"It felt less scary this year, but just more careful about choosing things," Maaike Almeida said.
"Last Christmas was definitely a lot tighter, but this Christmas I was able to do a little bit more and coming to do some post-Christmas shopping for myself," Lisa Williams said.
Retailers like Floradora on Dearborn took a conservative approach this season.
"We definitely saw a downturn back in the spring, so I was a little bit more careful in the fall and winter about keeping the inventory at a reasonable level," said Michael Blossom, Floradora.
The conservative approach paid off as Floradora clients loosened their purse strings.
"People were definitely back to shopping both for themselves and for gifts, and that's part of fun of holiday shopping," Blossom said.
Shoppers may not realize that every time they enter some stores, ShopperTrak makes note. ShopperTrak is an international firm based in Chicago. Using information from devices in stores paired with sales receipts, ShopperTrak analyzes shoppers' habits.
"We know that the purchasing was often times for themselves or for close in family, and it was very deliberate, and it was very needed as opposed to wants," said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak.
The fifth biggest shopping day of the year is the Saturday before Christmas, according to ShopperTrak; the fourth biggest is Christmas Eve; the third is December 23rd. The second is the day after Christmas, and the biggest shopping day is the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Overall, sales improved for the season 1.6 percent.
"While it's good, it's not necessarily totally in favor of the retailers. But we do see a turn around from the results from the previous years, which we think is a good indicator for the economy," said Martin.
ShopperTrak also saw more people using credit cards this year than last year.
It's unclear whether Americans may be going back to old habits of carrying credit card debt or if they are going to do a better job of paying off debtors.