How Albertans are changing their spending habits to offset inflation

Due to inflation, Alberta households are skimping on some of their usual spending habits, according to a new survey from the Angus Reid Institute.

Angus Reid Institute survey shows changing habits brought on by rising prices

A file photo shows cars driving in southwest Calgary in 2018. A new poll suggests 43 per cent of Albertans have been driving less, among other changes to their habits to save money. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Alberta households are skimping on some of their usual spending habits due to inflation, according to a new survey from the Angus Reid Institute.

While 80 per cent of Canadians report cutting back on spending in recent months, folks in Saskatchewan (92 per cent), Alberta (86 per cent) and the Atlantic provinces (85 per cent) are more likely to have made changes to their budgets.

"The big takeaway here is while we've heard the macroeconomists and the financial experts [say] we've reached peak inflation, the worst is over, it doesn't meant that Canadians are not profoundly feeling the squeeze," said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute.

"They are."

That's led to actions like deferring RRSP and TFSA contributions, cancelling travel plans and reducing donations to charities.

In Alberta, the most common changes to offset higher costs of living are cutting back on discretionary spending (64 per cent), delaying a major purchase (48 per cent) and driving less (43 per cent).

Those numbers are all higher than in February, when 60 per cent of Albertans said they were cutting back on discretionary spending, 47 per cent were delaying a major purchase and 31 per cent were driving less.

"These are significant behavioural changes that we're seeing at a really unprecedented time in really the last 40 years," said Kurl. "For a lot of young Canadians, this is new territory."

She said the broader impacts of these kinds of behaviour changes are yet to be seen.

CBC News spoke to Calgarians about how their habits have changed recently.

"We are planning a holiday but we've had to really look at what we're going to do … and we're just saying no, we're not doing some of the extra things," said retiree Heather Toothe.

Meagan Dashkin said she's putting off big purchases, including a new computer, because of food prices and increased rent. 

Marlene Harris said increased interest rates for loans and mortgages have her trying to save elsewhere.

"I've stopped buying expensive meats and produce that I don't need to buy that I might wish to buy," she said.

Thirty-six per cent of Albertans are scaling back on charitable giving, the highest across Canada, and 60 per cent say they can't keep up with the cost of living.

Job uncertainty

More than two in five Alberta households say they're dealing with uncertainty when it comes to job stability.

Thirty-six per cent of Canadians are concerned that they or someone in their household could lose their job because of the economy.

That number rises to 42 per cent in Alberta, the highest proportion among the provinces and territories. This response, however, has decreased slightly since February, when 46 per cent were worried about potential job losses.

Kurl said this is not new: Albertans tend to have a more pessimistic perspective on their economic outlook compared with the rest of the country.

The online survey polled a representative randomized sample of 2,279 Canadian adults from Aug. 8 to 10. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With files from Colleen Underwood