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The busiest shopping day of the year is just days away, and early predictions point to a conservative holiday season for the economy according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

According to the NRF holiday consumer spending survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average holiday shopper will spend $737.95 on gifts, décor, greeting cards and other holiday items. This is a 2 percent drop from the $752.24 average that shoppers spent last year.

However, while the spending average per shopper is decreasing, the NRF still predicts holiday sales will increase 3.9 percent overall to $602.1 billion.

“Though the foundation for solid holiday growth exists, Americans are questioning the stability of our economy,” said NRF President, CEO Matthew Shay. “We expect consumers to set a modest budget for gifts and other holiday related purchases as they wait and see what will become of the U.S. economy in the coming months.’

In the annual survey, NRF questioned shoppers about the continued gridlock in Washington regarding the economy and fiscal concerns. Congress struggling to come to agreements on everything from healthcare issues to the debt ceiling is having a toll on how Americans plan to shop this holiday season, according to Shay.

“Retailers have urged Congress and the administration to seek a long-term solution for funding the government and extending the debt ceiling instead of kicking the can down the road once again. A band-aid approach is not the answer. Americans deserve to feel good about spending their hard-earned money on gifts for others, and this holiday season it’s evident some could second-guess their spending.”

As a result of concerns with lawmakers in Washington, the NRF says consumers will likely cut back on self-gifting, for treating themselves to something when deals are too good to pass up. When asked if they would take advantage of any of this year’s sales, 57 percent of those surveyed said yes. Last year, 59 percent said yes.

The amount of money spent in self-gifting does have an impact on the economy. In 2011, consumers spend an average of $137.17 on self-gifts, in 2012 they spent on average of $140.43. This year, those actually taking advantage of holiday discounts are expected to spend an average of $129.62.

Many consumers said a lot of this year’s holiday budget will go toward gifts for family members, with less going toward friends and family.

“Consumers have had years to practice when it comes to managing tight budgets while still spending on items they need to, whether it be gifts or groceries for the family,” said Prosper Insights Consumers Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “Retailers can expect to see practical and refined attitudes from their customers this holiday season as families make thoughtful decisions about what they need to buy and what they can pass on.”

Online shopping will also have an impact on holiday sales, of those surveyed, 40 percent plan on shopping online.

The NRF 2013 Holiday Consumer Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey polled 6,415 consumers and was conducted between Oct. 1 and Oct. 8.

Shopping on Thanksgiving

While the NRF survey didn’t survey shoppers on when they would be shopping in stores, some consumers will definitely be taking advantage of stores opening a lot earlier than normal.

Last year, major chains such as Target and Walmart decided to make the biggest shopping day of the year start earlier, opening doors on Thanksgiving day. After nearly 35 million shoppers took advantage, Walmart and many others have decided to open even earlier this year.

While some will take advantage of the early discounts in an effort to avoid Black Friday altogether, opponents argue it is unfair for employees to have to come in earlier and earlier each year to work on a holiday.

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