JANICE LIU/THE VARSITY

Attending university in Canada’s largest city can quickly become expensive. At the University of Toronto, undergraduate tuition starts at $6,000 for domestic students, setting aside $1,000 for incidental and ancillary fees, and textbooks, which can cost upwards of $1,000 per year.

Living away from home adds significantly to the cost. According to the Rent Board of Canada, the average rent in Toronto is $1,224 a month for a one bedroom apartment, and $1,487 for a two-bedroom. The cheapest internet service plan offered by Rogers costs $54.99 per month, while Bell Mobility’s cheapest cell phone plan starts at $45.

Many students also have to balance a busy school schedule with part-time or full-time jobs to make ends meet. Currently, the average hourly wage for the nearly 870,000 workers in Ontario aged 15 to 24 is $13.72 — just a few dollars above the general minimum wage of $11 per hour.

The Varsity spoke with six U of T students to get their stories of financial survival.

JANICE LIU/THE VARSITY

JANICE LIU/THE VARSITY

Carla, 21
Majoring in International Relations and History with a minor in French
Year of study: Fourth
Course load: Five

The Varsity: How is your tuition paid?
Carla: I pay my own tuition.

TV: What is your monthly rent?
C: I live at home, so I don’t pay anything.

TV: Do you work, and how much do you make?
C: Yes. I make about $250-300 per month. In the summers, I work full-time as a lifeguard so I get paid quite well — almost double the minimum [wage]. In previous years, I worked more because of lower course loads.

TV: Do you have any debt or loans?
C: I don’t have too much. I think by the time I graduate, I’ll have about $6,000.

TV: How much do you receive from your parents each month?
C: They do help me. For example, they pay for my Metropass, and they paid for tutoring I took.

TV: Aside from rent, what do you spend and splurge on?
C: Does travel count? I [splurge] on traveling. I’m going back to Edinburgh for reading week.

TV: Do you have any financial advice for fellow students?
C: Looking back, I would have started working earlier. I didn’t work in high school, which, if I did, would have been beneficial and lowered my debt even further.
I do think it is important to track your money, which I try to do — making sure I know where my money is going, how much I am spending on coffee, or on going out for lunch, or whatever it is, has helped me stay on track in terms of financing.

JANICE LIU/THE VARSITY

JANICE LIU/THE VARSITY

Tom, 20
Specializing in Sexual Diversity Studies
Year of study: Second
Course load: Six

The Varsity: How is your tuition paid?
Tom: My parents pay.

TV: Monthly rent?
T: $640.

TV: Do you work, and how much do you make?
T: Only over the summer. I make $3,000 as a receptionist at a retirement home.

TV: Do you have any debt or loans?
T: No.
TV: How much do you receive from your parents each month?
T: It equals about $800. But I have the money I make working, as well, because I live with my parents during the summer and I don’t spend anything.

TV: Aside from rent, what do you spend and splurge on?
T: I spend it on my hair, my phone, makeup, general toiletries. I don’t actually buy clothes as much as I used to. When I was in high school, I bought a lot of clothes and I still have a lot of them.
I like to get my hair done. If I waste money in a consistent way, it is on my hair.

TV: Do you have any financial advice for fellow students?
T: Eat in as much as you can because it saves money. Also… drink in — it is way cheaper.

JANICE LIU/THE VARSITY

JANICE LIU/THE VARSITY

Adam, 38
PhD, Experimental Cosmology
Course load: Six

The Varsity: How is your tuition paid?
Adam: I get paid through the Physics Department with a grant, which covers my tuition and living, to a certain degree.

TV: What is the grant for a PhD student?
A: There are different categories, but the one I am in is about $28,000. Take out the eight and-a half thousand of tuition and it is even less.

TV: Do you work, and how much do you make?
A: You have TA [Teaching Assistant] options available, which a lot of the times aren’t very different than regular part-time work, but as far as having a second job there really isn’t time. A PhD is considered to be a full-time job times two, basically.

TV: Monthly rent?
A: $750, plus Internet and phone and things like that.

TV: Do you have any debt or loans?
A: For my undergrad, I got OSAP throughout, so I am sitting somewhere around $50,000. But I have no new ones taken out.

TV: Aside from rent, what do you spend and splurge on?
A: Splurging? Not too much. Sometimes I go out to dinner; maybe I’ll buy a used video game or something. Splurging is kind of a ridiculous thought, really.

TV: Do you have any financial advice for fellow students?
A: The obvious advice is to know how much money, or at least close to how much money, you’ll have. That includes rent and food and things like that. Don’t splurge. Only spend money that you have, not what you think you are going to have — because you might not get it.

JANICE LIU/THE VARSITY

JANICE LIU/THE VARSITY

David, 20
Exchange student studying Computer Science
Year of study: Third
Course Load: Three

The Varsity: How is your tuition paid?
David: My parents, but I am from France so it is very cheap [there] — only a few hundred Euros.

TV: Do you work, and how much do you make?
D: I usually make 1,000 Euros.

TV: Monthly rent?
D: It used to be $680 when I lived at Tartu [College], but I have moved, and now it is $800.
TV: How much do you receive from your parents each month?
D: The $800 for rent, plus $400 to live.

TV: What do you splurge on?
D: Just eating, travelling, and partying.

TV: Do you have any debts or loans?
D: Yes, I have received 1,000 Euros for the whole year, but that is only because I am studying abroad. Usually, I don’t get anything.

TV: Do you have any financial advice for fellow students?
D: No

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JANICE LIU/THE VARSITY

Beatrice, 21
Majoring in Human Biology and Religious Education, with a minor in Human Geography
Year of study: Fourth
Course load: Six

The Varsity: How is your tuition paid?
Beatrice: For the entire tuition of my bachelors degree, I would say 75 per cent of it was mine [and] 25 per cent of it my parents.
I’ve been saving for my education since I was 10. I saved about $35,000. At New Year’s or Christmas, when you are young and cute, your family tends to give you a lot of money.

I also started working when I was 15. In high school, I’d work three or four jobs in the summer and that earned a lot. Not much of a social life though, so that kind of sucks.

TV: Monthly rent?
B: I actually live with my parents. They do get a majority of my pay cheque, and that goes towards the rent, but they cover most of the rent and support me. I help out.

TV: Do you work, and how much do you make?
B: I work at Red Lobster. The gross income would be approximately $7,000 a year, but per month it does range.

TV: Do you have any debt or loans?

B: I finance my education with OSAP, but the great thing with OSAP is there is a portion you don’t have to pay back, which for me is about $800 a year.

So I’ll have approximately $37,000 in debt when I graduate, but I have approximately $35,000 that I haven’t spent available to pay it off. So I’m a little bit short, but it is not that bad.

TV: Aside from rent, what do you spend and splurge on?
B: I splurge sometimes — mostly on food. But I have a frugal way of spending with food, so unless there is a deal going on I won’t go for it. For example, at Hart House, there is a Wednesday $5 lunch deal once a month, and it is a full course!

TV: Any financial advice for fellow students?
B: If you’re younger, I would say start saving as early as you can. But if you are in a situation now where you need to make money fast, work summers. If you’re not going to do extra courses or go abroad, or if you don’t have the finances for it, I would say work.

Names changed. All interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

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