The minimum amount of money you’ll need to survive as a Toronto university student

Aug 27 2019, 5:00 am

Sure, the cost of living as a university student in an Ontario university town would be a lot easier on the wallet, the student line of credit, or your credit card.

But – whether you’re a budding journalist, urban planner, or professor – not only is Toronto full of some top-notch universities and colleges, your post-secondary journey will also come with a side of diversity, vibrancy, and urban energy that only a global city can offer.

Let’s not forget about the restaurants, events, theatre, and concerts – that is, for the odd times that you can actually afford them. Living in Toronto doesn’t come cheap for anyone, let alone a university student.

This is the minimum amount of money you need to survive as a university student in Toronto (while maintaining a half-decent social life), based on an eight-month academic period.

Housing

Average cost of a double dorm room with a meal plan = $14,090.34
Average cost of living alone: $13,076.00
Average cost of living off-campus with one roommate = $8,088.00

While living in residence definitely costs a pretty penny, the only consolation is that it’s often a cheaper option than Toronto’s sky-high rental costs, you never have to worry about meals, and you get to know other students – potential BFFs, friends, or lovers – a lot easier.

At the University of Toronto, a standard double dorm with meal plan ranges from $12,065 to $18,852.22 per school year. At Ryerson University, a standard double dorm with meal plan costs roughly $12,409.06 at Pitman Hall, and $13,035.06 at the International Learning Centre. The average cost of an eight-month university stay, with a meal plan is about $14,090.34

If you would rather live off-campus, this isn’t going to come cheap – or necessarily easy, given the state of Toronto’s current rental market. According to rentboard.ca, the average cost of either a room or bachelor apartment in Toronto is $1,612.00 per month; the average one bedroom is $1,951.00 per month; and the average two-bedroom is $2,385.00\ per month.

Average cost of living alone per month: $1,951
Average cost of living with a roommate in an apartment: $1,192.50

The Burwash Residence Building at Victoria University, at the University of Toronto/Shutterstock

Books and school-related tools

Average cost = $1,500.00 for the eight-month school year

Just when you’ve shelled out thousands for tuition, the cost of books and academic tools right off the bat can hit you like a slap in the face. On the University of Toronto website, the school recommends that students allocate $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 for books and school-related tools (which will vary, depending on your program); an average of $1,500.

Average cost per year: $1,500.00
Average cost per month: $187.50

Phone

Average cost = $805.60 for the eight-month school year

Naturally, not having a cell phone isn’t an option, even if you’re no longer on your parents’ plan. While you’ll likely take full advantage of the Wi-Fi on campus or coffee shops, monthly cell phone bills can make a dent on a student’s wallet. It doesn’t help that Canadians pay some of the priciest wireless bills in the world. A plan with the lowest possible data and usage, however, is probably not going to cut it, as you’ll want to connect with friends and family – no matter where they live – to keep them updated, and you’ll inevitably want to document your first year with thousands of pictures.

For the first time ever, companies in Canada introduced plans with no overage fees, with major phone plans starting at $75 per month (plus tax), or around $600 over the eight-month school year.

Average phone bill cost in Toronto per month: $75
Average phone bill cost in Toronto per eight-month school year: $600

If you’re living off of campus, you can add another $64.99 per month (based on Rogers student rates), or $519.92 per eight-month school year for Internet service.

phone plans

Shutterstock

Groceries

Average cost with a residence meal plan = $320
Average cost without a residence meal plan = $1,729.92

Even if you have a meal plan in your residence, odds are you’ll still drop dollars on random items at the grocery store on occasion (especially if your room is complete with a mini-fridge). If you don’t have a meal plan, your grocery, delivery, and eating out tab will naturally be significantly higher.

According to the City of Toronto’s Nutritious Food Basket Calculator, an average young person would spend about $216.24 per month on groceries.

Average monthly cost for groceries in Toronto: $216.24
Average cost for basic groceries for an eight-month school year: $1,729.92

Average cost for groceries with a meal plan (based on conversations with now second-year university students) per month: $40

Average cost for meal plans per month: $603 (included in the dorm calculations)

Transportation

Average cost = $1,254.00 for the eight-month school year 

For students on a budget, the most sensible mode of transportation (though it admittedly leaves a lot to be desired) is the TTC. If you’re a daily TTC rider (whether to school, a part-time job, or for social outings) it may make sense to purchase the TTC’s Post Secondary Student Metropass for $122.45 per month. There will likely be the odd few times a month – like after a long night on the town or when you’re in a mega rush and public transit just won’t cut it – when a taxi, Uber, or Lyft will be necessary.

Of course, the most affordable way to get around is to walk or bike, but the size of the city makes the former only possible sometimes, and the latter may be seen as a risk to some (especially if they are not from Toronto) given Toronto’s recent road safety concerns with cyclists. If you rely on a bicycle as your primary mode of transportation, you can slice about $100 per month off the figure below for total transportation monthly costs.

Monthly Post-Secondary Metropass: $122.45
Monthly Metropass for the eight-month school year: $979.60

Uber or Lyft services: Estimated $100 per month
Uber or Lyft services for the eight-month school year: $800

Total Transportation Costs per month: $222.45
Total transportation costs for an eight-month school year: $1,779.60

freedom train

Shutterstock

Entertainment, partying and dining out

Average cost = $2,480 per eight-month school year

If there’s ever a time to party like you might not get tomorrow, it’s during your university years. So, it’s only natural to save a pretty penny or two to help your party cause. Late-night takeout or delivery is only inevitable, as is treating yourself once in a while with a Sunday brunch that goes way beyond what’s offered in the cafeteria (especially when the hangover is real), or a date night out of your dorm room and at a pub. When it comes to entertainment, it’s safe to say that the cost of a movie and popcorn just isn’t what it used to be. Thank god for your Netflix subscription.

Dining out including meals out (estimated $60 per month) and takeout/delivery (estimated $40.00 per month): $100 per month.
Dining out including meals out and takeout/delivery per eight-month school year: $800

Drinks per month, including both drinks at establishments ($100) and liquor/beer retailers ($50): $150
Drinks per eight-month school year: $1,200

Entertainment cost per month, including Netflix, concerts, in-theatre movies, and plays: $60.00
Entertainment cost for an eight-month school year: $480

Total entertainment/drinks/dining per month: Estimated $310
Total entertainment/drinks/dining for an eight-month school year: Estimated $2,480

Health and Fitness

Average cost = $504 per eight-month school year

To balance out the partying, relieve school stress, and look as good as you can in your dating profile, health and fitness is an essential element of a well-rounded university or college life. The easiest way to do this is to take advantage of the on-campus gyms, which offer free access to students (just bring your student card) included in tuition.

If you’d rather take your workout out of the school space, Goodlife Fitness – a gym on the more affordable end of the spectrum with locations across the city, likely near(ish) to your campus – charges about $59.99 to $69.99 monthly for their membership. If yoga is your thing, the average cost of a yoga class in Toronto is about $20.00 Assuming you go three times a month, this will cost you $60.00 per month, or $480.00 per year.

Average cost for fitness per month (without using the campus gym): $63.00
Average cost for fitness per eight-month school year (without using the campus gym): $504.00

Vancouver Park Board

Fitness Centre ( PrikGibb / Shutterstock)

Coffee Shops

Average cost = $280.00 for an eight-month school year

Caffeine, coffee shops, and your university years are pretty much synonymous. While a daily Starbucks latte or two may be out of the question, you can definitely find an affordable coffee shop to call your remote office near campus.

Average amount spent in coffee shops per month: $35
Average amount spent in coffee shops over an eight-month school year: $280

Personal Care

Average cost = $200 for an eight-month school year

Unless you arrived on campus fully-stocked with all the shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, tampons, razors, tissues, and toothpaste to last you eight months, you may be surprised at how quickly the drugstore visits (especially during cold and flu season) add up now that mom and dad aren’t footing the bill. Estimates as to exactly how much this would cost is based on figures found on Expatistan.

Average cost for personal care per month: $25
Average cost for personal care for an eight-month school year: $200

toothbrush

Toothbrush/Shutterstock

Extras (unexpected expenses, miscellaneous, clothing)

Average cost = $640 for an eight-month school year

Whether it’s a surprise laptop repair, a pricey prescription, a new piece of clothing for an internship interview, or a new duvet after a coffee spill, extras add up.

Average cost of extras per month: Estimated $80
Average cost of extras per eight-month school year: $640

TOTAL COST:

Living in a standard dorm room with a meal plan per school year: $22,073.94
Living off-campus alone per school year: $22,469.52
Living off-campus with one roommate: $17,481.52

Before you have a mild panic attack, keep in mind that these figures aren’t going to look the same for everyone. Things like refraining from regular booze-filled nights out, using the campus gym, making ample use of your bicycle, and not buying any clothing at all will drop this tab by a noticeable amount.

Either way, in addition to learning in the classroom, a year spent living as a university student in Toronto will give you a lesson in money management that you never knew you needed. And remember, if all goes according to plan, this is probably (probably) the most broke you’ll ever be.

Editor’s note: These numbers are only estimates and the total cost is likely much more terrifying.