Survey of Household Spending

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Average household spending in Canada declined 0.3% to $71,120 in 2009, following the economic slowdown that began in the fall of 2008.

This was the first decline since the annual Survey of Household Spending was introduced in 1997. During 2009, the annual average rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index was 0.3%.

Personal taxes accounted for 20.2% of the average household's budget in 2009, while shelter represented 19.8%, transportation 13.7% and food 10.2%. These shares were virtually unchanged from 2008.

Excluding personal taxes, spending on goods and services was down 0.7% in 2009 from 2008.

Average household spending declined in five provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. The largest declines occurred in Prince Edward Island (-3.1%), and in Alberta (-2.2%), where average spending was highest at $84,976. The largest increase was in Manitoba (+4.9%), largely the result of a 5.5% increase in spending on shelter and a 4.9% increase on transportation. Spending on other categories remained stable.

Less spending on discretionary items

Households reduced spending in 2009 on discretionary items or those that could be postponed, such as recreation and household furnishings.

One exception was spending for home repairs and maintenance, which increased 22% in 2009 over 2008. In large part, this was likely due to the federal government home renovation tax credit program.

The largest declines in spending were for recreation, which fell 5.5% to $3,840 on average. Lower spending on recreation vehicles led the decline in this category; for example, spending on snowmobiles fell 11%.

Note to readers

This release is based on data from the 2009 Survey of Household Spending, which gathered detailed information from a sample of 10,811 private households on spending patterns, dwelling characteristics, and household equipment. Data covers all provinces and territories.

Average spending for a specific good or service was calculated for all households, including those with and those without expenditures for the category. 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 if it affects 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.

Declines were widespread in such areas as sports gear, computer equipment and photographic equipment. However, spending at movie theatres rose 8.7% to an average of $100 per household.

Spending on household furnishings and equipment fell 3.6% to an average of $1,900 per household. This decrease was largely the result of declines in spending for rugs, window coverings, art, antiques, and workshop tools. Spending for furniture and appliances remained steady.

Overall, spending for transportation remained virtually unchanged at $9,750 per household. The largest change in transportation was for leased automobiles, where spending fell 16%. Many major auto corporations halted leasing during the downturn in the fall of 2008 and did not resume until the fall of 2009.

Spending associated with moving, such as the hiring of movers, real estate commissions, appraisals and land transfer taxes all showed sharp declines.

Technological change continues to affect spending

Not all changes were associated with the economic downturn. Technological change continued to drive a number of long-term trends in spending.

Spending for cell phone services rose 13% to an average of $620, surpassing spending for landline telephone services for the first time. Spending for landline services fell 4.5% to $550.

Over 77% of households reported having at least one cell phone. The proportion of households with landline service declined to 89%, a level last seen in 1965.

Spending on audio players fell 38%, while it was down 9.2% on digital cameras. These declines occurred as more cell phones were capable of playing music and taking photos.

Spending on reading materials, such as newspapers and books, fell 8.3% to $230 per household, while average spending for Internet access grew 10% to $340 per household.

Home Internet access was reported by 78% of households in 2009, while 72% reported having a broadband connection, up from 67% in 2008.

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 $23,860 in 2009. Of this, almost 52% went to food, shelter and clothing. Personal taxes represented 2.8% of their budget.

In contrast, the one-fifth of households with the highest income spent an average of $147,090. They allocated about 27% of their budgets to food, shelter and clothing, while 30% went to personal taxes. These proportions were similar to 2008.

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

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3508.

The publication Spending Patterns in Canada, 2009 (62-202-X, free), which presents the latest results of the Survey of Household Spending for Canada, the provinces, the territories and selected metropolitan areas, is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

Data tables are also now available from the Summary tables module of our website.

The report "User Guide for the Survey of Household Spending," 2009 (62F0026M2010006, free), which presents information about survey methodology, concepts, and data quality, is available online as part of the Household Expenditures Research Paper Series. From the Publications module, choose Publications by subject, then Income, pensions, spending and wealth, then Household spending and Savings and finally, Household Expenditures Research paper series.

There are also 10 detailed tables available at a cost of $134 each. Of these 10 tables, 5 present detailed household spending data: Canada, Provinces, Territories and Selected Metropolitan Areas, 2009 (62F0031X); Household Income Quintile, Canada, Provinces and Territories, 2009 (62F0032X); Housing Tenure, Canada, 2009 (62F0033X); Household Type, Canada, 2009 (62F0034X); Size of Area of Residence, Canada, 2009 (62F0035X).

The remaining 5 tables present data on Dwelling Characteristics and Household Equipment: Canada, Provinces, Territories and Selected Metropolitan Areas, 2009 (62F0041X); Income Quintile, Canada, 2009 (62F0042X); Housing Tenure, Canada, 2009 (62F0043X); Household Type, Canada, 2009 (62F0044X); Size of Area of Residence, Canada, 2009 (62F0045X).

Custom tabulations are also available.

For more information about the Survey of Household Spending, 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.