Holiday Shopping

Canadians are revving up their credit and debit cards for a head-start on the holiday shopping season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday originated in the United States with retailers enticing deal-seekers on the weekend following American Thanksgiving. Wanting their piece of the pie, Canadian retailers followed suit and the late-November shopping binge now rivals Boxing Day in a battle of Canadian retail supremacy.

Numbers from last year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend show that shoppers in Saskatchewan spent the most, with the average transaction ringing in at $140.81, according to data from Moneris. Saskatchewan and Alberta, the two provinces with the highest average transactions, are also the provinces with the highest levels of consumer debt, according to Equifax.

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* Brought to you by Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc.

ANALYSISAmericans may be closest associated with the mania surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but sales actually fell in the US in 2014, while each province in Canada saw an increase in spending. And while the Canadian dollar amounts may not seem particularly outrageous, it is important to realize that these are average transactions, not total spending amounts. If you are hitting several stores, you are probably spending several hundred dollars.The price of plasticAlso of note is the fact that none of these transactions were made with cash. Moneris deals with plastic, and while it’s possible that these purchases were made with debit cards, it’s equally possible that credit cards bore the brunt of the shopping bonanza. The average Canadian planned to spend $885 on the 2014 holiday season, and with nearly half of Canadians living paycheque-to-paycheque, it’s entirely likely that credit cards were used for extra spending power.It is difficult to draw a connection between holiday spending and higher levels of consumer debt, but it is hard to ignore that the provinces which are deeper in debt (Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Newfoundland) are also the ones that appear eager to spend. Quebecers have the lowest level of non-mortgage consumer debt, and they also happen to have the lowest average transactions on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.For those without a plan to pay off their credit cards in January, suddenly the Black Friday “deal of the century” turns into an interest-laden ball and chain. Plug a holiday budget of $885 into a credit card debt calculator, and you’ll see that a “minimum-payment-only plan” will add enough interest to nearly double your total bill to $1692.50 and will take more than eight years to pay back.*Stay in control and take advantageBut the big shopping weekend is not all financial peril; with good planning it can mean the opposite. The deep discounts could help slash your holiday budget, and starting the shopping season in late November will help shoppers plan their purchases and cut down on the frantic last-minute spending surge that seems to plague procrastinators every year. Moneris continuously reports December 23rd as the busiest shopping day of the year, and if you’ve ever braved the bare shelves and huge crowds of that day, you know it is difficult to stay on budget.Inoculate yourself against the January credit card hangover by devising a manageable budget, writing a gift list that fits within that budget, consulting Black Friday and Cyber Monday flyers, and only buying the items that you planned to purchase. Nobody wants to be paying for Christmas 2015 while soaking up the sun in summer 2016.*Calculated using Consolidated Credit’s credit card debt calculator with an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of 19 per cent and minimum payments charged as interest plus one per cent of the total balance.

Province Average transaction 2014 Increase in spending from 2013 Average Provincial Consumer Debt
1. Saskatchewan $140.81 1% $23,347
2. Alberta $126.41 6% $27,313
3. Newfoundland and Labrador $119.21 9% $22,055
4. Prince Edward Island $117.83 15% $20,853
5. Manitoba $116.89 7% $17,573
6. New Brunswick $100.82 12% $21,449
7. Nova Scotia $99.84 0.3% $21,063
8. Ontario $98.50 6% $20,793
9. British Columbia $97.48 10% $23,011
10. Quebec $92.97 5% $17,758