Financial Management as an International Student

When I left Zimbabwe to study in Canada, I quickly realized the importance of responsible independence as I was in a new country with no one to oversee my spending on food and clothing. During the first months, I experienced culture shock, overwhelmed by everything from malls to grocery stores.

Living in BC isn’t cheap and it requires a budget-friendly lifestyle. I wanted to wear the well-known brands but at what cost? There was no one to impress and such spending would only strain my wallet and worry my parents. My strategy involved distinguishing my needs from my wants.

I started preparing balanced, weekly meal plans to meet both financial and nutritional goals. I followed a basic grocery list from Wallet Moth, allocating some budget for snacks like granola bars to eat during classes or in the library. I also shopped for “short-term” clothes at thrift stores like Value Village, which helped me save money for other expenses like my phone contract and subscriptions. For essential, “long term” items like my first winter jacket and boots, I invested in new, durable pieces that would last well beyond graduation. For textbooks, I either bought second-hand copies from students on Facebook Marketplace or simply rented them from the library when available.

I also took an on-campus job that covered minor expenses and allow for occasional treats.

My advice to fellow international students is to stick to a strict basic monthly shopping list for daily necessities. While following fashion trends may be tempting, remember that it can lead to an unsustainably expensive lifestyle in the long run.