Layaway plans are back for the consumer just in time for holiday shopping. For those of you who missed this lovely store feature, layaway started during The Great Depression when people simply didn’t have the cash to make a purchase all at once. Layaway started to phase out during the 1980′s and by the 1990′s with stores offering their own store credit cards – and making millions – allowing consumers to overspend, the cost of offering layaway simply became cement boots to retailers. After all, you can’t make more money off of layaway, you can’t “count” the purchase until it is fully made for quarterly sales numbers and most of all…people tend to be more prudent in shopping.
What is layaway? It’s putting money down on items at the store that are then saved for you in the storeroom allowing you to make payments over time. Interest isn’t charged but some stores do charge a nominal layaway fee ($5).
With consumer credit and wallets tightening and holiday shopping around the corner, layaway looks to be a popular option. Get the items you want now – ok, put on hold for you now – and pay in bits at the store until the balance is paid in-full. Once paid in-full, you take the items home with you.
Tips for buying on layaway:
Get a copy of the store’s layaway policies and staple it to your receipt
Make sure you understand the policies such as maximum time between payments / schedule of payments, late fee policies, refund and exchange policies, markdowns on sale prices, loss or damage of items while in the layaway room
Be realistic in what you can afford over time and what you put on layaway
Keep clear and accurate records of payments made (staple them to the original receipt and layaway policy statement signed) in case you have disputes later.
When going to the store to make a payment use the direct in-out method. Walk into the store and directly to the layaway counter to make the payment and then walk out and get back into your car. Do not browse, sample, sniff, touch… in and out. Once you are back in the car the chances of going back into the store to shop greatly decrease.
Don’t forget that until you payoff the items in layaway the store has your money and merchandise. If the store goes out of business while you’re still paying you could be out both the cash and goods so only deal with reputable businesses.
Stores such as Walmart did away with layaway years ago but Kmart kept this feature of frugality. Kmart, Burlington Coat Factory, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s have layaway plans. If you know of other stores that have layaway service plans – let us know in the comment field!
Take inventory of what you have in the way of clothes and toys. Remove items that are too worn of that have been outgrown. Be sure they are clean and set them aside (important for later). Do this not only for your kid’s closets, but your own as well. No longer in need of the size 4 power suit? Set it aside.
Make a list of what’s needed. Remember, there is a difference between need and want.
Set a budget. It can be per person or in total (in total typically works best for me). My budget is being set by what I can offset in selling items from Step 1.
Swear off credit cards No credit this Christmas – cash is King and Queen. If you buy online and put on a credit card, immediately transfer cash from your bank account to your credit card for the exact amount. Don’t wait, just do it.
Make a shopping plan. Start looking on eBay, Craigslist and local consignment shops. Shop at stores with layaway plans to help pay over time (rather than on credit). Place a ‘wanted’ listing on Craigslist (it’s free) to see what you come up with.
I am in need of gently used size 6 boys clothing. If your son has outgrown his and you were looking for a good home, please let me know. Ideally I’d like a bag of clothes – pants, shorts, shirts, sweaters/pullovers for a fixed price ($x for the whole bag)
How to pay for it… Remember in step 1 we set some items aside? List them on Craigslist (free), eBay (small fee) or take them to a local consignment shop. Consignment shops are doing brisk business in this economic downturn with many people taking items in for cash making the inventory levels higher and more choice for you the thrifty shopper.
I’d love to hear from others on how they are managing shopping for the holidays. Let’s here it in the comments!
Layaway plans are back in fashion. With credit cards either maxed out, cancelled or simply tucked away, consumers are looking at layaway as a means to having at least a little something under the Christmas tree.
Out of the big stores only Kmart’s layaway service is there for consumers. Target and Wal-mart want consumers to use their store credit cards meaning a “ho-ho-ho” now will turn into the Grinch stealing 2009 trying to pay it off.
In fact, Kmart has even gone so far as to hire Kate from the TLC cable show Jon & Kate Plus Eight to be their spokesperson for the service.
How layaway service work?
It’s pretty easy actually. Since Kmart layaway is the topic today we’ll outline their program. Select your items as you normally would but instead of regular check-out, go to the layaway counter. You pay a $5 layaway fee and a deposit – normally 10% of the total and/or a $10 cancellation fee – and you must return every two weeks to pay on the balance. You have eight weeks to pay the balance in-full at which time you can take your items home. If you don’t make the payments every 2 weeks or miss paying the balance in-full by the end of 8 weeks, you will get a refund minus the $15 (layaway fee + cancellation fee).
To give a little encouragement, Kmart is offering a $5 coupon you can print here (requires Adobe reader to display and print the PDF) valid in-store October 24 – November 30, 2008.
Chances are if you’ve come across this article you are either a) looking for ways to lower your expenses or b) looking for MORE ways to lower your expenses.
In good times and bad, the rationale of “if some is good, more must be better” rings true. In times of big spending, consumers spent B-I-G. In lean times, when we make cuts, we cut D-E-E-P.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s site, Home & Garden Editor Lynette Evans put a call out to residents asking “How to save money” in these rough economic times. You can find the compiled list along with reader comments (including mine – give it a vote up!)
I wanted to toss out the same question to readers here and on Twitter – How are you saving money and cutting costs? Post your best ideas from home & garden, credit/debt, groceries, utilities and more – we’ll take ‘em!
Here are some timely tips for finding great back-to-school clothing buys without killing your budget or making your kids cry.
Start by making the list of what’s absolutely needed. There’s a difference between “want” and “need” and this little lesson is great for parents, grandparents and kids.
First, I dig through drawers and closets to take inventory, remove items that are too worn or they have outgrown. What’s left is our starting point.
Make a List
Next, I make a list and divide it into ”now” and “later” columns. I know both of my school-age children need pants and shorts. The little guy needs a few shirts as well. One is fine on a jacket, the other could use one although it isn’t needed on day 1. I also know that during the course of the semester my daughter will likely need a black skirt and white blouse. I don’t need it for the first day of school either so will add these to my “later” list.
On the “now” list I have pants/jeans, shorts and little boy’s shirts. I don’t need a slew of them but along with what already fits, enough to make it through the week. My daughter is in need of a pair of casual (not tennis shoes) shoes so that goes on the list.
What isn’t needed “now” is listed under “later” and as I’m shopping I can take advantage of great finds if it’s within my budget.
Set a Budget
If you have a set dollar amount – super! You are ahead of the game. For two kids heading back to school I’ve given myself a budget of $125 cash for everything – yes, everything.
I was able to leap a little ahead of the game because I received a $65 Amazon.com gift certificate last month that I spent on 3 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of jeans and a shirt. My $125 is in addition to this. Amazon has some great deals as they carry clothes from a number of retailers including Target and The Children’s Palace.
Make a Shopping Plan This sounds silly, doesn’t it? I recall doing my school shopping with my mom and wanting various outfits and items. I also recall the stressed look on her face. While I’m not trying to cheat my kids out of the experience, I’m also looking to save money (time, gas, clothes) and get what is needed. For that reason alone, I’m doing most of my shopping online these days.
I love Craigslist. End of story. Here is one of the ads I listed for free in the Wanted > Kids & Babies category:
I am in need of gently used size 8 girls clothing. If your daughter has outgrown her’s and you were looking for a good home, please let me know. Ideally I’d like a bag of clothes – pants, shorts, skirts or dresses, shirts, sweaters/pullovers for a fixed price ($x for the whole bag)
I placed a similar ad for boy’s clothing and within hours had a number of offers to buy bags of clothing for anywhere from $5-$30. I’m in communication with two that sound promising and for less than $30 I should be able to get everything I need for my son.
eBay is another avenue to take for both gently used and new clothing in “lots”. My husband jokes that this is the new “off the back of the truck” service. I don’t question, I simply bid. Yesterday I was successful in two auctions and for a total of $39.88 my daughter now has 9 pair of gently used (but new to her) pants including 2 pair of Levi’s and 2 skirts. That’s more than enough and still leaves $85.12 in the budget for shoes and items for my son and shoes for my daughter.
Don’t Forget the Shoes I’m a big believer that growing feet need support. For that reason alone, I always go for new shoes unless I can find a new pair on Craiglist or eBay.
However, more and more I’m finding that you can’t beat Shoes.com, especially on Saturday’s when you can save up to 75% on your order. Free shipping, free returns, great customer service, great selection and super prices.
With three kids under the age of eight, the number of birthday party invitations during the year can be overwhelming, not to mention expensive. Add up the time, fuel, bridge tolls, gifts and you are looking at a your annual IRA contribution.
However, birthday parties are a part of childhood and figuring in the entertainment, food/snack, goodie bag and exhaustion factor that guarantees a nap afterwards can be a real value. The gift-giving doesn’t have to kill your bank account and can even be part of the thrill of the hunt. (OK, that last part may be a bit of an overstatement).
This weekend my husband and I will divide and conquer with the girls heading to one party and my son and I to another. In an effort to keep our sanity from the anticipatory squeels on the ride to the party and sugar-bombed squawls home coupled with $4.31 per gallon gas, a little advance planning and spending limits may eliminate the need for Tylenol and a stiff drink at the end of the day.
A Word About the Present First and foremost, remember who the present is for. Yes, this sounds strange but our culture of celebrities giving outrageous baby gifts there can be this sense of over-giving. The gift isn’t a reflection on you, your tax return, personal values or coolness factor. It isn’t to show status. It is for the child and most are darn delighted to unwrap just about anything, especially if cake and ice cream are injected at some point during the day.
Spending & Annoyance Limits I have a strict spending limit of under $10. The gift can’t be junk and hopefully isn’t laced with lead. While not a spending limit per se, as a courtesy to parents everywhere I don’t buy gifts that require batteries, make tons of noise or take up gobs of space. This is something my relatives do not adhere to as I have 2 large pop-up tents filled with beeping and honking toys that have overtaken rooms.
There’s always a last-minute invitation that shows up and I’m the last one in the world to demand that everyone have a “gift closet”. I’ve tried in the past and from time-to-time, have succeeded with such a notion. For those of you who are unaware of this… it’s that magical closet/shelf/box that holds gifts for that anytime party you’ll need a gift for during the year.
Given that my kids are old enough to snoop, having such a place started to require more work on my part to switch hiding places on a regular basis and I ended up forgetting where the magical stash was. Hence, I’ve gone with a box on the top shelf of the cleaning supply closet.
I do not plan a year in advance. On the contrary, I don’t like to have money or vast amounts of space tied up. I do look at the invitations for the coming weeks and determine what I have that would be appropriate.
I typically leave my kids out of the gift-selection process. They get distracted with all of the items they would like or what would make them cool (“I want to give the best gift”) and it becomes a battle of wills and wallet. Instead, for my oldest, I ask what her friend is interested in and go from there.
For the little ones I may ask the parents if there is a specifc theme or area to avoid. I have parent who won’t allow an action figure and another where Scooby Doo is the cat’s meow. This doesn’t mean I have to buy in this realm but it helps me to know what to avoid.
I don’t make special trips out but incorporate ‘the hunt’ on my grocery store and errands loop. No sense in adding fuel and time costs to the task. Be sure and write down the names and ages of the upcoming birthday reveler to buy age and gender appropriate gifts.
Where to Shop If you are lucky enough to have a Dollar Tree store in your area you can find a slew of goodies. Your local office suppy store and drugstores have fun and inexpensive puzzles, and games. I’m also a fan of the bargain bins at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Joann Fabrics and Costco. Often they have crafts and activity books for under $10. For more name-brand toy items, T.J. Maxx has great deals as does Target.
If you have enough advance notice and you are already making a purchase on Amazon, enjoy the free shipping and look for books, toys, games and puzzles to add. It’s a great way to get the shopping out of the way while you are making other purchases. Plus, you get a bit more variety.
Favorite Kids Birthday Gifts for Under $10 Books
Long after the plastic has cracked, batteries have died and found their way into the recycling heap, books are long-lasting and enjoyed. It may not be the “oh wow” factor at the party but has staying power. My top picks are Scranimals and Blackie, The Horse Who Stood Still.
Games Candy Land, Sorry!, Boggle Junior Letters, Don’t Spill the Beans and Original Memory are all great gifts. Some are always under $10 while others I have to watch to go on sale. Hisss is our all-time favorite game that takes matching and counting to a whole new level. My 7 year-old still loves this game and we bought it for her when she was 4. It’s a big hit with boys or girls in the under 7 crowd.
I watch for the above items in the Target and Walgreen circulars in addition to watching on Amazon.com. Whenever any of the items go on sale for below $10, I place my order.
I’ve had better success for girls than with boys on this but making up bag of ribbons, flavored chapsticks, stickers, fun socks and hair doo-dads found at the drugstore and discount stores can be an original and fun.
Wrapping It Up I’ve been caught on the steep end of the wrap costing more than the gift. Avoid this at all costs. If you have white paper or brown paper bags, wrap up the item and let your kids color the heck out of it.
A note on gift-giving for your own kids… My husband actually had a great idea for our son’s 5th birthday. He was ready for a bike with training wheels and the Toys R Us special couldn’t get us below $50. Knowing that he would outgrow the bike in short order, we looked on Craigslist for a clean, used bike. Voila! He never knew the difference. It didn’t have a scratch on it and for $20 was a bargain for us and likely kept it out of the landfill.
I’m not suggesting you should by used items to give to other kids, but depending on the item and its condition I would keep it as a possibility.