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2022 Canadian Holiday Shopping Report

Despite concerns around supply chain disruptions and high prices, many Canadians are heading into the 2022 holiday season ready to spend.

By Clay Jarvis
Oct. 31, 2022

The 2022 holiday shopping season has arrived at a time of high inflation and growing economic uncertainty, but Canadians still intend to spend. More than 30 million Canadians (82%) plan on spending approximately $20.5 billion (an average of $675 per shopper) on gifts during the 2022 holiday season, according to a NerdWallet survey and analysis.

A new NerdWallet survey of more than 1,000 Canadian adults — 842 of whom plan to buy gifts for friends and loved ones during the holiday season — conducted online by The Harris Poll asked holiday shoppers how they intend to pay for their holiday purchases and how inflation is impacting their holiday spending decisions. We also asked them about last year’s holiday shopping credit card debt.

Key Findings

Canadians are split on how much to spend this holiday season

While a majority of Canadians (82%) plan to purchase gifts this holiday season, they’re divided when it comes to how much they expect to spend. Half of 2022 holiday shoppers (50%) foresee spending less than $500 on gifts for friends and loved ones; an equal proportion (50%) plan to spend $500 or more.

Fourteen percent of Canadians — approximately 5.2 million people — plan to spend more than $1,000 on holiday gifts between now and the end of 2022.

Accounting for varying holiday budgets, the average shopping spend for 2022 holiday shoppers is $675.

Holiday shopping hint

Sticking to a budget is difficult where gift buying and emotions are concerned. But going beyond pre-established spending limits can put an unexpected dent in a person’s savings. If a credit card’s being used to cover these extra costs, the interest charges can also put pressure on their future finances.

Holiday overspending can happen in a flash — a busy day at the mall, a furious few hours spent online — so it’s important for budgeters to keep track of all of their purchases. Knowing how much has been spent and how much of it might lead to interest charges will help consumers prepare for the post-holiday period.

Cash and credit cards are the preferred way to pay for gifts

Consumers could be paying unusually high prices for gifts this holiday season, but they’ll largely be using traditional means to make their purchases.

Fifty-nine percent of 2022 holiday shoppers plan to use a credit card to pay for holiday gifts this year, while 32% say they will only use a credit card. Cash, including debit cards and cheques, is the planned payment option for 50% of 2022 holiday shoppers. Twenty-one percent say they’ll use money from savings to foot their gift bills.

Far fewer 2022 holiday shoppers plan to make use of new or non-traditional payment solutions in 2022. Just 7% of 2022 holiday shoppers say they’ll use ‘buy now, pay later‘ services such as Affirm, Klarna or Afterpay. Three percent of 2022 holiday shoppers plan to use personal loans or cash advance apps (a relatively new alternative to payday loans), respectively. Only 1% of 2022 holiday shoppers plan to use payday loans to pay for gifts.

2022 holiday shoppers say other technologies will factor into their purchases. Ten percent say they’ll pay for most of their gifts using a digital wallet like Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay, while 15% will use coupon or cash-back sites and apps, such as Rakuten or Honey, when making holiday gift purchases.

Holiday shopping hint:

Some of today’s newer payment methods are convenient for buyers on a budget, particularly buy now, pay later and cash advance apps, but it’s important for consumers to be aware of the increased costs they might incur when using them.

“‘Buy now, pay later’ might sound enticing at the end of a long, expensive day of holiday shopping, but debt is debt,” says Shannon Terrell, personal finance expert at NerdWallet Canada. “Much like credit card users, BNPL borrowers who fail to pay off their balance on time could be hit with large fees or face debt collection.”

Cash advance apps make borrowing money quick and simple, but they operate similarly to payday loans, charging high interest rates on loans meant to be paid back in a few weeks, with extra fees if payments are missed or late. 

Before holiday shoppers use either of these options, they should understand all the applicable terms, conditions and fees, and be confident that they can make all scheduled payments on time.

2021 holiday debt still lingers for millions of Canadians

Over half (55%) of Canadians incurred credit card debt during the 2021 holiday season. Among them, 20% — approximately 4 million people — say that debt is still not paid off.

And it isn’t just lower income households carrying this year-old debt. Among those who incurred credit card debt during the 2021 holiday season, 18% of those with household incomes of $75,000 or more still have not paid it off.

Lingering credit card debt is more common among younger Canadians. Twenty-eight percent of millennials (ages 26-41) who incurred credit card debt during the 2021 holiday season say they still have not paid off their balances, compared to 13% of baby boomers (ages 58-76).

But most of those who incurred credit card debt during last year’s holiday season quickly erased it. Almost half (47%) say they paid off their credit card balance with the first statement, while 22% did so within one to three months. It took between four months and a year for 12% of those who incurred credit card debt during last year’s holiday season to pay it off.

Unpaid credit card balances can be costly. Let’s say someone charges this year’s estimated average holiday spend, $675, to a credit card with a typical interest rate of 19.99%. If they make only minimum payments of 3% each month, it would take them 50 months to pay off that balance entirely. They’d pay $318.20 in interest for a total cost of $993.20.

Holiday shopping hint

As of October 6, 2022, Canadian merchants are legally allowed to make customers pay the processing fees — also known as interchange fees — charged by Visa and Mastercard. This change could mean as much as an additional 2.4% being added to the cost of purchase made with those cards.

It’s unknown how many retailers will actually charge this fee to customers, so before deciding where to buy gifts, holiday shoppers should inquire about the intentions of their preferred retailers. If merchants intend to charge the processing fee, and shoppers want to avoid it, knowing in advance gives shoppers the option of searching for an alternative retailer. 

In general, anything Canadians can do to promptly reduce their credit card balances and subsequent interest charges is a win. Those who worry they’ll be unable to pay off their credit card bills for several months, for example, may want to consider opening a lower-interest line of credit and using it to consolidate credit card debt.

Inflation mixes holiday cheer with financial anxiety

Almost three-quarters of 2022 holiday shoppers (74%) say economic uncertainty, like inflation or the prospect of recession, for example, is making them wary of overspending on gifts. Fifty-eight percent of 2022 holiday shoppers expect supply chain issues to cause the big-ticket items they’re shopping for to be unavailable. The two concerns are closely related, as a lack of supply, from source materials to finished products, can lead to low stock and higher, budget-stretching prices.

The financial worries don’t end there. Thirty-seven percent of 2022 holiday shoppers say they feel pressure to spend more money on holiday gifts than they’re comfortable with. Another 27% say they will probably go into more debt than usual to purchase holiday gifts this year. 

Holiday shoppers are taking action in the face of high inflation

Confronted with high prices and the cascading effects on their personal finances, 81% of 2022 holiday shoppers say they’ll be taking action when purchasing gifts this year due to inflation.

Thirty-six percent of 2022 holiday shoppers say they’ll spend less per person this year compared to last year due to inflation, while 32% say they’ll be choosing more affordable items than in years past and 27% plan on giving gifts to fewer people than last year.

Holiday shopping tip

With inflation raging and a potential recession looming, Canadian consumers have a lot on their minds this holiday season — and probably still will when 2023 rolls around.

It’s important that any financial stress they’re feeling, whether it’s triggered by holiday spending or not, is dealt with in a healthy way before it impacts their relationships or mental health. That could mean setting clear boundaries around their holiday shopping budget (without guilt), speaking with a spouse or family member they can be vulnerable with, or reaching out to a financial therapist for helping creating a positive, proactive way forward.

Approaching personal finance in an open, honest and healthy way may not make life any cheaper in 2023, but it can help make it less stressful. It’s a gift Canadians can give to themselves.

Methodology

This survey was conducted online within Canada by The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet from September 9-12, 2022 among 1,038 Canadian adults ages 18 and older, among whom 842 plan to purchase gifts this holiday season (2022 holiday shoppers). The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval.  For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Marcelo Vilela at [email protected].

“2022 Holiday shoppers” refers to Canadians who plan on purchasing any gifts during the 2022 holiday season.

“Holiday season” refers to the period of time between Sept. 15 and the end of 2022.

We used Census population estimates and survey responses from StatCan to calculate the total number of Canadians who plan to buy gifts this holiday season, as well as number of Canadians still paying off 2021 holiday shopping debt.

About the Author

Clay Jarvis

Clay Jarvis is NerdWallet’s mortgage and real estate expert in Canada. Thus far, his entire professional writing career has revolved around real estate. Prior to joining NerdWallet, he was the editor and senior writer for four publications, including the leading website for the country’s mortgage industry, Mortgage Broker News. Clay has written 30,000-word examinations of Canada’s real estate investment market, interviewed the industry’s most powerful leaders and analysts, and has helped choose both the nation’s top realtors and mortgage brokers. He is based in Toronto, Ontario.

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