Consumers are getting a jump start on the holiday shopping season, but with the economy still weighing heavily on their minds, they're keeping a conservative approach when it comes to their gift-giving budgets.

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That's according to the National Retail Federation's holiday consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight.

"We expect holiday shoppers this year to be conservative and cautious, but still excited about the holiday shopping season," said Kathy Grannis, spokesperson for the National Retail Federation. "With the economy still a concern, the average person will spend about $749 on holiday merchandise. That's up slightly from the $740 they spent last year."

Where will they be spending their money?

"A majority said that online is one of the most attractive options for them. There's no question that department stores and discount stores are among the top options for holiday shoppers as well," said Grannis. "We also have anxious shoppers this year. About 22 percent of those polled said they'd begin shopping in October. That's up from about 20 percent who said so last year. Overall, four in 10 Americans say that they'll begin their holiday shopping before Halloween."

The economy has always impacted consumers' spending plans, but this year, many are now accustomed to living on a budget, so a 'new normal' has emerged.

"It's not so much that people are feeling better about the economy so they're going to spend more. It's really that the average person has been using coupons and has become a more savvy shopper because of the economy," said Grannis. "The economy has been a problem for a long time and people are compensating by using coupons daily and comparison shopping, cutting back on the amount of gifts and even making gifts."

Self-gifting has reached an all-time high as well, with six in 10 shoppers planning to treat themselves to something nice.

"The average person will spend about $140 on themselves or maybe on an item their child needs now that won't necessarily go under the tree on Christmas morning," said Grannis.

Mobile shopping will be a large part of the shopping experience this year as well. According to the survey, more than half, or 52.9 percent, of those who own smartphones and nearly two-thirds, or 64.1 percent, who own tablets plan to use their devices to research and purchase holiday merchandise.

"Shoppers will use their smartphones and their tablets to compare prices, see what their peers are saying, look up information and purchase products. Retailers, on the other hand, will use mobile apps, text messages and the like to send coupons and offers in an effort to attract holiday shoppers who might be in the area."