How much do Canadian households spend and on what?

Household spending decreased in 2021 according to new Statistics Canada data

How much do Canadian households spend and on what?
Steve Randall

A lot is reported about the challenges that Canadian households are having making ends meet, but what do they actually spend their money on anyway?

Newly published data from Statistics Canada shines a light on consumer spending, based on figures for 2021, which reveal that overall spending was down 2.7% compared to pre-pandemic 2019 and highlights the impact on spending caused by the pandemic.

It was the first decline in household spending since 2010 and when the impact of inflation is accounted for, the decrease was 6.5%.

The average Canadian household spent $67,126 on goods and services in 2021, with 31% on shelter, 15% on food, and 15% on transportation. This varies though from $38,330 for one person households to $96,019 spent by couples with children.

The pandemic had a major impact on transportation, even in its second year, and so spending on this sector was down 21% compared to 2019 at $10,099. Most of this was private transportation ($9,501) and even accounting for higher gasoline prices (+13%) the $2,080 spent on this and other fuels was down 14%.

The average spending on public transportation was down almost 60% to just $598 in 2021 compared to 2019, although this was mostly impacted by reduce air travel.

Having fun, staying home

There was a 9% decrease in spending on recreational activities to an average of $4,223 per household in 2021 compared to 2019. 

With restaurants unable to provide full capacity service due to the pandemic, average households spent $2,189 in 2021, a 21% drop from pre-pandemic, while spending on food from stores was up 7% at $8,065. There was a 31% decrease in spending on clothing ($2,303).

Housing costs were up with homeowners with a mortgage reporting an average of $33,118 spent on shelter in 2021, up 7.8% from 2019, while renters spend an extra 7% on their monthly rent payments.

Meanwhile, home renovations fuelled a 44% rise in spending on household furnishings and equipment to an average of $3,570.

Higher income vs. lower

The stats also reveal expenditure of income groups by percentage, which are not wildly different although actual average amounts are worlds apart.

The lowest quintile income households spent 17% of their monthly income on food ($6,129) while the highest quintile spent 14% ($15,715). 

For transportation, the lowest income households spent 12% of their income on this ($4,449), while the highest income households spent 16% ($17,190).