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How Does the Average Canadian Household Spend its Earnings? You Might be Surprised!

If you live in Vancouver, as I do, chances are you spend a good percentage of your time talking to other Vancouverites about how expensive it is to live in the city. Not a week goes by that I don’t have some version of the “I’m going to move to Montreal if I keep having to spend most of my paycheck on my rent…” conversation. And it’s not just blowing smoke, either: a recent survey found that Vancouver is the most expensive city in North America (by contrast, New York was found to be 47th).

That’s why I was shocked to see this recently released infographic from the good people at, which shows the average Canadian household’s consumption habits, broken down by category, and by per province spending in those categories. You’d think that Vancouver’s notorious expensiveness would push BC’s status into the farthest red in many of these categories, particularly in housing.  Not so! Turns out, the most expensive place to live in Canada is the North.

Now, this probably points to a general ignorance on the part of most Canadians as to what it’s like to live in the northernmost reaches of this country (which is, in itself, a whole other conversation). I certainly had no idea, but once I began to think about statistics like housing, food and recreation, it started to make sense. Take housing: the average Canadian household spends close to the customary 1/3 of their income on housing. However, the Northwest Territories spends the most, ie: 30.5% to the national average of 27.8%. Same with food: Nunavut spends a whopping 24.3% of their income on food, whereas the national average is 14.3%.

Laid out this way, you really start to see that the key to Canadian survival is accessibility. While Vancouverites may complain about their pricey rents and booze, the average BC citizen is sitting pretty, close to food sources and housing materials that make living not as pricey as it could be. Never mind the cost of heating your house in winter, and other northerly concerns. Next time I complain about the price of something in BC, please remind me of this infographic, and the fact that my next meal doesn’t depend on the availability of ice roads!

Do you live in one of the high-spending provinces? Tell us if you spend as much as the infographic says, in the comments below.

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