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Alberta leads the way as Canadian household spending rises

Household spending has risen with Alberta showing the greatest increase.

Karen Roach/iStockphoto

Canadian households are spending more of their yearly budgets on shelter, communications and transportation – and nowhere is spending going as gangbusters as in Alberta.

Average spending by the country's households rose 2.7 per cent to $55,151 on goods and services in 2011 from a year earlier, Statistics Canada's annual survey of spending habits shows. That was a little less than the 2.9-per-cent rate of inflation in that year.

Nowhere is spending as high as in oil-rich Alberta, where households spent $64,453. That's ahead of Ontario, the province with the second-highest amount of household spending at $57,514 and a far cry from Prince Edward Island where families spent $45,190, the lowest in the country.

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Across the country, shelter accounted 28 per cent of total budgets, transportation 20 per cent and food 14 per cent.

Spending on shelter – which includes mortgage payments, rent, repairs and property taxes – rose 1.3 per cent in the year. Homeowners spent on average $17,123 on shelter, while renters spent an average of $11,320.

Households in Ontario spent the highest share of their budget on shelter, while households in Alberta had the highest average spending at $18,300.

Spending also varies depending on income levels. The poorest fifth of households spent half of their budget on food, shelter and clothing. Income tax accounted for 1.2 per cent of total expenditures. The richest fifth of households allocated 29 per cent of their budget to food, shelter and clothing, while 28 per cent went to income taxes.

"These proportions were similar to shares in 2010," Statscan said.

The national survey of household spending is based on a sample of almost 18,000 households, which were asked about spending patterns, dwelling characteristics and household equipment.

Here are some other details from the report:

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Spending on communications climbed 5.1 per cent to $1,825 in 2011. In that year, the average household spent $809 on cell phone expenses, $481 on expenses related to land-line telephones and $416 on Internet access.

Eight in 10 households – or 79 per cent – reported owning at least one cell phone, while 12.8 per cent reported having only a cell phone and no landline, the agency said. Cell phone ownership was highest in Alberta and lowest in Quebec.

About four out of five households reported having Internet access at home.

Spending on transportation rose 1.5 per cent, driven by a surge in gasoline expenditures. That consisted of $10,152 for private transportation and $1,077 for public transportation, which includes public transit, taxis and air fares. Average spending on gas jumped 23.7 per cent to $2,606.

Spending on food actually came down, which may reflect a shift to more lower-cost goods. Food spending slipped 0.4 per cent to an average of $7,795. Spending on food bought from stores fell 1.8 per cent while while spending on food from restaurants rose 3.6 per cent. The biggest spending declines came in fruit, cereal and dairy and eggs.

Out-of-pocket health-care spending was little changed at $2,211.

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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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