ICYMI: Learning from our spending patterns

From a recent TJ article:

Statistics Canada’s annual survey of household spending (SHS) provides a portrait of how the average household in New Brunswick spends its income each year.   The 2012 spending data confirms New Brunswick’s status as a population that is aging, rural and not particularly focused on our health.

Reflecting the province’s aging population, New Brunswick households spend twice as much of their annual household income on private health care plan premiums, 40 per cent more on prescribed medicines and pharmaceutical products and 45 per cent more on funeral service expenses compared to the average household across Canada.  At the same time, we spend 31 per cent less on education.

We also spend twice as much on the purchase of pets and pet-related goods compared to households across Canada.  As our kids move out west to work, we may be filling the void with our pets.  New Brunswick households spend 53 per cent more on the purchase of recreational vehicles (RVs) presumably so we can go and visit our kids living in Alberta.

Confirming the importance of our rural population and nature-based tourism, New Brunswick households spend 3.5 times as much on the purchase of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) compared to Canadians as a whole.  We also spend twice as much on trucks and satellite TV services.  On the flip side, we spend 83 per cent less on public transportation (not including taxis)  which is a direct reflection of the lack of any significant urban population in New Brunswick. 

If spending patterns are any indication, New Brunswickers are more likely to be couch potatoes than other Canadians.  We spend 16 per cent more on home entertainment equipment and services but 29 per cent less on dues and fees for sports and recreation facilities.  We also spend 32 per cent less of our household income on bicycles.  But we spend 45 per cent more on restaurant snacks and beverages.

We allocate much more of our household income to cigarettes compared to other Canadians but spend less on booze. New Brunswickers spend over 50 per cent more of annual household income on tobacco products and smokers’ supplies compared to the average Canadian household but 24 per cent less on alcoholic beverages.

We spend nine per cent less on government-run lotteries but twice as much on other games of chance such as bingos and casinos.

On average, we pay considerably less income taxes than other Canadians.

In 2012, the average household in New Brunswick contributed $9,695 to the tax man in the form of federal and provincial income taxes compared to over $13,000 for the average household across Canada.  This is partially a result of lower overall household income but our effective income tax rate is 15 per cent compared to 17 per cent for Canadian households as a whole.

These surveys are interesting because they provide clues as to our priorities as a society.  Why do we spend so much less on education and so much more on restaurant snacks and beverages?

Are we focusing more on our pets to replace family members who have left the province to pursue their careers elsewhere?

Does our focus on nature-based tourism makes us more or less sensitive to the development of our natural resource industries?  The forestry industry, as an example, has built up a massive network of roads and trails now used by the ATV and skidoo owners to traverse the province’s wilds.

Will the income taxes paid gap with the rest of Canada get worse as more New Brunswickers move into retirement and see a lowering of their annual household income?

The data itself doesn’t provide the answers but it certainly makes us stop and ponder the questions.