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Canadians spent more on housing, health care in 2012

Statistics Canada says households spent an average of $56,279 on goods and services in 2012, up 2.0 per cent from 2011. Shelter costs accounted for the largest share of this spending, at 28.1 per cent.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Canadian households spent more on shelter and health care and slightly less of their budget on food in 2012, with Alberta again leading the country in spending on goods and services.

Household spending rose 2 per cent to an average of $56,279 in 2012 from a year earlier, Statistics Canada said in its annual survey released Wednesday, a little above the average pace of inflation, which rose 1.5 per cent in that year.

Shelter gobbled up the lion's share of budgets, at 28.1 per cent of total spending, up a bit from a 27.6-per-cent share a year earlier. Spending on transportation accounted for 19.9 per cent of the total, while food spending comprised 13.8 of the budget (a little less than a year earlier, when transportation was 20.4 per cent of spending while food was 14.1 per cent).

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Spending on shelter – a category which includes rent, mortgage payments and repairs – climbed 4 per cent to $15,811 in 2012, with people in British Columbia spending the highest share on a roof over their heads. Homeowners spent 27.1 per cent of their share on shelter while renters spent 31.3 per cent.

The rich and poor spend differently. The bottom fifth of households by income level spent more than half, or 51.8 per cent, of their budget on shelter, food and clothing – with a growing share on housing – while income taxes were 1.1 per cent of total spending. The wealthiest fifth spent 28.7 per cent on shelter, food and clothing, and 27.7 per cent on taxes.

Spending on food eased, dropping 0.7 per cent to an average of $7,739 as spending at both stores and restaurants subsided. While most households in Canada spend most of their money on shelter, that's not the case in Nunavut, where households allocated a quarter, of 23.9 per cent, of their budget on food. (A separate Statscan study, released in December, found Nunavut has the highest rate of food insecurity in Canada).

Spending on out-of-pocket health care expenses rose 3.3 per cent to $2,285, with seniors – unsurprisingly – devoting a greater share of spending on things like health insurance premiums and medicine not covered under a health plan.

More Canadians have a cell phone and no landline, with that share growing to 15.7 per cent from 12.8 per cent of households in 2011. More than eight in ten households have at least one cellphone, with those in Alberta have the highest rate and those in Quebec the lowest. About 81 per cent of households have Internet access at home.

Total spending varies among the provinces. Alberta has the highest level of spending on goods and services, at $69,870, followed by British Columbia. Households in Quebec have the lowest average spending at $48,870.

The survey is based on a sample of almost 18,000 households. Data from 2012 are comparable to 2011 and 2010, but Statscan cautions it's not comparable with surveys before 2009 as the survey's design has changed.

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More


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