NEW YORK -- Four new types of American shoppers have emerged this holiday season.
There's the bargain hunter who times deals and the midnight buyer who stays up late for discounts.
There's also the returner who gets buyer's remorse and the "me" shopper who self-gifts.
It's the latest shift by consumers in the fourth year of a weak U.S. economy. Shoppers are expected to spend $469.1 billion during the holiday shopping season that runs from November through December.
While it won't be known just how much Americans spent until the season ends Saturday, it's already clear they are shopping differently than they have in years past.
"We're seeing different types of buying behavior in a new economic reality," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group.
The bargain timer
Cost-conscious shoppers haven't just been looking for bargains this season. They've also been more deliberate about when to find those deals.
Many believe the biggest bargains come at the beginning and end of the season, which has created a kind of "dumbbell effect" in sales.
The midnight buyer
Bargain shoppers used to wake up at the crack of dawn to take advantage of big discounts on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. This year, some shoppers instead stayed up late on Thanksgiving night.
This shift in behavior was in large part due to retailers' efforts to outdo each other during the traditional start to the holiday shopping season. Stores like Macy's, Best Buy and Target for the first time opened at midnight on Thanksgiving night, offering deals that once were reserved for the next day.
Shoppers who were lured into stores by bargains gleefully loaded up on everything from discounted tablet computers to clothing early in the holiday season.
But soon after, many suffered a case of buyer's remorse and rushed back to return some of the items that they bought.
The 'me' shopper
One for you; one for me.
After scrimping on themselves during the recession, Americans turned more self-indulgent. It's a trend that started last year but became more prevalent this season.
According to the National Retail Federation, spending for nongift items will increase by 16 percent this holiday season to $130.43 per person. That's the highest number recorded since the group started tracking it in 2004.