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Survey of Household Spending

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On average, each Canadian household spent $71,360 in 2008, up 2.0% from 2007. This was slightly below the rate of inflation of 2.3% as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

Households in Alberta reported the highest average spending, $86,910, followed by those in Ontario, where average spending amounted to $77,310.

The largest increase in average spending per household was in Saskatchewan, where it rose 6.8% to $68,280.

Households in Newfoundland and Labrador reported the lowest average spending ($57,710). This was up 4.9% over 2007, which was above the national average of 2.0%.

Basics still account for largest shares

Personal taxes accounted for 20.5% of the average household's budget in 2008, while shelter represented 19.9%, transportation 13.6% and food 10.4%. These shares changed only slightly from 2007.

Average personal taxes amounted to $14,600 in 2008, up 1.1% from 2007. However, as a share of total spending this was below the peak of 22% in 1996.

Households in Alberta spent the largest share on personal taxes (21.9%) while also having lower provincial income tax rates than other provinces. This was because in Alberta there were proportionally many more households reporting incomes above the national average than the other provinces. Households in Prince Edward Island spent the lowest share on personal taxes (16.2%).

Spending on shelter rose 4.0% to $14,180. This increase was driven by a 10.5% rise in average spending for rental accommodation.

Households in Ontario spent the largest share on shelter (21.2%). They were followed by households in British Columbia (20.8%). Households in Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest share (16.5%).

Households spent an average of $9,720 on transportation in 2008, up 3.5%. Average spending on purchase of automobiles and trucks was up 6.7%, while spending on gasoline and other fuels increased by 0.5% to $2,230. Average spending on public transportation was $1,020, up 5.3%.

On average, households spent $7,440 on food in 2008, up 1.8% from 2007. In the 1960s, food represented the largest proportion of household expenditure, accounting for 18.7% of total spending. However, this proportion has declined constantly to just over 10% of total spending.

Provincially, the proportion spent on food was highest in Quebec (12.2%) and lowest in Alberta (8.9%).

Food, shelter, clothing account for over half of spending by lowest income households

The one-fifth of Canadian households with the lowest income spent an average of $22,860 in 2008. Of this, just over 52% went to food, shelter and clothing. Personal taxes represented 3% of their budget.

In contrast, the top fifth of households spent an average of $146,060. They allocated about 28% of their budgets to food, shelter and clothing, while 29% went to personal taxes. These proportions were similar to 2007.

Note to readers

This release is based on data from the 2008 Survey of Household Spending, which gathered detailed information from a sample of more than 15,400 private households on spending patterns, dwelling characteristics, and household equipment. Data cover all provinces.

Average spending for a specific good or service was calculated for all households, including those with and those without expenditures for the category, unless otherwise noted. Average spending includes sales taxes. "Personal taxes" refer to income and certain other direct taxes.

Comparisons of spending between years were not adjusted for inflation. The rate of inflation for selected items is mentioned where it affected the analysis of year-over-year changes in spending.

To analyze data by income level, households were divided into five groups or quintiles based on income. Each quintile represents one-fifth of all households. Households were ranked in ascending order of total household income, and organized into five groups of equal number.

Households in the lowest quintile had 1.5 members on average, while those in the highest quintile averaged 3.4 members.

Spending on cell phones and wireless services still rising

Average household spending on cell phone and other wireless services was up 6.6% from 2007 to $550. At the same time, household spending on conventional landline telephone service continued to fall, declining 5.1% to $580.

Households in Newfoundland and Labrador spent an average of $700 on conventional landline telephone service, the highest in the country. Alberta had the highest average spending on cell phones, $840. Alberta households were also the most likely to report having a cell phone (83.5%).

Nearly 4 in 5 households (79.4%) reported owning a computer in 2008; up slightly from the previous year, while 74.6% reported having access to the Internet at home. Spending for computer hardware was down 2.7%, but spending for Internet access was up 6.1%. The vast majority (97.0%) of the highest income households had a computer, and 96.7% had Internet access. In comparison, 49.8% of households in the lowest income group had a computer, while 42.9% had home access to the Internet.

Households in British Columbia had the highest proportion (82.1%) that reported having access to the Internet at home, but Alberta reported the highest average spending for Internet services ($340).

In 2008, 86.4% of households reported having a digital video disc (DVD) player, making it the most commonly reported new technology device. DVD ownership is very evenly distributed, with the highest reporting province, Alberta (89.0%) not much higher than the lowest reporting province, Newfoundland and Labrador (82.2%). Canadian households are more likely to have a DVD player than a computer (79.4%), Internet (74.6%), cell phone (73.2%), cable TV (65.3%), or satellite TV (23.7%).

Just over one-half (53.0%) of households in Alberta owned a digital video disc (DVD) writer, the highest share among the provinces.

Reduced spending on books, newspapers and magazines

Average household spending on reading materials decreased 2.7% to $250. This reflected declines for magazines and periodicals (-9.6%), books (-0.9%) and newspapers (-2.3%).

The highest average spending on reading and other printed material was in Alberta at $290 per household, and the second highest in Ontario at $270.

Average spending on maps has dropped 25% over the last two years after many years of steady increases. This could reflect the adoption of new global positioning system (GPS) technology and the widespread use of Internet-based driving direction maps.

Available on CANSIM: tables 203-0001 to 203-0020.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3508.

The publication Spending Patterns in Canada (62-202-X, free), which presents the latest results of the Survey of Household Spending for Canada, the provinces and selected metropolitan areas is now available. From the Key resource module of our website, choose Publications, then All subjects, and Personal finance and household finance.

There are also two free tables of spending data from the Summary tables module of our website on Canada and the provinces and selected metropolitan areas. A third table with data on dwelling characteristics and household equipment, is also available.

The publication Household Expenditures Research Paper Series: User Guide for the Survey of Household Spending, 2008 (62F0026M2009002, free), which presents information about survey methodology, concepts, and data quality, is also available online. From the Key resource module of our website, choose Publications, then All subjects, and Personal finance and household finance.

There are also 10 detailed tables available at a cost of $134 each. Of these 10 tables, 5 present detailed household spending data: Detailed Average Household Expenditure for Canada, Provinces/Territories and Selected Metropolitan Areas, 2008 (62F0031X); Detailed Average Household Expenditure by Household Income Quintile for Canada and Provinces, 2008 (62F0032X); Detailed Average Household Expenditure by Housing Tenure for Canada, 2008 (62F0033X); Detailed Average Household Expenditure by Household Type for Canada, 2008 (62F0034X); Detailed Average Household Expenditure by Size of Area of Residence for Canada, 2008 (62F0035X).

The remaining 5 tables present data on dwelling characteristics and household equipment: Dwelling Characteristics and Household Equipment for Canada, Provinces/Territories and Selected Metropolitan Areas, 2008 (62F0041X); Dwelling Characteristics and Household Equipment by Income Quintile for Canada, 2008 (62F0042X); Dwelling Characteristics and Household Equipment by Housing Tenure for Canada, 2008 (62F0043X); Household type, Canada (62F0044X); Dwelling Characteristics and Household Equipment by Size of Area of Residence for Canada, 2008 (62F0045X). See How to order products.

Custom tabulations are also available.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, or to purchase products, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-888-297-7355; 613-951-7355;, Income Statistics Division.

Table 1

Average total expenditure and shares of spending of major categories for provinces, 2008 
  Average household spending Food Shelter Clothing Transportation Personal taxes2
   $ Shares of spending1(%)
Canada 71,360  10.4 19.9 4.0 13.6 20.5
Newfoundland and Labrador 57,710 11.7 16.5 4.7 15.6 18.0
Prince Edward Island 58,710 11.5 19.0 3.6 15.2 16.2
Nova Scotia 60,330 11.3 18.6 3.7 14.7 17.9
New Brunswick 58,440 11.2 17.2 3.5 17.0 17.8
Quebec 60,480 12.2 18.5 3.9 13.2 20.5
Ontario 77,310 9.7 21.2 4.2 13.1 21.2
Manitoba 63,510 10.2 18.2 3.9 14.3 18.8
Saskatchewan 68,280 9.2 17.2 3.8 16.0 19.1
Alberta 86,910 8.9 19.0 3.8 14.0 21.9
British Columbia 73,120 10.9 20.8 4.0 13.8 18.7
Shares of spending represent the proportions of total average household spending.
Percentage of spending on personal taxes depends on provincial and federal income tax rates as well as household income distribution.

Table 2

Total average household expenditure by province
  2007 2008 2007 to 2008
  $ % change
Canada 69,950  71,360  2.0
Newfoundland and Labrador 55,010 57,710 4.9
Prince Edward Island 55,570 58,710 5.7
Nova Scotia 59,990 60,330 0.6
New Brunswick 58,210 58,440 0.4
Quebec 57,310 60,480 5.5
Ontario 76,650 77,310 0.9
Manitoba 63,300 63,510 0.3
Saskatchewan 63,940 68,280 6.8
Alberta 85,910 86,910 1.2
British Columbia 72,620 73,120 0.7

Table 3

Budget shares of major spending categories by income quintile, 2008 
  Lowest quintile Second quintile Third quintile Fourth quintile Highest quintile
Average household expenditures 22,860 40,820 60,190 86,890 146,060
Budget share for major spending categories          
  Shares of spending (%)
Food 16.8 14.0 12.0 10.2 7.9
Shelter 30.8 24.2 21.5 19.9 16.3
Clothing 4.5 3.9 4.3 3.8 3.9
Transportation 12.2 14.9 14.6 14.4 12.6
Personal taxes 2.9 9.1 14.9 19.7 29.2