Many consumers are loosening purse strings for the holiday shopping season

  • About half of consumers have either already started buying presents, or will get going before the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend in November.
  • The average amount that consumers across all age groups expect to spend is $819. Millennials' average is $861.
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With the economy strong and consumer confidence at an 18-year high, many households plan to boost their holiday spending.

About a quarter of consumers plan to spend more on gifts than they did last year, while 56 percent expect to spend about the same, according to new research from OpenX, an advertising technology company based in Pasadena, California.

Millennials are leading the spending charge, with 41 percent saying they'll spend more than last year. The average amount that consumers across all age groups expect to spend is $819, while the average for millennials is $861.

The OpenX research, based on a Harris Poll of more than 2,000 adult shoppers, also shows that many consumers aren't waiting to start holiday gift shopping.

About half of consumers have either already started buying presents, or will get going between October and the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend in November, which includes big sales-push days Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In fact, 64 percent would prefer to shop when it's convenient for them, not when retailers want them to, the survey shows.

If you want to avoid overspending on holiday gifts, the best way is to start with a budget instead of a gift list, experts say.

"Then allocate a dollar amount to each person you'll have to shop for," said Christopher Tracy, president of budgeting app Mvelopes. "That way, you start your shopping in your desired budget range instead of picking out gifts first."

Tracy also suggests purchasing off-brand items and taking advantage of coupons and sales, or even considering home-made gifts.

Additionally, he said, the holidays don't have to be all about spending money. For example, creating traditions — such as volunteering in the community or doing something special together as a family — can go a long way toward making the holidays memorable and meaningful.

"Families that set expectations around holiday spending and prioritize nonfinancial activities often tell us that they enjoy the holiday better, make better long-lasting memories and spend far less than past holidays," Tracy said.

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