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household finances

A couple sits at the table looking over a budget.

Only about one-third of Canadians actually set budgets, and even fewer review their purchases on a monthly basis, according to a survey released Thursday by the Bank of Montreal.

The BMO report suggests just 34 per cent set budgets for expenses such as housing costs, food and insurance and just 22 per cent review it each month to determine if they are staying on track.

The results come at a time when households spending beyond their means is seen as a chief threat to the stability of Canada's economy.

The Bank of Canada and others have repeatedly warned Canadians to get their finances in check while interest rates are low.

However, BMO believes Canadians are finding it more challenging to balance their books, adding that household debt, excluding mortgages, has doubled in the past decade, with the debt-to-income ratio hitting a record high 153 per cent earlier this year.

"Proper budgeting is the cornerstone of keeping household finances in check as all aspects of the financial picture are affected by how well one manages the funds coming in and going out," said Janet Peddigrew, a vice-president at Bank of Montreal.

"Having a budget in place is only the first step — being successful is wholly dependent on how closely you monitor it."

The survey results are based on an online sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18 or older. It was conducted by Pollara between Aug. 31 and Sept. 5.

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.