Five months separate us from the holiday season. It’s technically still summer. And if you’re like me, any mention of the winter holidays before November makes you roll your eyes.
However, there’s one aspect of the holiday season that gives us good reason to think about it early: the pricey tradition of gift-giving. For me, there comes a point when gift fever kicks in and I spend a large chunk of money all at once. This, however, can be avoided.
If you can get past the thought of having to buy gifts a few months early, consider making use of the layaway programs that many stores offer. They can help you prepare in the most cost-efficient way, often allowing you to make payments on your gifts right up until the holidays, without adding any interest fees. Some stores offer online layaway programs, while others only offer in-store options. Terms vary by store, so it’s important to do your research beforehand.
So as we near the holiday season, here’s your guide for the most popular layaway programs.
Kmart and Sears
There are always pros and cons to both online shopping and in-store shopping. Luckily, Kmart and Sears offer both online and in-store layaway, which is a rare find in the layaway world. They offer an eight-week online or in-store program as well as a 12-week in-store program for purchases that exceed a minimum price, which is different for Kmart versus Sears.
- Kmart’s layaway policy allows for an eight-week online or in-store option, with a down payment of $10 and a $5 service fee. All items available for online layaway are identified as such in Kmart’s online store. Should you need to cancel your plan, you will be refunded your payments, with the exception of the service fee and a $10 cancellation fee.
- If your purchase totals $300 or more, you can take advantage of a 12-week, in-store-only plan, with a $10 down payment, a $10 service fee and a $20 cancellation fee.
- Sears’ layaway policy includes an eight-week online or in-store option as well, but with no down payment in store and only a $0.01 down payment online. There is a $5 service fee and a $15 cancellation fee.
- For purchases of $400 or more, you can opt for the 12-week in-store program, with no down payment, a $10 service fee and a $25 cancellation fee.
Both Sears’ and Kmart’s programs require payments every two weeks, totaling four payments for an eight-week policy and six payments for a 12-week policy. If you miss a payment, you have seven days to pay it before your contract is canceled.
Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us
Although Toys“R”Us doesn’t have an online layaway program, it does have an option to make payments online. You just pick your items out in the store and then create an account to make payments online (they can also be made in store). Once your items are paid off, you can take them home. Here’s a breakdown of the store’s policy:
- Once you choose your items for layaway, you will be asked to pay both a service fee of $5 and a down payment that’s at least 10% of your total order. These fees are waived during the “Free Layaway” promotion, which has not yet been announced for the 2016 season.
- The contract commits you to a 90-day payoff period, and 40% of your order must be paid within 30 days, 70% within 60 days and then 100% once you hit 90 days or before the end of the store’s layaway period. Whenever you choose to make payments is up to you.
- If you need to cancel your order, your payments will be refunded, but you will be charged a $10 cancellation fee.
Babies“R”Us has a similar policy, but it’s worth noting that food, formula, Special Orders and clothing are excluded from the layaway program. The program is available in all stores, with the exception of the store located in New York City’s Times Square.
Walmart’s layaway program is a little more defined. It’s launching on August 28 and ending on December 14. The terms for payments are not explicitly laid out online, but more information can be found in store at any Walmart Pickup Desk. The store doesn’t ask for an initial service fee, but a down payment of either $10 or 10% of the purchase – whichever is greater – is required when you set up the account. Here are the rules:
- Everything is done in store; there is no online layaway option.
- Each of your layaway items must cost at least $10, and your purchase must total $50 or more.
- Layaway items are initially set up and then later picked up at the Walmart Pickup Desk. You can make payments at any register in the store.
- The program is available for most items, excluding food and wireless phones with contracts.
- There is a cancellation fee in many states.
- Layaway is not available on November 26, and final payments must be made on or before December 14 at the same store location where you initiated your contract.
Marshalls and T.J.Maxx
Both Marshalls and T.J.Maxx offer layaway at certain locations. It is unclear if T.J.Maxx’s policies are different from Marshalls’, so if your location has a layaway program, ask about it in store. Marshalls’ policies are as follows:
- Any item can be held for 30 days with a down payment of either $10 or 10% of the purchase price (whichever is greater) and a $5 service fee.
- All items must be paid off and picked up within the 30-day period. If the layaway is canceled, you may be charged a $5 fee, depending on what state you live in.
- Jewelry, sale items, food and furniture are not eligible for layaway.
If you’d like to stick to a budget this holiday season, layaway programs are a great way to get started. Just do your research, find the ideal stores for what you’d like to buy and make sure you can afford each payment in your layaway contract. Planning for the holidays this far in advance might feel strange, but it should be worth it in the long run!
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