, and check if any utilities (heat, air conditioning, hydro, water) are included as part of your rent. Note that:

  • The cost of air conditioning and heating is usually a majority of the utilities.
  • Hydro (electricity) averages to $50-80 per month.
  • Water can be about $20-40 per month.
  • Internet and cable TV, combined, can cost over $100 per month.

Parking space usually costs extra too. Be sure to budget for tenant (or renters’) insurance. Compare quotes by different providers before deciding. Insurance providers such as SquareOne and Sonnet offer competitive rates.

Depending on which city you’re renting in, you may be required to pay a security deposit. It’s a common practice for renters to pay first and last month’s rent prior to moving in.

Most landlords ask for a credit report before renting out an apartment, condo, or a house. As a newcomer without credit history, you may still be able to rent the unit by providing a guarantor, showing documents that support your financial health, or agreeing to pay more than a couple months’ rent in advance.

Download NOW: The Arrive Guide on Credit and Credit Scores in Canada to help you understand credit and get tips on how to maintain a good credit rating.

Moving to Ontario, British Columbia, or Manitoba? Read our super helpful blogs with advice for first-time renters in Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.

For more advice on moving to Canada, see our blog on commonly asked questions by newcomers.

3. Get to know your local grocery stores and compare prices before you buy

If you know where to look, planning your monthly budget for groceries is a simple task. A good starting point is to browse local grocery stores online. Since many stores these days offer online shopping and home delivery options, you can add items to your cart and view the total cost. Most stores will have a website and list out the prices of all items. What’s cool is that you can do this activity while still in your home country!


In Canada, sales taxes are not included upfront to the cost of items on websites or in stores. In simple words, what you see is not what you pay! Sales taxes are added at the time of payment so factor in a few extra dollars at the time of checkout. Goods and Services Tax (GST), Provincial Sales Tax (PST), and Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) are some of the line items you will notice on most of your receipts.

In addition to various local regional stores and big names like Walmart and Costco, Canadian retail chains such as Loblaws, Metro, and Sobeys are very popular. These brands have a number of stores with different names. For instance, stores under the Loblaws umbrella include No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart, Independent City Market etc., Metro stores include Food Basics, Metro Plus etc. while Sobeys has Freshco, Safeway, Farm Boy, to name a few.

Depending on which store you shop at, prices could differ as well. Apps like Flipp and SaleWhale are price comparison apps and are useful in finding deals. Many grocery stores even offer price match, where they will match a lower price offered by a competitor, which can help save money and the effort of going to the store that offers the same product at a cheaper price.

4. Budget for transportation and familiarize yourself with various options available in the city you are moving to

In large cities in Canada, public transit is the transportation of choice for most people to get around, especially since it’s pocket-friendly. In Toronto, for instance, the public transit system (commonly referred to as TTC) operates buses, subways, streetcars and light rail transit (LRT). The Presto card is the preferred way to pay for public transit in Toronto and surrounding area.  The card works on all local transit systems and can be topped up with money online, at the station, or in certain stores.

Similar to Toronto, cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and more, provide guides to the local transit options available on the city website.

Metered taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are also commonly found and are very convenient. In Canada, cycling is a popular way of commuting and exploring the neighbourhood; Vancouver, Toronto and Montréal have their own bike-sharing programs.

If you drive, buying, leasing, or renting cars is another option you can consider. Do take into account all the associated costs such as gas, car loan monthly installments, registration, and insurance.

Calculate and budget your monthly living expenses
The Monthly Expenses Calculator on Arrive can help you plan your finances better. It takes into account a variety of factors such as the city you plan to live in, family size, type of housing, and transportation you intend to use. Give it a try now to get an estimate of your monthly expenses!

And add some more!
Plan for occasional expenses like buying prescription medicines or hospitalization costs that are not covered by health insurance, school supplies for kids, buying winter gear, etc.

5. Know the rules and regulations governing international money transfer between your home country and Canada

IRCC has defined how much money you should have with you if you’re planning to immigrate — this is the minimum amount you are required to have and it varies based on the number of family members who will be moving with you. This number for minimum funds updates every year and although the changes are small, it may affect your eligibility. So it’s a good idea to check the website regularly.

Be sure to consult with your bank or financial institution in your home country to know any laws or regulations on how much money you can take out of the country when emigrating. While there’s no limit on the money you can bring into Canada, some countries have pre-defined laws that will limit the amount you can carry in cash or other specific monetary instruments.

Most Canadian banks facilitate the opening of a bank account for permanent residents prior to landing, making it easy to transfer money to Canada through wire transfer. However, note that wire transfer is also one of the most expensive options to bring money to Canada so be sure to check with your bank in your home country as well as the Canadian bank for the transfer fees applicable as well as the currency exchange rate.

A wire transfer can also be done through third-party providers; Western Union, Moneygram, WorldRemit, and Transferwise are some of the popular ones.

“Based on our own research as well as guidance from friends, we decided to bank with RBC. The process of moving our funds was seamless; with banker’s cheques, the entire amount was transferred within four days!” 

— Priyanka Bansod & Prateek Sule, newcomers in Canada, arrived in April 2019

Money brought into Canada could be in the form of cash, stocks, bonds, debentures, treasury bills, banker’s drafts, cheques, international money orders, travel cards, or travellers’ cheques.


It’s good to have some cash handy for expenses in your first few weeks in Canada as liquidating monetary instruments such as banker’s drafts, cheques, or money orders may take longer. Be sure to check with the bank for the timeline.

6. Organize your financial documents and have them handy upon landing at a Canadian port of entry

Having sufficient funds is a mandatory requirement for your move to Canada. However, ensuring that the funds are readily available is an important part of your immigration formalities at the time of your first landing in Canada.

Officers at the port of entry may ask to see the supporting documentation that guarantees you have access to the entire sum of funds mentioned on your application. If your spouse is travelling with you, you can show money that’s in a joint account or your spouse’s account, provided you have access to those funds at all times.

You only need to show proof of funds if you’re moving to Canada as a skilled worker or a skilled trade worker through the Express Entry, Provincial Nomination, or similar other immigration programs. The only exceptions are if you are applying as someone who already has experience working in Canada (Canadian Experience Class) or if you already have a job offer in Canada.
Money locked in real estate/property won’t count towards your settlement funds in Canada; you may have to liquidate it prior to moving. You also cannot borrow money from another individual, be it family or friend and show it as settlement funds.

According to IRCC, the following document constitutes proof of funds:

A letter from a bank or financial institution (from your home country or Canada) that mentions details of the funds you hold. The letter should be printed on the bank or financial institution’s letterhead and it should include:

  • Their contact information (address, telephone number, email address)
  • Your name
  • Your outstanding debts such as credit card debts and loans
  • Include, for each current bank and investment account, the account numbers, date each account was opened, the current balance of each account, and average balance for the past six months

Additionally, the letter can also be supplemented with additional cash you’re bringing into Canada. To make moving and finding your home in Canada easier, IRCC recommends bringing as much money as you can. However, if you’re bringing in $10,000 or more, you have to declare it to the border officer.

7. For the best service, book an appointment before you visit a bank in Canada to open an account

Opening a bank account within the first few days after landing is a good idea. Most banks will have an option to book an appointment online on their website. It is recommended to do so before visiting the branch.

“Based on a lot of research, I decided to proceed with opening an account with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). I had an appointment scheduled (via the RBC newcomer webpage) for the same day I landed. The banking advisor was very knowledgeable and explained everything to me in detail. I was carrying funds in cash and a travel card and had no issues with depositing the money into my new account at RBC. The banking advisor at RBC has been my one-point of contact ever since landing and I’ve sought his help on multiple occasions. Overall, a pleasant experience!”

— Nerissa Fernandes, newcomer in Canada, arrived in March 2018

Download NOW!
The Arrive guide on banking and finance to help you familiarize yourself with the Canadian banking system.

Well begun is half done!

For newcomers and international students alike, organizing finances and bringing money to Canada in a safe and secure way is always a top priority. The right resources, tools, and information will not only make your transition easier but they’re also key to arrive prepared for your life in Canada.