How to plan your finances as a newcomer to Canada

How to plan your finances as a newcomer to Canada
Image by: Josh Sorenson

Your biggest fear may be going broke in a new country, but fear alone will not make you rich.

So, how do you prepare for a successful life abroad? How do you ensure your efforts to ‘japa’ do not end in vain?

In this article, we share:

  1. How to earn and manage money as a newcomer to Canada
  • How to find a job
  • Set up a bank account
  • Give yourself an adjustment period
  • Save up an emergency fund

2. How to spend your money wisely

  • Build a financial calendar for your first year in Canada
  • Build a credit history
  • Create a budget for expenses

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Four ways to manage money as a newcomer to Canada

1. Find a job or start a business

You need at least one income flow as a newcomer in Canada while adjusting to the systems and environment there.

Saving a sum of money before traveling is good, but depending on that alone is unrealistic due to the high cost of living and currency exchange rates. The value of your savings from home won’t be the same in Canada.

You can get a job or start a business that earns you enough to pay necessary bills and to save in the first few months.

Consider these steps while job hunting as an immigrant:

  1. Get the necessary information about working in Canada. Find helpful resources on communities like SkillHat, SandytalksCanada, and D-Tech Centrix. These will help with networking, volunteering, and building a Canadian experience.
  2. Use websites like the Government of Canada job bank, Indeed, and LinkedIn to search for jobs that match your skills.
  3. Consider taking alternative, low-paying jobs for some time to pay your bills.
  4. Take advantage of support programs for new immigrants like the Youth Employment Services (YES) and Newcomer Women’s Services.

If you want to work for yourself, starting a business as an immigrant is also an option. Out of 1.1 million SMEs in Canada, Immigrants account for 33 percent of all business owners with paid staff as of 2019.

Also, businesses majority-owned by immigrants accounted for 21.7% of all private sector businesses in Canada in the fourth quarter of 2022. This means that there’s space for you, too.

The Canadian government has also set up an entrepreneurship program to help newcomers like you have access to business funding in the country.

2. Set up a bank account

As a newcomer, you may be able to use your Mastercard or Visa debit or credit cards from banks in your home country, but the fees charged per transaction make it unsustainable.

You’ll also be spending more because of ongoing foreign currency conversion fees.

Dr. Enoch Omololu, New Canadians’ resident personal finance expert, advised in an interview with

The earlier you set up a local bank account, the better. You will avoid spending more because of exchange rates and can apply for a credit card to start building your credit history early. With a good credit history, buying a car and leasing an apartment later becomes easy.

For a start, you should open a bank account with one of the trusted banks in Canada. Here’s a list of the most trusted Canadian banks:

  • Toronto-Dominion Bank
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • Bank of Nova Scotia
  • Bank of Montreal
  • CIBC
  • Desjardins Group
  • National Bank
  • HSBC Bank
  • Laurentian Bank of Canada
  • Canadian Western Bank

You’ll need the following documents to open a bank account as a newcomer:

  • Government-issued photo ID such as your international passport or driver’s licence.
  • Social Insurance Number (SIN) card issued by the Government of Canada.
  • Valid visa, Permanent Resident card, or an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) form.
  • Province ID.
  • Bank, credit, or debit card
  • Other ID documents.

3. Give yourself an adjustment period

Your dreams won't immediately come true once you get to Canada. You’ll need to plan realistically and learn how to manage your expectations. Avoid these disappointments as a newcomer by having a plan to help you live on the most minor budget for the first few months.

This plan can include living with friends or family for a while, taking unconventional jobs, packing your home food, and preparing your meals.

Without this plan, you’ll mismanage your finances while trying to adjust and spend unnecessarily on what you don’t need. One way to prepare yourself is by watching helpful YouTube videos, reading blog posts, and learning from people’s experiences.

4. Save up an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is savings put aside to handle unplanned and emergency expenses when they come up in the future. You’ll always need one.

Saving up an emergency fund before you come to Canada is already non-negotiable. But when you land a new job or start a business, you also need to save a part of your earnings to handle emergencies that may come up.

In this video from Reni, a finance and lifestyle creator, you’ll see why you need to create and how to build an emergency fund.

Three ways to spend your money wisely as a newcomer to Canada

1. Build a financial calendar for your first year

A financial calendar is a solid budgeting tool organizations use to plan their finances for a certain period, usually a year. In accounting terms, it is also called a Fiscal Calendar.

Adopting the same planning method for your finances as a newcomer would be helpful. It will give you an overview of all upcoming payments and when to make them.

It will help you set aside funds for periods you are likely to spend more, such as travel or holiday shopping. And you’ll see when to spend less and set aside more savings.

Your financial calendar should help you see the following:

  • Tax payment dates
  • Rent deadlines
  • Utility deadlines
  • Holidays,
  • Birthdays
  • Other significant dates.

Here’s an example of what a financial calendar should look like.

March Financial Calendar: Image from POECU

2. Create a budget for expenses

You should research all the necessary expenses you’ll need to make as a newcomer in Canada. Take lessons from people who have gone before you and let their experiences shape most financial decisions you will make.

With a financial calendar, you can see all the monthly expenses. That will help you create a realistic setting-in budget for your first few months.

Your budget should be all-inclusive and yet reasonable. Always find the cheapest way to do things and save costs.

Don’t budget for a big house when you can afford to manage a smaller space for the first few months.

Here are the steps to take when creating a budget as a newcomer:

  • Find out the necessary things that you should spend on
  • Open a bank account to make transactions to avoid exchange rate fees
  • Draw your financial calendar for the next 6 -12 months
  • Use a budgeting tool

If supporting your family financially is part of your budget, consider allocating the funds to a Zole account so you can use the recurring payment feature to send automatically.

3. Start building credit immediately.

Coming from a developing country, credit building may not be something you’re used to, but it will serve you to get acquainted with it as a newcomer in Canada.

Credit scores are three-digit numbers ranging between 300-900. It is calculated based on your history of repayment. Your score rates your ability to manage credit and the risks of lending you money. You can also watch this video to learn about newcomers' common mistakes with credit management.

When you want to settle some kind of payment in the future, your credit score will qualify you to gain credit from your institution. Some financial decisions that require credit are rent for property to qualify as a tenant, credit card application, and mortgage to purchase a home.

Simple ways to start building credit as a newcomer to Canada:

  • Open a bank account
  • Apply for a credit card
  • Use a credit-monitoring tool like Borrowell
  • Don't spend more than 30% of your credit limit
  • Automate bill payments so you don't miss payments

To keep a good credit score, avoid paying bills late, keep to a budget, and avoid spending money you can't readily pay back.


One common goal for many newcomers to Canada is to start making enough money to send back home as soon as they land. While that is important, you need to start by doing very well yourself first.

Getting access to quality financial education and support is vital to doing this. Learning from a community and learning the most effective ways to manage your money is an excellent way to start this.