NEW YORK -- A holiday warning: Last-minute shopping may be hazardous to your wealth.
That's especially true this year with so many merchants offering deep discounts to lure customers to their stores, financial experts say.
"When you're rushed, you lose the opportunity to comparison shop and you often buy impulsively," said Don Blandin, president of the American Savings Education Council in Washington, D.C. "It's not a good deal when you overspend or go into debt for something you don't need."
Judith Jean-Louis, a 38-year-old nurse who was shopping this week at Macy's department store for Christmas gifts, agrees.
"Prices are so low this year that there are many temptations," she said. "It's easy to end up buying too much."
On this particular shopping expedition, in fact, she hadn't found a gift for her husband. But the discounts were so good in the linens department that she bought new sheets and a comforter.
Valrie Banks, 47, who works as a housekeeper, also said she was finding it difficult to pass up department store bargains.
"It's cheaper, so you buy more," she said. Her booty from a recent trip included bedding for her niece, a sweater for her son and a bottle of perfume -- "reduced 15 percent" -- for herself.
Apparently looking for prices to go even lower, a lot of people have delayed the start of their holiday shopping this year. A survey by American Express found that more than 30 percent of people waited until December, up from 25 percent last year. Men are twice as likely as women to be procrastinators, with many avoiding the malls until the final week before Christmas.
Kathleen Gurney, a specialist in the psychology of money and an adviser to the GE Center for Financial Learning, said shoppers should not be distracted by deep discounts.
"Too many people look at the wrong end of the equation," she said. "You have to focus on what you're spending, not what you're saving."
Gurney added that it also helps to make a list and stick to it.
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