Transportation, mortgages take bulk of Canadians' spending budget

Consumption patterns have tilted in recent years: Canadians are spending more on mortgages, gardening, health insurance premiums and bank service fees, and a dwindling amount on reading materials and furnishings.

Statistics Canada’s annual survey on spending habits shows household expenditures on goods and services rose 4.1 per cent to an average of $58,592 in 2013 from a year earlier.

Domestic spending has fuelled Canada’s economy in recent years, buoyed by low borrowing costs and confidence gleaned from a strong housing market. The pace of spending has outstripped wage gains and, by last year, led to record debt levels. The Bank of Canada cautioned this week, as it cut rates, that “some further increase” in the debt-to-income ratio is likely.

“Consumers have felt good about themselves,” said Nick Exarhos, an economist at CIBC World Markets. “The recovery, though uneven, saw housing prices go up quite a bit and borrowing costs go down. So while wage gains were, on the whole, lacking, people used cheap financing and accelerated equity positions in their home to spend.”

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