Survey of Household Spending, 2010

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Canadian households spent an average of $53,016 on all types of goods and services in 2010. Of this total, shelter accounted for 28.3% of spending, transportation for 20.7%, and food, 14.0%. Spending on clothing represented 6.5% of the total, health care, 4.1%, and communications, 3.3%.

On average, couples with children spent $74,126 on goods and services, the highest total of all household types. The lowest spending was for one-person households, at $30,563.

Provincially, the highest average spending on goods and services was by households in Alberta ($61,134), followed by households in British Columbia ($56,812). Households in Prince Edward Island ($44,856) reported the lowest spending.


Canadian households spent an average of $14,997 on shelter in 2010. Homeowners spent an average of $17,026, while renters spent about two-thirds of this amount, or $10,874.

Provincially, households in Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest average shelter expense, at $10,395. Alberta households reported the highest spending on shelter, at $17,268.

The highest share of spending on shelter was for households in Ontario, at 30.4% of total spending on goods and services. This was followed by households in British Columbia, at 29.5%. The lowest share was for households in Newfoundland and Labrador, at 23.0%.

Spending on shelter was directly related to the size of a population centre. Households in rural areas spent an average of $10,755 on shelter, compared with $17,224 for those in centres with a population of one million or more.


Households spent an average of $10,999 on transportation in 2010.

This spending consisted of $9,946 on average for private transportation (which includes cars, trucks and vans and their operating costs), while the remaining $1,053 was for public transportation, which covered spending on public transit, taxis, air fares, buses and trains.

Total spending on transportation varied considerably by household type. On average, couples with children spent $15,570 on transportation, nearly three times the $5,577 spent by one-person households.

For private transportation, average spending was highest in rural areas ($11,255) and lowest in population centres of one million or more ($9,558).

Public transportation spending declined with age. In households headed by an individual under 30 years of age, average spending was highest at $1,292. It was lowest for those headed by seniors aged 65 and over ($578).


Households reported spending an average of $7,443 on food in 2010. This total consisted of $5,377 on average spent on food from stores and the remaining $2,066 for restaurant meals.

Households in Nova Scotia ($6,888) reported the lowest average spending on food while those in Alberta ($8,427) reported the highest.

Households headed by seniors reported the highest share of spending on food purchased from stores, at 12.0% of total spending, and the lowest share from restaurants, at 3.4% of total spending.

In contrast, households headed by a person under 30 years of age had the highest share of spending on restaurants, at 5.4% of total spending, and the lowest share on food from stores, at 8.6%.

The redesigned Survey of Household Spending collected data on food expenditures in a manner consistent with previous Food Expenditure Surveys. As a result, comparisons over time are possible for spending shares by type of food.

For example, the share of spending on meat has continued a long-term decline. In 1982, spending on meat (including processed) accounted for 27% of spending on food from stores, the largest share. By 2010, this proportion had declined to 18%.

During the same period, the share of spending on fruits and vegetables increased from 19% to 23%, surpassing meat as the largest category.

Health care

On average, households spent $2,194 on out-of-pocket health care expenses in 2010. These include insurance premiums and health care expenses not reimbursed by a public or private health-care plan.

Average spending on health care was directly related to age. Households headed by an individual under 30 years of age reported spending an average of $1,180, while those headed by a senior spent an average of $2,610.

Households in British Columbia ($2,680) reported the highest average health-care spending, while households in Ontario ($1,816) reported the lowest.


Households spent an average of $1,731 in 2010 on communications. This included an average spending of $388 for Internet access, $511 for landline telephones and $731 for cellphone expenses.

More than three-quarters (78.2%) of Canadian households reported having at least one cellphone. Cellphone ownership was highest in Alberta (87.9%) and lowest in Quebec (67.3%).

In 2010, 1 in 10 households reported that they used only cellphones and had no landline.

Home Internet access was reported by 78.4% of households. Access was highest in Alberta (84.2%) and British Columbia (83.7%) and was lowest in New Brunswick (69.2%). Of all households, 5.7% used dial-up access.

Average total expenditures

On average, Canadian households reported total expenditures of $70,574 in 2010. This total includes spending on goods and services, plus expenditures on income taxes, pension contributions, insurance premiums and gifts of money.

The average spending of $53,016 on goods and services represented 75.1% of total spending. Income taxes, gifts, insurance premiums and pension contributions accounted for the remaining 24.9%.

Average total spending allows improved analysis of spending by income group. For example, the one-fifth of households with the lowest income reported total spending of $28,583 in 2010. Of this total, 51.8% went to shelter, food and clothing. Income taxes accounted for 0.8% of total expenditures.

In contrast, the one-fifth of households with the highest income reported average total expenditures of $139,001. They allocated 29.5% of their budgets to food, shelter and clothing, while 27.5% went to income taxes.

Chart 1 
Shares of total expenditure by income quintile, 2010 
Chart 1: Shares of total expenditure by income quintile, 2010

Chart description: Shares of total expenditure by income quintile, 2010 

CSV version of the chart

Note to readers

This is the first release of the redesigned Survey of Household Spending (SHS). The redesign was done to integrate new content such as detailed food expenditures, and to improve collection methods.

The new methodology combines a questionnaire with recall periods appropriate to an expenditure item and a diary of daily expenses that the household completes over two weeks following an interview. The diary provides more detailed information, particularly for spending on food. Use of administrative data is also integrated into the survey to improve income information while reducing response burden.

Expense categories in the redesigned SHS are similar to those of previous years. However, changes to data collection, processing and estimation methods have created a break in the data series. As a result, caution should be used in comparing the 2010 SHS data with previous years, unless otherwise noted.

The data cover all provinces, but do not include the territories, which will be included in the 2012 SHS.

Available without charge in CANSIM: tables CANSIM table203-0021 to 203-0029.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number survey number3508.

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

The report "User Guide for the Survey of Household Spending, 2010," which is part of the Household Expenditures Research Paper Series (Catalogue number62F0026M2012001, free), presents information about the redesigned survey methodology, concepts and data quality. It is now available from the Key resource module of our website. Under Publications, choose Publications by subject, then Income, pensions, spending and wealth, then Household spending and savings.

The article "Note to Users of Data from the 2010 Survey of Household Spending" (Catalogue number62F0026M2012002, free) is also available.

Custom tabulations are also available.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 613-951-8116; or the Media Hotline (613-951-4636;