Layaway is back! At least it is according to a recent New York Times article reporting that Walmart is resurrecting the payment method. Putting expensive items on layaway was commonplace during most of the 20th century, but once credit cards became de rigueur, many places phased out layaway options. Well, times have changed yet again. From October 17 through December 16, Walmart customers can put 20 percent down toward electronic items or toys that cost more than $15 apiece. According to its layaway plan, customers will have to fork over an additional $5 service fee, but that beats a 15 percent APR (or higher) that credit cards charge.
And Walmart isn’t alone in the layaway trend. Sears reinstated the policy in 2008 and Toys R Us jumped on the bandwagon in 2009. Now, clothing hounds can put items on layaway at Burlington Coat Factory, Marshalls, T.J. Maxx and several others.
With layaway, you can furnish your house, get a new TV or stereo system, dress your kids for back to school and buy toys for the kids during the holidays—all without going into debt.
Get surround sound from Walmart: Vizio’s Surround Sound Home Theater with Wireless Subwoofer is a pretty penny at $348.98. But with a layaway plan, the system can sit in your living room after five $63 monthly payments. Besides having a slick design, the system is wireless, which means no messy entangled cables.
Get that winter jacket from Burlington Coat Factory: Yes, it’s still October. But winter will be here sooner than you think. Forking over money for a leather parka might not sound particularly appealing right now, but if you start with small payments, both you and your bank account won’t be frozen come December. To get the men’s Sergio Benini Leather Parka ($149.99), you’d need to put down a 20 percent deposit ($30), a $5 service fee, another $30 in two weeks and finish paying off the entire coat in 60 days—just in time for the air to turn crisp!
Splurge on the big toy for the holidays without going broke: At Toys R Us and Babies R Us, you can load up your cart with battery-powered mini-cars, bikes and play sets for the yard. The 12 Volt Mercedes Benz ($359.99) comes with a price tag worthy of the high-end brand. But with an actual radio and speakers (which can connect to MP3 players or iPods), it’s not skimping on those fancy details. To get the car on layaway, you’ll need to plunk 20 percent down ($67 plus taxes), and you’ll have to pay 50 percent of the balance within 45 days. The best part is that if you change your mind, you’ll get your money back and will only be charged a cancellation fee of $5 (you’ll also have to wave goodbye to the $10 service fee required of all layaway purchases).
Go on a fall shopping spree at T.J. Maxx: This discount retailer has a smashing selection of fashionable clothes that can refresh your entire wardrobe: a Tignanello purse ($39), Lanvin Patent Leather Oxford Pumps ($40), Marc by Marc Jacobs Logo Drop Earrings ($29.99), a BCBG dress ($20) and much more. If you’ve got $200 worth of items, but you only have $100 now, never fear. The T.J. Maxx layaway plan gives you all month to pay it off. Just put down 10 percent of the purchase, pay the $5 service fee and you’ll have a new look in just a month.
Update that old sofa at Sears: The Sears layaway plan is flexible and isn’t limited to specific departments. You can update your kitchen and living room, get a new mattress or spring for a diamond necklace. But layaway is most handy with larger, more expensive items, such as the Country Living Espresso Leather Sofa ($499.99). This couch costs a bigger chunk of change than most Americans are able to part with in one fell swoop. But Sears’ online plan provides steps that make this purchase simple. You pay $20 or 20 percent down—whichever is greater—a $5 service fee and four simple payments. If you buy in-store, you have up to 12 weeks to pay off your bill, though the terms change; the service fee is $10, but the single payments are just 16 percent of the balance due.
Get a state-of-the-art digital camera from Kmart: In the modern layaway game, Kmart was an early adopter. The national retailer allows you to put all types of products on layaway, including expensive digital cameras, such as the full-featured Canon EOS Rebel ($599.99), which is only a notch down from a professional grade SLR camera. But with a hefty price, and the economy at a standstill, the cost is easier to swallow if you pay a bit at a time. Like the others, Kmart provides a formulaic layaway plan complete with a $5 service fee and an eight-week payment schedule. But Kmart only requires 10 percent down. That’s a winning formula for consumers!