This isn’t the first time we’ve covered Canadian consumer habits. But it’s been awhile since our last update on this topic.

So we decided to find out if anything has changed in Canadian consumer spending habits in 2017.

We dove into the data. And what we found is Canadians are spending more than ever, despite uncertain economic times …

Yep, Canadians spend a lot (often beyond their means)


Half of all Canadians are spending all or more of their paycheques.

Of course, all that spending leads to debt. So it’s no surprise that 39 percent of Canadians feel overwhelmed by debt.

Most (26 percent) of this is mortgage debt, followed by credit card (18 percent), vehicle financing (17 percent), and line of credit debt (16 percent).

Why are Canadians taking on so much debt?

Well, the Bank of Canada is making it really easy to spend by keeping interest rates very low.

For the last couple of years the overnight lending rate was set at just 0.5 percent. However, the Bank of Canada just raised interest rates for the first time in 7 years (to 0.75 percent), which might signal a reversal of the trend of growing consumer debt.

The reason why the Bank has been so careful not to raise interest rates too quickly is because higher rates would put indebted Canadians in even more financial trouble – unable to repay their growing debts.

So, we’re likely to keep seeing low interest rates in the near term. That means continued access to cheap credit and more spending, which will help stimulate the Canadian economy.

So what are Canadians buying?


This table from StatCan breaks it down:


Average household expenditure, by province (Canada)

You can see that the biggest spending categories are:

  • shelter,
  • transport,
  • food,
  • household operations/furnishings, and
  • recreation.

Canadians are investing in their homes, but at the same time continuing to spend more on experiences like going out for dinner and travel.
The graphics below from LoansCanada compares spending by province on groceries to spending on eating out. As you can see, restaurants make a up a big portion of Canadian spending on food.


National Average Vs. Provicional Average
National Average Vs. Provincial Average

Canadian consumers are driving economic growth


All of this consumer spending is helping the overall Canadian economy grow.

In fact, it grew by 3.5 percent over the last three quarters and added 77,000 new full time jobs in May 2017. Overall, the number of employed Canadians is growing faster than the overall population. That’s good news. But there’s a problem.

Most of this growth is coming from increased spending in the housing market, which, again, depends on Canadian consumers taking on more debt. And Canada already has the highest debt loads among G7 countries.

The bad news is the housing market can’t go much higher, and some experts believe it could fall by 10-20 percent at any time.

But there are reasons to be optimistic too:

  • New government safety measures are helping to cool down the red-hot Toronto and Vancouver housing markets,
  • The unemployment rate is at 6.5 percent, its lowest point since 2008,
  • Manufacturing is finally starting to show signs of growth thanks to the low price of oil and the weak Canadian dollar,
  • And business investment was up 12.2 percent in the first quarter of 2017 after several years of stagnation.

Even if the housing market does implode, what will likely happen is people will stay (and invest) in their current homes and pay off their debt (good news for the home furnishings market). This is what happened in the US, which experienced a far greater housing market crash than Canada is likely to see.

Investments in Cyberspace are up too


What are Canadians doing with their time at home? Well, we know they’re spending more and more time dialed into the internet and less time watching TV …

In fact, 2015 was the first year in more than a decade that saw a drop in cable, satellite, and IPTV revenues in Canada.

Canadians are now spending more money on internet access than on TV subscriptions. Retail internet revenues surpassed $9.2B in 2015, 10 percent higher than in 2014 and more than the $8.9B TV market.

Canadians are data-hungry, consuming an astounding 40 percent more data in 2015 than in 2014 (about 93 GB per month). This demand is coming from streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, as well as real-time communications like WhatsApp and Snapchat.

And this is a country-wide phenomenon: 98% of all Canadians now have access to download speeds of 5 megabits per second or more.

But when it comes to wireless internet services, young Canadians (under the age of 30) are leading the way, spending $114 per month compared to $34 spent by Canadians over the age of 65.

In terms of time spent, Canadians now spend up to 24.5 hours a week online, 2 hours more than in 2015. And young Canadians between the ages of 18 and 24 spend an astounding 34 hours a week online. That’s almost 5 hours a day!

Even seniors are spending more time online: 74 percent of people aged 65+ use the internet regularly, compared to just 54 percent 10 years ago.

So, is now a good time to advertise to Canadian consumers?


We believe it is.

Canadians are spending more than ever. And there are no clear signs of this trend coming to an end.

It’s an uncertain time, for sure, with signs of both weakness and strength in the Canadian economy. But one thing that is for certain is that Canada’s digital economy is booming.

Canadians are spending more and more time online, especially with their mobile devices. This is an opportunity to reach Canadians with multichannel campaigns that leverage both highly targeted digital ads and traditional ads with the Canadian media powerhouses we continue to rely on to get the job done.

If you’re wondering how to reach engaged and digitally savvy Canadians, we can help.

Through our partnerships with Canada’s largest media companies, we can connect you to the best opportunities to reach your unique target audience.

Contact us today for a free consultation.