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Are Canadians saving more or less during the pandemic?

Canadian households saved around five times more of their disposable income in 2020 than in 2019

Canadians are saving more than ever thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s because they’ve grown more cautious with their expenses or they simply don’t have anywhere to spend their money because of the ongoing lockdowns, more cash is being set aside into Canadians’ savings accounts than in recent memory. In fact, Finder’s analysis of data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that Canadian households saved around five times more of their disposable income in 2020 than they did in 2019.

How much did Canadians save in 2020?

When the pandemic first hit in the second quarter of 2020, Canadian households were forecast to have saved an impressive 27.4% of their disposable income. With the average disposable income sitting at around $39,434, this means Canadians saved an estimated $2,701 in just one quarter. This is a significant increase compared to savings in the same quarter of 2019 which were projected to be just 3%, leaving Canadians with savings of $296 for the quarter.

When we look at the year in full, Canadians saved much more of their disposable income in 2020 than in previous years. On average, Canadians saved 14.75% of their disposable income in 2020, compared to just 2.9% of their disposable income in 2019. That equates to an annual savings of $5,816 in 2020 – around 5 times more than what was saved in 2019 ($1,144).

What will savings look like in 2021 and beyond?

The quarterly savings rate has steadily dropped from Q3 2020 and is expected to continue falling this year and next. At the end of last year, Canadians saved 10.9% of their income and this is expected to drop to 9.9% in the first quarter of 2021.

Taking the average across all four quarters, Canadians are expected to save an average of 8.5% of their disposable income this year, leaving them with annual savings of just $3,332.

In 2022, the average savings rate is set to decline even further to 5.4%, leaving Canadians with $2,120 in annual savings. This means that within the next two years, Canadians will be saving around $3,697 less than they did in 2020.

How does Canada compare to other countries globally?

At 27.4%, Canadians saved the biggest chunk of their disposable income in the spring lockdowns of 2020 compared to 4 other countries included in the analysis. Americans followed closely behind, saving 26% of their income.

Canadians even out-saved Germans, who are typically renowned for their saving habits, with an average savings rate of 21.1%. Australians saved slightly less at 19.9%, while the Japanese saved the least over this time frame at just 9.9% of their disposable income.

However, when we look at the average savings over the year, Germany actually comes out on top, with an average annual savings of nearly 17%, while the US saved 15.9% and Canadians saved just 14.75%.

By 2022, households in all 5 countries are anticipated to save less of their disposable income than they did when lockdowns began. Canadians are set to see the biggest decline in savings compared to 2020 at $3,697, followed by Australians ($2,282), Germans ($1,731), Americans ($1,548) and the Japanese ($1,009).

Tips for saving smarter

1. Switch finance service providers

Changing banks, transferring credit cards or switching insurance providers may seem like more trouble than it’s worth, but if you compare your options, you can potentially save hundreds of dollars every year with just a few minutes of work.

2. Spend unexpected income carefully

If you received a stimulus payment throughout the pandemic, spend it wisely. If you’re paying off debt, you’ll be better off paying that first and saving on interest instead of letting it sit in a bank account. If you’re debt free and you don’t need the money for any immediate expenses, consider investing it for long-term returns. This rule applies to other sources of unexpected income too, like an inheritance or a bonus at work.

3. Pick up a side hustle

If you can’t save more, try earning more. With so many gig-economy apps on the market, there’s never been a better time to earn extra cash. These supplemental sources of income can even double as creative outlets – from mask-sewing to baking, almost any creative enterprise has an online customer base these days.

4. Pay yourself first

As soon as you receive your pay, set money aside for long-term saving goals or investments. That way you won’t be tempted to blow money sitting in your daily expense account. It can also help to set up automatic transfers so the money is tucked away before you have a chance to spend it.

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