The Latest Expansion of the Holiday Season: Layaway at Walmart Starts a Month Early This Year

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Jin Lee / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Walmart is bringing back its holiday layaway program a month early.

We’re still in the middle of one of the hottest summers on record, but in less than a month, you’ll be able to put holiday items on layaway at Walmart.

Up until last year, layaway was all but dead. Around the mid-2000s, layaway was nowhere to be found at the country’s big-box stores. But after years of a weak economy causing hardships for financially strapped holiday shoppers, layaway was resurrected by a number of retailers, including Sears, Kmart, Toys ‘R Us, and Best Buy. Last year, Walmart joined the party, offering layaway for the first time since 2006. Starting on October 17, shoppers were allowed to put electronics and toy purchases of at least $50 on layaway

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This week Walmart announced that layaway’s back again – but this time a month early. It’ll now start Sept. 16 and run through Dec. 14. Walmart is framing the program’s extension as a way to give families an extra month to pay off their items. But it’s also just one more extension of the holiday shopping season, a time of year that just expands along with Americans’ waistlines around Christmas. The longer the shopping season, the more likely consumers are to buy more and more holiday items.

Last year a good chunk of Christmas merchandise arrived in September at stores like Walmart, Sears and J.C. Penney. So it only makes sense that shoppers would be able to put those items on layaway rather than waiting until October.

Walmart is also expanding the line of items that can be put on layaway, including small home appliances, select sporting goods and jewelry.

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Many consumers seem to always end up procrastinating and putting off holiday shopping until the last minute. But if you’re overeager and feel like Sept. 16 is too far off to start holiday shopping, you can “like” your local Walmart store on Facebook and start your layaway plans two days early.

Keep in mind that while Walmart’s expanded program may make it easier for families to make payments, layaway is never a good option when it comes to getting the most for your money. In fact, some say it’s worse than using a credit card. One professor argues that the average shopper would pay less in interest by using a credit card, even one with a high APRs – than they would using layaway. The only problem is that some low-income families can’t get access to credit and end up using layaway programs as their only option.

Walmart has at least tweaked its program this year, offering to refund the $15 “open fee” through a $15 gift card at the end of the completed layaway transaction. That gives families a little more value for choosing layaway.

Still, it’s clear that everyone wants to give their friends and family a memorable gift over the holidays, but if the only way you can do that is by using a layaway program, you may want to reconsider.