Layaway Supposedly Helps You Save. It Definitely Helps You Spend

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Layaway purchases have returned in a big way. More and more retailers are offering layaway, and it’s often being heralded as a way to get more value for your money. Really? I don’t get it.

SmartMoney, for example, cited layaway as one its recommended old-school savings tricks. And certainly, layaway is a system that enables you to save up the money for something you wish to buy. But considering the fees and restrictions involved in most layaway purchases, you’d probably pay less for the item in question if you simply saved up the money on your own.

A Consumer Reports post offers a primer on layaway purchases. Among the noteworthy details listed in the post are: With most layaway buys, there are storage or service plan fees of $5 or $10 a pop. If, after all, you decide you don’t want the item and wish to cancel, there are additional fees of $5 or $10 to get your money back. Also, if the item goes on sale after you’ve already started paying for it on layaway, you might still have to pay for the item at retail. You’re not guaranteed to get the sale price.

So, all things considered, aren’t you just better off saving up money dollar by dollar on your own, even by simply stuffing it in the old-fashioned cookie jar?

The only reasons I see layaway as a helper are if you’re worried the item in question won’t be available by the time you save enough money, and/or if you’re incapable of actually saving up the money on your own and you need the discipline of the layaway plan to push you along.