Is layaway a good option for shoppers this holiday season

Wow! Where has the year gone? I can’t believe the holiday season is right around the corner. And, of course, that means the holiday shopping season has already begun. For many Americans these are still financially trying times and many people are looking to have a festive holiday with a frugal budget.

Recently, an old acquaintance has come back into the holiday shopping mix. Layaway is a payment plan option for buying big ticket items in installments without using a credit card. Many retailers offer layaway plans throughout the holiday shopping season, including, department, jewelry, appliance, and electronic stores. If you are considering using a layaway plan consider these tips.

Know what you can afford. Before entering into a layaway plan decide how much you can afford to spend and develop a budget. Don’t purchase an item on a layaway plan without shopping around for the best price. Make sure the item is affordable and you can pay it off within a reasonable time frame.

Read the fine print. Understand the terms and conditions of the layaway plan before signing on the dotted line. Make sure you understand the length of the payment plan, interest rates, and what happens if you fail to pay.

Understand the store’s return policy. You may buy something and decide you don’t want it half way through the layaway plan. Understanding the merchant’s return policy is crucial when paying for something over time. Do you get all or some of your money back? Will the merchant only offer store credit? Is the item even returnable once a layaway plan is set up? What if you need to make an exchange? These are questions to consider.

Consider other payment options. Often as consumers we will buy items as an instant gratification - especially when there is a “buy now, pay later” option available. Instead try saving for a major purchase. This way you won’t have to use in-store financing or a credit card.

For more helpful tips on layaways, read the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Alert called Layaway: Another Way to Buy and check us out at Should Layaway Go Away?.

Renee McGruder is a former communications coordinator and grant writer at MMI.