People planning to spend average of $1,610

A BMO holiday outlook suggests Canadians’ spending spirits have improved this season, with the bank projecting an average 15 per cent jump in holiday spending over last Christmas.

The Bank of Montreal’s 2012 Holiday Spending Outlook finds that survey respondents plan to spend an average of $1,610 this holiday season, up from $1,397 in 2011.

Shoppers surveyed say they plan to shell out an average of $674 for gifts this year, compared to an average of $583 last year. The top reasons for spending more are having more people to shop for and being better off, financially.

Spending on trips is also projected to increase, while amounts allocated for entertaining were expected to fall from a year ago. Nearly half of respondents say they’ll set a loose budget, while three-in-ten say they plan on sticking to a firm budget.

Other analysts weighing in on holiday spending this year also believe Canadians will be more generous with their finances.

A report released last week by Ernst & Young predicted Canadian holiday sales would rise 3.5 per cent over last year, supported by signs of improvement in consumer confidence.

A study from Deloitte has projected Canadians will spend one to two per cent more this holiday season, but an increasing number will check for the best prices online before they head to the mall in a season it expects to be highly price competitive.

Last year, sales were restrained by high household debt, modest wage growth and turbulent global markets. But the economy has improved slightly since then and consumers appear more willing to open their wallets.

A survey conducted by BMO in January found households kept holiday spending in check, with 76 per cent spending less or the same on holiday gifts, trips and entertaining than in 2010.