Despite Restrictions on Gatherings, Canadians Channeled their Holiday Cheer Through Rising Spending

Average Holiday Spend in 2020 Rises to $735, Up From $709 in 2019, as One in Four Admit to Overspending

The author(s)

  • Sean Simpson Vice President, Canada, Public Affairs
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Toronto, ON, February 1, 2021 – Canadians may not have been able to gather with extended family or friends over the holidays given COVID-19, but they channeled their holiday cheer through increased spending on the holidays, according to a new Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of RBC.

The poll found that Canadians spent $735 dollars, on average, this past holiday season, up from the $709 they reported spending in last year’s poll and the largest sum of spending since the inauguration of the RBC Post-Holiday Spending & Savings Insights Poll a decade ago. Holiday spending is once again the highest in Atlantic Canada ($906), followed by Ontario ($797), Saskatchewan and Manitoba ($737), Quebec ($661), Alberta ($660) and British Columbia ($656).

Not only did overall spending rise, but among the 25% of Canadians who said they spent more than they intended to over the holidays, the amount they overspent rose to $588 on average, up 28% from the $459 they overspent last year. Ontarians were most likely to say they overspent, followed by those living in Atlantic Canada (27%), Quebec (25%), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (22%), Alberta (20%), and British Columbia (18%). Those aged 18-34 (38%) were much more likely than those aged 35-54 (24%) or 55+ (16%) to admit to overspending, and men (27%) were slightly more likely to overspend than women (23%).

Among those who overspent, only 33% say they already paid off their over-expenditures at the time the poll was fielded in early January. Others resolved to spend less on entertainment, lunch and coffee money and putting those savings towards their extra costs (24%) or to spend less on their day-to-day expenses like groceries, phone and cable, for example (23%). Nearly two in ten (16%), though, say they intended to carry those extra costs on their credit card, with plans to pay off their balance within the next two months or even longer.

Perhaps in an effort to avoid overspending, Canadians have identified some things they’d do differently to be readier for the holiday gift-giving and spending season next year, chief among them setting aside savings on a regular basis (20%) and spending less / resisting the temptation to spend more than they’ve saved (16%).

But accumulating savings throughout the year may be a real challenge for many: When asked how much extra they think they could save each month, fully one half (50%) of Canadians said they had no idea (led by Quebecers at 53%), and 22% say they’re not saving anything now and would not expect to save anything extra (led by those living in Saskatchewan and Manitoba at 33%).

If Canadians were to find some extra money throughout the year, most have a pretty good idea of what they’d do with it: one three would pay down debt (35%), put it into general savings (32%), or save it for a particular purpose or objective (25%). Very few (8%) say they have no idea what they would do if they came into some extra cash this year.


About the Study

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between January 4-6, 2021, on behalf of RBC. For this survey, a sample of 2,000 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Sean Simpson
Vice President, Ipsos Public Affairs
+1 416 324 2002


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The author(s)

  • Sean Simpson Vice President, Canada, Public Affairs