Monday, November 1, 2010

The Return of the Holiday Layaway

/PRNewswire/ --Layaway may sound like an old-school concept, especially in today's "buy now, pay later" society. But the idea of setting aside products to pay for gradually is making a comeback, and is a great alternative to using credit cards this upcoming holiday season.

"The credit card allows shoppers to buy on impulse without the immediate worry of how to pay for their purchases," said Dorothy Guzek , GreenPath Debt Solutions financial counselor. "Unfortunately, when the credit card bill comes due, consumers are left with a surprise balance they can't afford to pay, because they forgot to keep track of each purchase."

Layaway may be the answer for those who can't afford to pay all at once or who simply want to avoid using credit cards this holiday season. An added benefit is that layaway helps keep prying eyes from gifts and presents before the big holiday celebration.

"Our customers are looking for ways to better manage their spending, while still getting the items they need and want," said Salima Yala , Divisional Vice President of Financial Services for Sears Holdings. "Layaway is a financial tool, much like an interest-free payment plan, that allows them to pay over a set period of time."

In addition to traditional in-store layaway, stores like K-Mart and Sears are offering online layaway programs. Online layaway lets you browse and shop for items on the web, pay over time just as you would with traditional layaway, and then pick up the merchandise in-store.

"Layaway provides customers with innovative ways to shop – and with the launch of online layaway, the younger generation of online shoppers are able to manage their budgets, and shopping needs, in a smarter way," said Yala.

GreenPath Debt Solutions offers the following tips for buying on layaway:

1. Get a copy of the store's layaway policies and staple it to your receipt. You may also find layaway policies on the store's website.
2. Make sure you understand the policies such as schedule of payments, late fee policies, refund and exchange policies, markdowns on sale prices and loss or damage of items while in layaway.
3. Be realistic in what you can afford over time and what you put on layaway.
4. Keep clear and accurate records of payments made (staple them to the original receipt and layaway policy statement) in case you have disputes later.
5. When going to the store to make a payment, use the direct in-out method. Walk into the store and directly to the layaway counter to make the payment and then walk back out to your car. Avoid the urge to shop. Preferably, make your layaway payment online and avoid the stores altogether.
6. Don't forget that, until you pay off the items in layaway, the store has your money and merchandise. If the store goes out of business while you're still paying, you could be out both the cash and goods. So only deal with reputable businesses.

Other stores offering layaway this holiday season include Sears, T.J. Maxx, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshalls and Toys R Us, among others. You many find more stores by searching the Internet.

GreenPath's Guzek reminds shoppers, "Regardless of how you decide to shop this holiday season, make a budget in advance, shop from a list, track your expenses and stick with your original plan."

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