Layaway programs, used to encourage consumer spending, have been around since the Great Depression. The concept is simple. You find something you want, make a deposit, and have the item held until paid in full.
While layaway programs provide an alternative to making purchases on credit, there are some caveats to be aware of. As you begin planning for the holidays, carefully consider the pros and cons for each of your options.
One thing to note is that while most layaway programs have some similarities, each program will have a unique set of rules. This is exemplified in the list of top layaway programs. When comparing layaway options, you’ll want to start by determining the following:
- Can you apply for layaway online or do you have to apply in person?
- What items qualify for layaway?
- What is the minimum amount per item and minimum total purchase amount required?
- What is the required down payment amount?
- Are there start up, restocking, or cancellation fees?
- How much time will I have to pay my purchase off?
- How and how often will I have to make my payments?
Holiday expenses add up. If you can’t afford to make all your holiday purchases at once, layaway may be a good option for you. These programs will allow you to spread your payments, making holiday expenses just a little more manageable.
One of the most notable incentives for using a layaway program is avoiding debt. Paying a small fee on a large purchase beats charging the item and paying interest on your purchase for months to come. Just note that paying a startup fee of $10 on a $300 item and a $30 item is not the same.
Beat the holiday rush.
Layaway gives us an opportunity to secure items that are in high demand during the holidays. If you’re lucky, you may come across a good deal. In any case, you’ll rest easy knowing you won’t have to worry about availability later on.
Fees add up.
They differ by store, but most programs have fees. Stores may have a non-refundable setup fee typically ranging from $5 to $10. Additional fees may include fees for restocking items or canceling your purchase; these usually range from $5 to $25.
Though you have the comfort of knowing you’ve secured your item, the item is locked in at the current price. If a better deal comes around, retailers will likely not adjust your balance to reflect the promotional price.
Layaway, like credit, is convenient but allows us to spend money we don’t currently have. You’re left to wonder whether spending so much on the holidays is really in our best interest in the long run.
As you now know, there’s a lot to think about when deciding whether or not layaway is right for you. Always read the fine print and carefully weigh your options before making a decision. Remember, if you wish to avoid paying interest, fees, and overspending, you always have the options of saving up instead. It’s never too late to start.