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RBC Poll finds most Canadians stayed on budget over the holidays

Debt worries and setting a budget help Canadians limit spending
Almost one-third of Canadians overspent

TORONTO, January 31, 2012— A majority of Canadians (69 per cent) managed to keep their holiday spending in check, listing concerns about debt levels (40 per cent) and tracking spending with a budget (27 per cent) as the top reasons, that they stayed on track, according to the 2012 RBC Post-Holiday Spending Poll.

Almost one-third of Canadians (31 per cent) said they spent more than intended during the holidays, down two percentage points from last year. These Canadians overspent by an average of $467, up almost $38 from the previous year. Women continued to go over budget more often than men (35 per cent, compared to 26 per cent, roughly the same proportion as the previous year). Four-in-10 Canadian parents (41 per cent) spent more than planned, little changed from last year (42 per cent).

"It's encouraging to see that the majority of Canadianskept an eye on personal debt and took a more cautious approach to holiday purchases," said Richard Goyder, vice-president of Personal Lending at RBC. "However, some Canadians went beyond their budget, meaning that there's still room for improvement when creating a budget and payment plan."

The poll found that among Canadians who overspent during the holidays, most plan to cut back on entertainment (42 per cent) and day-to-day living expenses such as groceries, phone and cable (41 per cent), to get back on track. Over one-third of Canadians plan to give their credit cards a break (35 per cent) and trim trips for coffee or lunch (31 per cent).

"There are ways to get into the spirit of the holiday season without breaking the bank and then having to deal with short-term fixes throughout the year," added Goyder. "The New Year is a great time to review your finances, get a proper handle on your debt load and set out a budget to pay it off and start saving."

In a previous RBC poll, Canadian gift-givers planned to spend an average of $640 on gifts - up from $624 last year - and on average expected to spend $100 more than last year ($612 compared to $512) on other holiday items such as entertainment, decorations, and travel.

Goyder offers the following tips to help achieve financial balance:

  • Tackle your debt: Organize your debts in order of their interest rates and pay off the one with the highest interest rate first. Also consider consolidating all of your loans under one umbrella.
  • Track and prioritize spending: Look at your monthly expenses to get a better idea of your daily spending. Include everything, even small items such as snacks and coffee. Prioritize your spending by looking at small adjustments that you can make easily before moving on to bigger items. Try to tuck away a fixed amount into savings or investments, such as a Tax-Free Savings Account or an RRSP.
  • Use free online tools: Online debt calculators can help you track your overall debt and how this compares to your income and savings. These online tools are free and easy to use so that you can get a consolidated view of your full financial picture.
  • Get professional advice: Speaking to a qualified financial advisor can give you a better idea of your overall credit situation and advice on what strategies you can use to reduce your debt load and stick to your savings plan.

Provincial Highlights

Provincial Highlights
Percentage of Canadians who spent more than intended compared to a year ago: (opens PDF in new window) compared to a year ago:


31 per cent
(down from 33 per cent a year ago)

British Columbia

30 per cent (no change)


29 per cent
(down from 31 per cent a year ago)

Saskatchewan and Manitoba

32 per cent
(down from 35 per cent a year ago)


32 per cent
(down from 36 per cent a year ago)


29 per cent
(up from 28 per cent a year ago)

Atlantic Canada

35 per cent
(down from 37 per cent a year ago)

Amount Canadians spent more than intended (opens PDF in new window):


(up $37.80 from $429.30 in 2010)

British Columbia

(up $50.30 from $493.10 in 2010)


(up $25.20 from $506.60 in 2010)

Saskatchewan and Manitoba

(up $28 from $380.40 in 2010)


(up $64.10 from $401.60 in 2010)


(up $23.60 from $392.50 in 2010)

Atlantic Canada

(down $49.10 from $521.30 in 2010)

About RBC Post-Holiday Spending Poll
The survey was conducted online via Ipsos Reid's national I-Say Consumer Panel to 4,479 Canadians. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. Data collection was January 9 to 16, 2012. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100 per cent response rate would have an estimated margin of error of ±1.46 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would have been had the entire population of adults in Canada been polled.

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For more information, please contact:

Ka Yan Ng, RBC Corporate Communications, 416-974-1794
Matt Gierasimczuk, RBC Corporate Communications,


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