With 100 degree temperatures in parts of the country, the holidays are likely the last thing on your mind. But the giving season will be here before we know it and with a little planning, you just might be able to avoid going into debt while getting a head start on your shopping.
Retailers like Sears and Kmart have extended their traditionally holiday layaway program to the entire year. Kmart boasts “Layaway Everyday”. Kmart even has a membership that provides layaway services for members without their normal service fee.
If you have never taken advantage of a layaway program, let’s take a look at how it works:
Kmart offers you 4 easy steps to get the items you want, year round.
- Shop for virtually anything. Take your items to the Kmart layaway counter in the store or add to your shopping cart online.
- Make a down payment. The down payment includes a Service Fee and is due when you initiate your contract.
- Make payments every two weeks online or at any Kmart register with cash, check or debit/credit card.
- Pick up your items after you make your last payment or schedule your pick-up after making your final payment online.
Kmart offers an 8-week layaway option that requires you to put down $15 or 10% (whichever is greater) and a $5.00 fee, both of which are due at the time you sign the contract. The 12-week program requires a $30 or 10% down payment and has a $10 service fee, the 12-week program is for in-store purchases only with a total purchase of $300 or more. There are $10 and $20 cancelation fees respectively.
Many other retailers that offer a layaway program operate much the same as Kmart. The great thing about using a layaway program to purchase your holiday gifts is that you can pay for the items over time, avoiding a big immediate expense, and avoid the interest that paying with a credit card would incur. Not to mention, you have to pay off your layaway or you don’t get your items, they stay at the store while you are making payments.
So what if you change your mind or some unforeseen event prevents you from paying off your items in layaway? Do you lose all of your money? Nope! You can cancel your layaway contract, pay the nominal cancellation fee and get your money back. …you can’t get that with a credit card.
While not all stores offer layaway on everything they sell, there’s a good chance you will be able to find everything you need and put it on layaway.
So is it too early to start shopping for the holidays? I don’t think so. And remember, if by some chance you decide you want don’t want the item on layaway, and you would like something else, there’s a good chance you can just swap out the item and continue on with your payments. Worst case scenario, you have to pay a small cancellation fee, get your payments back and start the layaway process over with the new item.
I’m not saying that layaway is a perfect alternative to just paying cash for the items you want to purchase, but it is however an increasingly good option to using a credit card. You would probably be better off is you could save the money yourself – accumulate interest even – and not have to deal with upfront or cancellation fees of layaway programs. But if you are like me, I have trouble saving to make a future purchase and get tempted to spend it on something else.
The nice thing with layaway is that you are making a commitment to the purchase, once something is on layaway, you feel like you already own it. Not to mention it’s a great way to keep from overspending during the holidays.
So if you never tried a layaway program put your credit card back in your wallet and carry your items to the layaway desk. You just might have found a new way to make your holiday purchases.