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'Tis the Season for Shoppers to Pay as They Go

Consumers plan to spend more on gifts, but to also stay within their budget . / Credit: Consumer cutting up credit card image via Shutterstock

 Though Thanksgiving is still more than a week away, many Americans have already made a dent in their holiday shopping, according to a new consumer survey.  And most of us will make it a pay-as-you-go holiday.

More than half of Americans (52.8 percent) have already started chipping away at their holiday shopping lists this year, up from 51.4 percent last year, according to a poll of more than 9,000 consumers sponsored by the National Retail Federation, a trade group.  And 1 in 50 (1.9 percent) claims to have completed their holiday shopping.

Top-of mind for consumers this year is scoring hot holiday deals, the federation said. Even though 20 percent of consumers plan to spend more this year than in 2011, they will still be trying to stay within their budget and will map out their holiday season strategy to capitalize on the best deals around before setting foot in any store or logging onto any website.

According to the survey, nearly 6 in 10 (59.7 percent) consumers will splurge on fashion and apparel items and other accessories. About the same amount of people (59.2 percent) will buy gift cards, which are also the most requested gift item. Children will also benefit this holiday season, as  45.1 percent of people say they will buy toys. Additionally, 22.5 percent of shoppers will surprise someone special with jewelry, the highest amount since 2007. 

Other popular gifts will be books, CDs, DVDs, videos and video games (51.5 percent), electronics (31.7 percent), personal care or beauty items (24.4 percent) and food and candy (32.6 percent). 

There will also be less wear-and-tear on consumer credit cards this holiday season, the survey found.  Most shoppers said they would prefer to use money they already have or have saved up to buy holiday gifts.

More than 4 in 10 (43.4 percent) will rely on debit cards as their primary form of payment. An additional 25.2 percent will use cash and 2.8 percent will use a check. Fewer than 3 in 10 (28.7 percent) will charge their gifts. 

More holiday shoppers trying to find the perfect gift this year will be looking for inspiration online, the survey found. Nearly half (47.3 percent) of consumers will look for holiday gifts online. Coming in second, 45.2 percent of Americans will take a stroll through a physical store to find the ideal gift.

"In order to win over savvy shoppers this year, retailers are well aware that their deals have to stand out, and it looks like there’s plenty of people eager to get their hands on the exclusive promotions we are already seeing,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. "With more promotions to come, gift givers will have ample opportunities this holiday season to seek out the perfect gift — either  for themselves or for others."  

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.