Set Up a Do It Yourself Layaway Plan and Save

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While some stores like Sears (SHLD) are reintroducing the layaway plan, a repayment plans that lets you put merchandise aside and pay it off in cash installments before finally taking it home, not all retailers are participating in this blast from the past. 

So, what if you’re desperate for the new MacBook Pro but don’t have all the cash for it now?  But will in a few months? Here are four alternative strategies to the traditional layaway plan, a way to get what you want when you lack the immediate funds sans the heavy interest cards slap on for carrying a balance.


Place It On Cyber Hold

Attention online shoppers: layaway is at your fingertips. Sites like eLayaway.com and Lay-Away.com offer specialize in lay-a-way plans for internet shoppers.  At eLayaway, for example, shoppers set up a repayment schedule and the site automatically withdraws payments from your bank account.  You receive your order once it's all paid in full. To make money, the site charges a 1.9% flat transaction fee for every $100 you owe. The eLayaway “mall” consists of 700 merchants, ranging from aggregate shopping web sites like shop.com, as well as individual online stores like Apple (AAPL), Dell (DELL), Hewlett Packard (HPQ), Swarovski and Brookstone.  Make sure to read all the rules for each layaway site before signing up.  Some may have strict repayment schedules and, in some cases, you may only be able to purchase items available through the site, preventing you from comparison shopping for the lowest price.

Make an Even Exchange
Bartering or swapping goods and services is also making a comeback in this economy.  If you need a root canal and your dentist is desperate for a new web site (and you happen to have the skills), is there a way to work something out? It’s not unheard of.  Or maybe there’s a way to swap your barely-used treadmill with your neighbor’s five-month-old Microsoft X-Box (MSFT)?  Sure, it’s not brand new, but it’s a way to get what you want (ish) without paying 18% interest.  Plus, you hear he’s trying to lose weight. This may be a perfect swap. 

This tit-for-tat method is also popular with fashion mavens.  Amy Salinger, a stylist in New York and Chicago, helps organize fashion exchange parties, where friends swap their unwanted accessories, shoes and clothes with each other.  To find trading partners for all sorts of goodies try hitting Craiglist and your local newspapers.  Don’t forget to include your inquiries on your Facebook message board, too.

Borrow Cash With Collateral
By no means put your friends in financial jeopardy by taking their money to buy an iPhone, money you don’t intend on returning in less than one month.  If your friend or relative is generous and kind enough to front you some money for a purchase, show your commitment to paying him back by giving up something valuable of greater value as collateral. So, if you get the advance for an iPhone, let your friend temporarily hold your grandmother’s pearl necklace or your beloved Gucci purse as hostage. 

Get a Head Start
For items that won’t go out of stock anytime soon, like skis, bikes, outerwear, sneakers, watches, etc., start socking away money on autopilot as aggressively as you can. For example, if you’re lusting after a $200 Coach (COH) watch, consider automatically deducting $100 from your next two biweekly paychecks. Think of it as giving up $10 a day.  In a month, the watch will be yours.  The best part is, at that point, the watch may even be on sale. See, delayed gratification does have its perks!

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