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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 (CPI).

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 is because in Alberta there are 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, almost 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.

Spending on cell phones, wireless services still rising

Average household spending on cell phone and other wireless services was up 6.1% from 2007 to $550. At the same time, household spending on conventional landline telephone service continued to fall, dropping 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 four in five 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 slightly, 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).

More than 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%) 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 GPS technology and the widespread use of Internet-based driving direction maps.