(CNN) -- The holiday purse strings are starting to loosen after being held tight for the past two years, according to a new poll from Consumer Reports.
But shoppers aren't going crazy with their money either, they're looking for good deals -- 42 percent say getting the best prices on holiday gifts is critical.
"Credit is tight, unemployment remains high, the value of their homes has dropped and many Americans are facing the prospect of higher taxes of all levels," according to Tod Marks with Consumer Reports. "So while it's a bit surprising that some plan to spend somewhat more than last year, the fact is they're insisting on value, value, value."
An economy slowly edging out of recession also seems to be improving the mood of shoppers.
Forty percent of adults expect their holiday season to be happier than last year, the poll shows. Households with kids under 12 and younger adults -- ages 18 - 34 -- are particularly optimistic.
"Consumers are optimistic, but they don't necessarily believe that happy days are here again," according to Marks, who said economic challenges are still daunting for many.
So much so, that about one in three Americans plan to spend less this holiday season, but down from 42 percent in 2008.
And nearly half of Americans, 47 percent, plan to set a budget for their holiday purchases, the poll reveals. The figure is down 12 percent from 2008.
But making a budget and sticking to it are two different things.
Of the 36 percent of consumers who made a budget last year, 39 percent reported that they exceeded it and 5 percent said they went way over budget.
Consumer Reports surveyed 1,010 adults October 14-18 for the poll.