CPA Canada peels back the wrapping paper to reveal Canadians' holiday spending habits

It’s the perfect time of year to celebrate and relax with loved ones, but for many Canadians the holiday season can lead to financial headaches and added stress.

TORONTO, ON, November 19, 2019 – It’s the perfect time of year to celebrate and relax with loved ones, but for many Canadians the holiday season can lead to financial headaches and added stress.

According to an annual national survey conducted for the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), most Canadians have spending goals in mind, but many haven’t thought about how they will stay on budget.

Survey results show that Canadians plan to spend an average of $583 on gifts this holiday season, down from $643 last year, and almost half – 46 per cent – anticipate doing most of that shopping the “old-fashioned” way: in stores. Forty-two per cent of those surveyed did not set a budget for holiday spending, so sticking to those spending goals could be a challenge. This could also explain why one-in-five respondents anticipate overspending this year and nearly half say they experience added stress during the holidays.

“It’s reassuring to see that Canadians have seasonal spending goals in mind,” says Doretta Thompson, CPA Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader. “With more than half of Canadians living paycheque to paycheque, even small financial miscalculations can have significant consequences. The good news is, it’s never too late to start planning and monitoring your spending – it can go a long way to providing some peace of mind.”

Unwrapping Canadians’ spending habits this holiday season

CPA Canada’s annual Holiday Spending Survey goes well beyond gift purchases, revealing deeper insights into how and where Canadians will spend their money this season.

  • Many Canadians are likely staying home for the holidays this year, with 62 per cent of the survey respondents planning to spend less than $200 on travel expenses.
  • We love to attend holiday parties, but 61 per cent of Canadians plan to spend less than $200 on parties and other holiday entertainment.
  • Canadians remain committed to helping others over the holidays, with roughly 72 per cent of those surveyed plan on making charitable donations – only 21 per cent do not plan to make any holiday donations and seven per cent remain unsure.
  • Despite the e-commerce boom, Canadians still rely on in-store shopping. In fact, 45 per cent expect to spend more in-store, while fewer than one in five Canadians plan to do most of their shopping online (18 per cent). Nearly a third of those surveyed will split their spending between in-store and online (31 per cent).
  • We’re a country of do-it-your-selfers, re-gifters and donors who looks beyond traditional presents, with 48 per cent of respondents planning to give different types of gifts, including: homemade (26%) and second-hand gifts (13 per cent), charitable donations (18 per cent) or a promise to do something for someone (13 per cent).
  • Holiday stress is real. Almost half of Canadians say they have added stress during the holiday season.

CPA Canada’s five financial planning tips for a stress-free holiday

To ensure everyone enjoys the magic of the season, here’s a list of five quick and easy tips for a stress-free holiday. Stick to these simple rules and you’ll be feeling merry, even after the decorations have been put away!

  1. Start saving early

    No one wants to worry about their finances over the holidays. Avoid financial stress this season by starting NOW and prioritizing saving throughout the year for next season. Only 39 per cent of Canadians save all year for their holiday purchases but thinking about and planning for these expensive periods in advance will set you up for financial success all year long.


  2. Create a budget (and stick to it!)

    This year, 42 per cent of Canadians admit they don’t have a holiday budget. Whether they have a holiday season budget or not,  65 per cent say they do not plan to overspend this season. Creating a budget doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. Set spending targets for gifts, travel and entertaining; write them down and keep track of your spending as you shop.


  3. Find those deals Savvy shoppers know that finding a good deal is all about research and timing. 36 per cent of Canadians plan to take advantage of Black Friday deals online, while 32 per cent plan to brave the crowds in-store. Only 28 per cent of Canadians plan to shop on Cyber Monday, despite online shopping giving consumers more options than ever to find that must-have toy, best-selling novel or latest gaming console.


  4. Think outside the gift box Almost half of Canadians plan to give a non-traditional gift. Whether it’s festive food or a caring and thoughtful gesture, thinking outside the box when it comes to gift ideas is a great way to save money and express your creativity during an expensive time of year. Remember, there’s no shame in re-gifting!


  5. Tackle debt all year long The best way to stay on budget and stress-free over the holidays is by paying down debt and sticking to an annual budget. The good news is that 27 per cent of Canadians expect to have no holiday debt and 59 per cent say paying down their debt is a medium to high priority in 2020. Good news because getting into the habit of your tracking spending paying down debt will ensure everyone can relax and enjoy the festive season to the fullest.

Survey methodology:

Nielsen conducted the CPA Canada 2019 Holiday Spending Study via an online questionnaire, from October 17 to 23, 2019 with 2,010 randomly selected Canadian adults, aged 18 years and over, who are members of their online panel. A background document can be found online at: