2018 Holiday Debt Survey

Deck the halls with bills of holly

Manulife Bank surveyed just over 2000 Canadians between the of ages 20 and 69 to uncover how they feel about debt and holiday spending. The survey results provide thought-provoking insights everyone can use to start thinking about their own spending and personal debt management.

The survey1 revealed that even though eight in 10 Canadians say the holidays have become too focused on spending money, more than 60 percent of those planning to spend are willing to go into debt to buy gifts for family and friends. Overspending during the holiday season can leave you with a financial hangover that lasts into the new year.


Key findings:

Manulife Bank debt survey reveals money issues have an impact on Canadians’ relationships and mental health.

  • Six in 10 Canadians planning to spend over the holidays either don’t have a budget or think it’s likely they’ll overspend
  • A quarter of Canadians agree that they are more stressed about finances over the holidays than the rest of the year and they can’t afford to spend what they are expected to
  • Three in 10 say they struggle to pay off debt after the holidays
  • 30% also agree the holiday season undoes all the good financial decisions they’ve made throughout the year

debt survey icono graphic -manulife bank

Will you take on debt this holiday season?

Despite rising interest rates and common perceptions of consumerism tied to the holidays, 60 per cent of holiday spenders are still willing to go into debt to make purchases this holiday season, according to Manulife Bank’s 2018 fall debt survey.

This pressure can leave Canadians feeling defeated during the upcoming holiday season. Of those planning to spend this holiday season, four in 10 already have a budget in mind, however, more than half of those think they will overspend this holiday season. Three-quarters of those planning to use a form of credit say they’ll use credit cards as their main form of payment.

“As needs and expectations evolve rapidly, it’s easy to lose sight of financial goals,” said Rick Lunny, President and CEO, Manulife Bank. “We’re looking to make financial decisions easier and lives better for Canadians, so they take action and manage their money.”

Regardless of their willingness to make purchases, three in 10 people planning to spend say they end up regretting the amount of money they have spent during the holiday season year-to-year. This leads to a struggle to pay off debt after the holidays."

With more than half of holiday spenders feeling pressured to purchase gifts for loved ones, about eight in 10 believe the holidays are too focused on spending money, according to the survey. This proves to have negative effects on mental health with four in 10 Canadians agreeing they get stressed or anxious leading up to the holiday season and the holidays cause higher financial stress than any other time of the year.

The financial hangover of the holidays may last well into the New Year and beyond, especially as interest rates climb higher and household debt across Canada remain near record levels. The survey shows that throughout the year, more than half of Canadians feel debt, in general, prevents them from doing the things they want to do and impacts their ability to save for retirement. Even more alarming is that four in 10 Canadians with debt don’t think they will ever be debt-free.

In addition to the negative feelings around debt, Canadians continue to hide finances. One in 10 indebted Canadians admit they have completely hidden the cost of a purchase. While most purchases were electronics, clothing, and entertainment, 18 per cent of men and 8 per cent of women admitted to hiding the cost of a vehicle from a loved one.

Financial worries cause stress for many Canadians and during the holidays that stress increases."

Lunny says “Even the most conservative spender can feel overwhelmed during the holidays, but a little planning can go a long way. Write out your costs, think about what’s achievable and necessary, while finding ways to spend more time with family and friends and less money to relieve stress and reduce the burden of debt.

“As the Bank that works in our customers’ best interest, we want them to feel confident they have support when it comes to managing and reducing debt. Working with an independent advisor is good first step during the holidays and year-round.”

Manulife Bank is committed to helping you make confident financial decisions. Don’t let debt and financial stress put a strain on your holidays. Start talking to your advisor about debt management today.

The Manulife Bank of Canada poll surveyed 2,003 Canadians in all provinces between ages 20 and 69 with household income of more than $40,000. The survey was conducted online by Ipsos between August 31 and September 5, 2018. National results were weighted by gender, age, region, and education. This survey has a credibility interval of +/- 2.5%. Manulife Bank, Manulife Bank & Stylized M Design, and Stylized M Design are trademarks of The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company and are used by Manulife Bank under license.