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It’s Friday. You’ve worked hard all week and you’ve just been paid, so you’re ready to hit the town. Over the weekend, you go out for a meal with friends, see a movie, buy yourself a couple treats and go to a hockey game. Life’s too short to not have fun on the weekends, right? But come Wednesday, you wonder if the gas in your tank will make it ‘til Friday.

Where did all your money go?

According to Statistics Canada’s survey on Spending Patterns in Canada, the average Canadian family’s total expenditures run $71,117 per year. The survey doesn’t say how large the average family is; it just says ‘average'.

Canadians spend a fair bit on their homes and keeping those homes running. Let’s see how much of our paycheque is going towards the home. We also spend quite a bit of money on living expenses, including cellphone service, internet, cable and other household operations. There are no examples provided for ‘household operations’ or ‘other,’ but one can assume that they are the day-to-day costs for upkeep, maintenance and repairs.

We spend a lot of money on recreation – and why not, since we work so hard? Here’s a breakdown of some of our other expenses. The average family spends a fair bit on transportation, health and food as well. In fact, we spend more on transportation than we do on food. It should be noted that this survey was conducted in 2009 when gas prices were much lower. I’m sure that the combination of the current gas prices and inflation has brought these costs up – a lot.

Let’s not forget taxes, pension plans and insurance.

Here’s a breakdown of what we spend in those departments:

  • Shelter: $14,095 (mortgage and rent expenses)
  • Water, fuel and electricity for principal accommodation: $2,204
  • Household furnishings and equipment: $1,896
  • Household operations: $3,428
  • Clothing: $2,841
  • Communications: $1,583
  • Personal care: $1,200
  • Childcare expenses: $398
  • Pet expenses: $420
  • Other: $1,032
  • Recreation: $3,843
  • Reading materials and other printed materials: $232
  • Education: $1,238
  • Gifts of money and contribution: $1,715
  • Tobacco and alcohol: $1,506
  • Games of chance: $255
  • Miscellaneous: $1,180
  • Food: $7,262
  • Transportation: $9,753
  • Healthcare: $2,004
  • Personal taxes: $14,399
  • Personal insurance and pension plan contributions: $4,269

Breakdown by family size

The survey did break down the results into other categories, including couples with children, renters, senior citizens (65+), single people and single mothers.

Couples with children had the highest costs, next to homeowners. Single people, by comparison, spent much more per person than couples and families did. Those with the lowest costs were the renters.

Single mothers and senior couples (both 65+) had very similar spending habits. Seniors spend more on food, transportation, education, health care and recreation, but less on household operations, clothing and shelter. Surprisingly, spending was similar in both urban and rural households. Read the rest of the survey here.

How much should I be spending?

There is no magic formula for how much you should be spending or saving – but there are guidelines. Most of us look at our spending – and then our savings – and shudder at how little we set aside.

Here’s a cool formula (based on your income after taxes) to give you an idea of what you should be doing:

What constitutes needs? Needs include housing, food, utilities, insurance and transportation costs.

What constitutes wants? Your wants include the non-essentials, such as cable TV, entertainment costs, unnecessary clothing and toys, such as iPods and sporting equipment.

  • Spend no more than 50% of your income on NEEDS
  • Spend the remaining 30% on WANTS
  • Put 20% aside as SAVINGS

How does the average Canadian add up?

It was really hard to decide what fell under needs and wants. I think, for argument’s sake, we’ll say that pets fall under wants, and personal insurance and pension plan contributions fall under savings.

Taxes fall under needs (because no one wants them, but they’re necessary), but we won’t be calculating them here since the formula is for income after tax.

  • NEEDS: $42,479 or 74.5%
  • WANTS: $9,969 or 18.5%
  • SAVINGS: $4,269 or 7%

After looking at these numbers, it’s obvious that we’re spending way too much on our needs, or many of us are living well above our means, even if some of those numbers could easily fall under the wants category. And we’re not setting nearly enough money aside for savings.

We could be doing better in this department. If you’re concerned about your savings, do an evaluation of your own spending and see just how you stack up in comparison to the average Canadian family.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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