When it comes to holiday shopping, Canadians say they're feeling more generous than last year -- but they're also more conscious of how they're going to pay for their purchases, according to a new survey by the Royal Bank.

According to the data collected by Ipsos Reid from more than 3,000 shoppers across Canada, shoppers will spend an average of $640 on presents this year. But most were planning to pay with cash or debit, with purchases on credit coming in third place.

This year's expected spending is about $15 higher than last year's estimate -- and well below the spending levels expected by Atlantic Canadians, who expect to throw down an average of $877 on the latest toys, games and gadgets.

About 90 per cent of Canada's eastern-most residents said they'll buy gifts this year, compared to 80 per cent nationally.

Figures for the rest of Canada:

  • Manitoba and Saskatchewan: 88 per cent will give gifts and spend an average of $686
  • Alberta: 82 per cent will give gifts and expect to spend an average of $703
  • Ontario: 79 per cent will give gifts and spend an average of $663 on average
  • British Columbia: 76 per cent will give gifts and expect to spend an average of $674
  • Quebec: 78 per cent will give gifts and expect to spend an average of $461

Respondents in almost all regions said they plan to spend more on gifts than last year, a sign Canadians could be feeling more upbeat about this year's economy.

But Atlantic Canadians also came out ahead in another area of the survey, when it came to non-gift holiday purchases, such as decorations, parties and travel. There, they plan to spend $100 more than the national average: $612 compared to $512.

While their extra spending could be interpreted as an added dose of holiday cheer, easterners also tend to feel the weight of their buys more heavily than other Canadians, according to RBC.

Shoppers who went over-budget last year in that part of the country spent an average of $521 more than planned, compared to $429 elsewhere in Canada -- and had to make holiday hangover cuts to their entertainment, lunch and day-to-day living costs to make up the difference.

RBC released the survey as an opportunity to remind Canadians to plan their budgets before they hill the malls, and encourages people to decide what they can afford and try to work within those limits.

"It can be easy to get carried away with the holiday spirit when you're out shopping," said Maria Contreras, RBC product manager, in a statement released by the bank on Tuesday, adding a message often lost in the haze of holiday sales and endless parties.

"Enjoying the holidays doesn't have to come with a big price tag attached."