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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) -- Two-thirds of U.S. consumers have yet to finish their holiday shopping, and 41 percent expect to finish at least a week prior to Christmas, according to a new survey.
One-fourth of consumers will be shopping the week leading into Christmas, including Christmas Eve, according to the first annual American Express Spending and Saving Tracker research report.
"Actually, we found in this holiday season there is this game of watching and waiting ... that deals will get sweeter as the clock winds down," said Mona Hamouly, a spokeswoman for the report.
Some 62 percent of consumers are waiting until the last minute to shop for the holiday.
Thirty-one percent are waiting for the best deals before finishing their shopping, while about 20 percent plan to do so at the last minute because they are still saving or are busy, and one in 10 say they are waiting for that last pay check before the holidays.
Hamouly said consumers seem to be "managing their cash flow and seeking out those great deals" this year.
Over the next 30 days, 65 percent of people expect to spend the same or more than they spent in the past 30 days and one-third intend to spend less, according to the survey prepared for American Express.
Hamouly said the weak economy was a large factor in consumers' attitude toward shopping, with many feeling cash-strapped.
In addition to a general sample of consumers, the survey targeted two sub-groups -- those designated as "affluents" and "young professionals."
Affluents were defined as having a minimum annual household income of $100,000, while young professionals were those who were less than 30 years old, had a college degree and a minimum annual household income of $50,000.
During the next 30 days, among consumers who expect to spend more, 56 percent say they will be spending the most on holiday gifts.
More than 40 percent expect to spend less in the next month because they are trying to save money, the prices of goods have increased, or they want to maintain a budget. One-third cite the need to reduce their debt.
"Even for the affluent population, they want to get the best deals too," Hamouly said.
The two top items consumers will be buying over the next 30 days are groceries and holiday gifts.
(Editing by Paul Simao)
Reporting by Bernard Orr