Some major retailers are expanding their layaway plans for the holiday season to lure shoppers on a budget. Layaway programs allow customers to stretch payments on merchandise over a set period of time, typically with a minimum purchase amount, a small initial payment and a nonrefundable, one-time fee. But make sure you're spending enough to make any extra costs or fees worthwhile.
Wal-Mart Stores is bringing back its layaway program for toys and electronics after discontinuing it (except for fine jewelry, which has layaway year-round) in 2006. The program runs Oct. 17 through Dec. 16. A purchase must be for a minimum of $50 and requires a 10% initial payment. There also is a one-time nonrefundable $5 service fee. There's no mandated payment schedule but payments must be made in the store before Dec. 16 and pickup isn't available the day after Thanksgiving. Company spokeswoman Tara Raddohl says customers can put an iPhone or iPad on layaway if it's purchased without a service contract.
Toys "R" Us offers layaway on all playthings in 450 of its 600 stores nationwide. This year's layaway began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 4. Customers have 90 days to pay for their items as often as they wish, but 50% of the total order price must be paid within 45 days. A 20% down payment is required and there's a $5 service fee.
Sears Holdings, which owns Sears and Kmart, is continuing its year-round layaway program.