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Consumers Ready to Add $100 to Holiday Shopping, Survey Says

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Mid-November is "go" time for millions of U.S. holiday shoppers, and this year that means a more financially aggressive outlook for shoppers.

One study puts a dollar figure on the amount by which Americans will outspend their their holiday budgets last year: about $100.

The survey, from Discover Financial Services (DFS - Get Report), says consumers plan to bump up their spending to $838 from $748. Women are especially eager to pump up holiday financial volume, telling Discover they will spend $165 more than they did last year.

That's an encouraging sign for U.S. retailers, who consider the holiday shopping season to be a "make or break" deal for annual revenues. If women, widely considered by retailers to handle the family finances, are budgeting more money for holiday shopping, the near-term financial outlook brightens for merchants.

The Discover survey is also full of other financial "vital signs" from U.S, households as the holidays draw near. Here's a closer look:
  • Budgets are set. Just because Americans plan on spending more over the next six weeks doesn't mean they don't have a financial plan for the holidays. The survey notes 51% of Americans say they have a budget this year and are determined to hold to it.
  • Good deals are the big factor. Forty-two percent of consumers say that of all factors affecting their buying outlook, retailers' sales and promotions are at the top of that list. That beats household spending (27%) and a consumer's job situation (13%) by a wide margin. Clearly, getting good value continues to be a part of the new economic normal for U.S. shoppers.
  • High-end shoppers are on the rise. Last year only 2% of survey respondents said they would spend between $1,000 and $5,000 on holiday spending. But shoppers must really be feeling their oats, as that figure up to 14% in 2012.
  • Bosses aren't the priority. Only 1% of U.S. consumers will spend the highest amount on a co-worker or a boss this holiday. No offense, though -- most of consumers' shopping budgets are geared toward children (42%) and significant others (26%). "Close friends" will get the lion's share of holiday presents from 6% of consumers.
  • Shipping is a big plus. Discover asked survey respondents what the optimal deal would be when shopping online. 79% said free shipping was best, followed by exclusive sales and offers, and coupon codes, which women particularly found favorable. Free shipping was considered a non-negotiable "must have" by holiday shoppers.
  • Consumers are getting fickle. The gift that shows you really care this year is cash, or at least a gift card. Both items topped the "wish lists" of gifts both genders want to see under the tree this year.

Consumers also say they expect to lean on their credit cards rewards points to help defray the cost of Christmas shopping. In addition, 14% of holiday shoppers -- an all-time high for the Discover survey -- say they will restrict their shopping to online retailers.

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