What millionaires are buying for the holidays

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Forget the white Lexus or Mercedes with a red bow on the top. Most of today's millionaires plan to spend their holiday money on gift cards, travel and parties.

According to the CNBC Millionaire Survey, more than half of today's millionaires plan to spend $1,000 or more during the holidays, and nearly a third plan to spend more than $2,500.

About three-quarters of them will spend the same as last year and 10 percent will spend more. Only 15 percent will spend less.

The spending of the wealthy and affluent can have a huge impact on the holidays, since the top 5 percent of consumers often account for as much as 40 percent of consumer outlays, according to economists. While many American consumers are still struggling with slow-growing wages and wealth, the affluent have benefited from rising stocks and housing gains this year, giving them more confidence to spend for the holidays.

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"Their mood is much better than it was six months ago," said George Walper, president of Spectrem Group, the Chicago-based research firm that conducts the study for CNBC.

When it comes to what they buy, however, today's millionaires are more focused on family and experiences than big boxes and bling (or at least, that's what they told our surveyors).

"The bad news is that no one is getting a Mercedes with the red bow on it," Walper said. "But we are seeing an interest in spending on leisure activities, travel, some with fashion."

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Nearly half of millionaires surveyed plan to spend more than $500 on travel and at least $100 on family parties. More than half plan to spend $100 or more on fashion or clothing, with men spending more.

Electronics are also a popular category (around 40 percent plan on spending $100 or more). But gift cards are probably the most popular gift among millionaires, with nearly two-thirds spending at least $100 on gift cards and nearly a quarter spending more than $500 on gift cards or cash.

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Jewelry was less popular, with less than 20 percent spending at least $100. Only 8 percent of millionaires plan to spend money on autos this holiday season, with only 1 percent spending more than $25,000 on a car.

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Despite their reputation for self-interest, millionaires are not self-gifters. Only 23 percent plan to spend more than $100 on themselves this holiday season, while more than half will spend the most amount of money on children or grandchildren. One in five will spend the most on their spouse.

Younger millionaires, however, are more into self-gifting. Fully 31 percent of millionaires under the age of 55 will spend at least $100 on themselves this holiday season. Eight percent of that group will give themselves the biggest gift this holiday season, compared with 2 percent for those over 56.

—Watch CNBC Wednesday for full, exclusive coverage of the CNBC Millionaire Survey from Robert Frank.