Sunday, September 16, 2012
It's only September but already Augusta's Valerie Dewitt has a head start on Christmas shopping for her grandchildren.
"(That includes) games and videos and a lot of the expensive items that take a while to pay off," Dewitt said.
That's because, for the second year in a row, she's shopping for those items at Walmart using layaway.
"That way you can pay a little bit at a time and you don't have to come up with all that money at once," Dewitt said.
It's a service that stores such as Walmart are now offering a month earlier than they did last year.
"You've got September, all the months of October and November to pay it off," Dewitt said. "That's what I love about it."
Some stores phased out layaway by 2006 thanks to the days of easy credit. But the recession, along with rising energy and food costs caused them to bring back layaway last year.
This year, stores took an aggressive marketing approach to the service. Kmart and Toys R Us did away with layaway start up fees altogether. While Walmart slashed its fees from $15 to $5.
Other stores have extended their repayment periods or developed other incentives. And, more Items are available for layaway including expensive jewelry, electronics, sporting goods, small appliances, and toys.
While all that helps, many parents say it also doesn't hurt to have a place to hide all the gifts.
"I wasn't going to go there, but yes that helps, too!" Dewitt said.
That means come December 25th, it will be a merry Christmas for Valerie's grandchildren and for all of them a good night.
"It's a wonderful, wonderful feeling to know they will have a Christmas," Dewitt said.
Financial experts say that while layaway is an attractive option that can relieve stress leading up to the holidays, you should read the fine print and ask questions.
They say you'll want to know how much the fees are, when the payment is due, how much the down payment will be, and what the cancellation policy is for the purchase.