Living Costs in Toronto
Having a clear picture of the cost of living can help you budget for your 2020-2021 academic year. A few LHAE students provide their estimated monthly costs of living in Toronto below.
Cathy Kim, Doctoral Student
Cathy Kim, originally from Korea, grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She first came to Ontario to complete her undergraduate degree at Queen’s University in Concurrent Education, which helped her discover her passion for education. This led Cathy to pursue a Master’s degree with LHAE in the Higher Education program, which in turn led her to pursue a PhD.
Before moving to Toronto, Cathy connected with some of her friends from Toronto for their insight on neighborhoods, rentals, etc. She utilized Facebook groups and community cultural websites (e.g., Korean community websites) to find rental units, as she found these groups more approachable than housing websites. One challenge she ran into was apartment hunting from a distance, as many landlords required specific documents or wanted potential renters to attend viewings in person. But Cathy was able to overcome this by asking some of her local friends to view units in her stead and having landlords send additional pictures.
After searching for two months for an apartment, Cathy found a rental in a large house. Although the location was convenient, living with both students and non-students created an unpredictable schedule so she decided to look elsewhere. Her second place was in Scarborough, which is a little far but Cathy did not mind commuting, as it provided her a chance to think before starting her day, and reflect afterwards. After a year or so of living in that area, she moved again to a spacious, furnished unit a bit closer to campus in a great neighborhood by the Beach. Although she is still commuting, Cathy enjoys the walkability of her neighborhood, the food options, and the proximity to transit.
Cathy enjoys life in Toronto and in LHAE. The City always offers something to do or attend and she appreciates the community aspect of the Department. For example, Cathy is part of a WhatsApp group where her peers share academic advice and plan social events.
Cathy’s advice for new students is to be open to making connections with those in the Department. This can be as simple as attending orientation or introducing yourself to someone while sitting in the 6th floor lounge. According to Cathy, there is always something to learn from everyone you meet, and being on campus can help you create a strong network.
In the summer, Cathy worked as a Research Assistant to assist with the cost of living. She encourages students to look for opportunities within their courses/with faculty at OISE, as there are many research positions available at OISE.
An internationally recognized leader in the area of LGBTQ2S youth homelessness, Dr. Alex Abramovich works closely with municipal and provincial governments to develop strategies that address the needs of LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness.
At OISE, their doctoral research investigated homophobia and transphobia in Toronto’s shelter system, looking at the experiences that LGBTQ2S young people have in the shelter system and how broader policy issues serve to create oppressive contexts for LGBTQ2S youth. In 2019, Alex was selected as member of National Advisory Council on Poverty for Canada's Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Cathy Kim's Budget Per Month
Furnished rental, utilities, internet, laundry
Michael O'Shea, Doctoral Student
Michael O’Shea, a dual US-Canadian citizen moved here from Chicago, Illinois, to join LHAE as a PhD doctoral student in HE. Before accepting his offer, Michael did extensive research on the average cost of living in Toronto. He was familiar with living on a student budget from his master’s degree and had some concerns about housing in Toronto and maintaining a balanced budget while living on OISE's Graduate Funding Package package. Michael spoke with students at UofT and staff to develop a sustainable plan. The best advice he received?
“If people with large families or newcomers to Canada, can find ways to make it work here then you can too!”
Michael also connected with the OISE Dean’s Office Finance Team and learned about ways to save money, the best budget-friendly neighborhoods for groceries (Chinatown), living frugally, etc. He put his essential costs into a spreadsheet, cutting out luxury items. Michael found that although tight, moving to Toronto was doable.
When he visited the campus in the spring before starting to degree, Michael was introduced to an LHAE doctoral student who happened to be a Massey College Fellow. Massey College, is a graduate community affiliated with U of T, where graduate students come together for formal and informal discussions, book clubs, presentations, dinners and galas. Students can choose to live on campus and receive subsidized housing or become a non-resident where they join the College for meals and programming. Michael applied and was admitted to the College and chose to live at Massey. He appreciated the close proximity to OISE, the meals, access to travel grants, and that the rent was more affordable than elsewhere in Toronto (approx. $5000 per term after bursary). In case he wasn’t accepted to Massey, Michael also explored the options of living at Grad House or off campus.
Though he carefully budgeted and cut costs, Michael did experience some financial stressors in the first years of his degree. To alleviate these challenges, he looked for creative solutions, such as participating in research studies (including one claustrophobia study!) and obtaining part-time employment (taking on roles such as a planetarium guide and a high school spring break coordinator). Michael’s advice to those moving to Toronto is to carefully develop a budget and understand and take time to familiarize yourself with departmental funding and when it is released. Grants and bursaries may be distributed at the start of term in lump sums, so it’s important to budget for each month.
It also may be helpful to look for additional income “outside the box”. Be sure to use U of T resources to find jobs or income, such as using the CLNx website (a U of T job database), Listservs, or flyers around campus. You may also be able to find a Teaching Assistantship with a faculty outside of OISE. He also suggests having some savings before beginning the program, and if possible, to help with living and expected costs.
In terms of Toronto, Michael enjoys living here. From its multiculturalism to its vibrant energy and outdoor spaces (and a winning NBA team), Toronto is a great city to live in.
Michael O'Shea's Budget Per Month
Room and board at Massey College
Transportation - International
(To travel back home)
(Dental, prescription, etc.)
Miscellaneous and school supplies
Yoyo Zhang, Master's Student
Yoyo Zhang completed her first master’s degree in her home country of China. After graduation, she began working in the education industry with international students and this sparked an interest in studying abroad. Yoyo then completed her second master’s degree in the United States. It was during this time that she discovered an apt for research and decided to apply for a PhD.
Upon receiving an offer from OISE, Yoyo connected with faculty, staff and current students in the Higher Education Program to help her make a decision. She was excited about receiving a Graduate Funding Package from OISE, but was unsure if it would cover the full cost of living in Toronto. By cross referencing her own research on the cost of living in Toronto with the experiences of those she spoke with, Yoyo determined that the funding package would allow her to make the transition to life in Canada.
In her first year, Yoyo lived in Tartu College and paid approximately $900 a month for a single occupancy room. She selected the Graduate House residence because it was close to OISE and within her budget. In her second year, Yoyo decided she wanted a larger place and through a friend’s suggestion, she moved to a co-op house for students near campus. These houses are subsidized for students, allowing individuals to rent at more affordable prices. Yoyo was pleased with her new space as it was larger, quieter, and had its own kitchen. Her space is also restricted to graduate students.
Ultimately, Yoyo finds the funding package liveable. She does find the summer a bit more challenging, however, as the funding package is paid out once in the Fall and once in the Winter. That said, Yoyo has successfully dealt with this by finding summer employment at U of T as a Research Assistant or Teaching Assistant or at an external education company.
Yoyo is happy she decided to move to Toronto. She finds the city peaceful and not as overwhelming as other cities she’s lived in. She also enjoys the number of food options the city has to offer (especially when she is missing Chinese food), as well as its walkability/options for biking, and the summer weather.
Yoyo’s advice for incoming students moving to Toronto is to connect with folks currently living here for advice on housing, neighborhoods, etc. The Department is happy to facilitate such connections.
Yoyo Zhang's Budget Per Month
(Groceries and takeout)
(Due to COVID-19)
Victoria Parlatore, Master's Student
Victoria Parlatore, originally from Niagara Falls, Ontario is an MA student in LHAE. Before accepting her offer, Victoria connected with faculty and staff to gain a deeper understanding of what the program had to offer and what the student experience was like. She also researched the cost of living in Toronto and planned a liveable budget based on her findings.
After accepting her offer, Victoria calculated that her funding package would cover her monthly rent, groceries and few entertainment costs, alleviating some of her worries about living downtown. With that said, Victoria did some pre-arrival saving to put additional money aside in case she had expenses outside of what the funding package would provide her.
Victoria lived in Grad House, a graduate student residence, for her first year. Living on residence helped her integrate into the UofT and Toronto communities and meet new people. She found the price comparable to other places downtown and she liked the close proximity to OISE (a 10-minute walk), and the high level of safety and living conditions provided.
Living downtown was something Victoria had been excited about because of the liveliness and abundance of events and activities the downtown core had to offer. She appreciates that Toronto has a bit of something for everyone, whether this is through UofT or through the city. When she arrived, Victoria went on a few city tours and discovered that Toronto is divided by distinct neighborhoods. Her favorite area is Dundas Square, as it always has a new event or performer to watch. Victoria also enjoys the walkability and accessibility of the city, especially coming from a town where she was used to driving everywhere.
Victoria’s advice for students moving to Toronto is to make sure you work out a monthly budget ahead of time, and if possible, to try and save a bit of additional money in case there are additional expenses.
Victoria also encourages students to try not to get wrapped up in only studying and to take advantage of the social opportunities the city offers, as there really is something for everyone.
Victoria Parlatore's Budget Per Month
Rent (furnished unit), utilities, internet
Emma Cheng, Master's of Education Student
Emma Cheng, originally from Lindsay, ON is an MEd student in LHAE. Before moving to Toronto, Emma explored the cost of residence, joined Toronto housing Facebook groups, and spoke with friends who lived in the city. She settled on an apartment that she shares with two roommates. Her commute is approximately a 30-minute walk to work/campus.
Emma enjoys the walkability of Toronto, the number of food options from around the world, and the skyline at night.
Emma advice to students moving to Toronto includes the following tips:. First, if you can't arrange an in-person viewing see if you can access a video walkthrough of the unit you’re interested in. Next, make sure you meet your roommates beforehand to ensure you will be comfortable living with them. Lastly, whatever your budget, you will likely need additional funds if you want to really explore the city and take advantage of what it has to offer. You may also have to order items for your new place that you never thought of once you get settled in.
Emma Cheng's Budget Per Month
(Wi-fi and Hydro)
(Everything in the downtown core is within walking distance, so Emma usually only takes transit every other weekend to visit her boyfriend.)
$300 for groceries
(Emma also orders food once a week so that comes to about $100/month. Daily coffee comes to around $60)