Go online for really big purchases: These days, you can get decent layaway deals online for non-retail events like travel, jewelry, tickets to sporting events, or even surgery. If you know you’re headed to Bali in six months, or for certain medical procedures like Lasik or plastic surgery in nine months, use a web site like Layaway.com or eLayaway to handle your payment plan. Your account can be reviewed online and payments can easily be made via direct deduction or direct deposit. eLayaway even allows you up to 13 months to complete your purchase. Think of it as a Christmas Club on steroids.
Better yet, get a savings account: A smarter way to handle big purchases, if you have the discipline, is to open a savings account, where you pay no fees, and even earn a bit of interest on your savings. When you have enough cash in your savings account to pay for your purchase, all you have to do is pull the trigger. No cancellation fees and no storage fees. Of course, this strategy only works if you can resist the urge to raid your account for other purposes. Check BankingMyWay.com for interest rates on money markets, CD’s, or savings accounts.
Like I said, the jury is still out on layaway programs as a business model for retailers. But for consumers, it’s a decent way to hone your savings skills and still get the product or service you want.
If you know what you’re doing.
—Brian O’Connell contributed to this article.