The old-fashioned layaway program is coming back. The program, where a store holds specific merchandise for a customer until they pay it off, became popular during the Great Depression. Gone are the days you didn't possess something you hadn't paid for yet. With the recession, not everyone has access to the credit they used to have and they're learning to cope.

Walmart had a layaway program until 2006 and closed it, citing high costs to run the program along with low demand. However, an online petition signed by over 200,000 Walmart customers asked the giant retailer to bring back the financing option.

Why Did Layaway Go Away?

Like air conditioning in a car practically make the convertible obsolete, credit cards made layaway programs obsolete; why should someone pay something off while it's being held hostage in a store when they can use a credit card, and take the item home immediately? We want instant gratification.

Layaway also means dedicating space in a store to house the layaway items, which means higher holding costs. Additionally, it means there need to be employees that track all the items in layaway, then retrieve them when the customer has paid them off, and also, let's not forget resolving disputes.

Will All Stores Have A Layaway Program?

Probably not. High-end retailers won't because their customers don't need them; their customers already have the money to make the purchase, still have the same credit limits, or they simply don't buy the item unless they have the money for it in the first place.

Most retailers are probably letting Walmart get in the business and see how it works for them before they try it themselves.

Things To Look Out For In A Layaway Program

As a customer, you need to be careful before making a layaway purchase. Here are some things to think about:


  • Plan your purchases. Like thinking if something is on sale, it's worth buying. Just because you can purchase it on layaway doesn't make it a good deal; think twice before buying.
  • Read the fine print. If there are fees, this obviously adds to the cost of the purchase, so you want to keep fees to a minimum; also find out how refunds are processed if you no longer want the item.
  • Make sure you have documentation; get a receipt for each payment to prove you made it and take it with you when you go to the store.
  • Ask how the store holds the item. If they don't take it off the shelf and they sell their entire inventory, will they get you one? This is especially important if the item you have in layaway is a popular item.


If you had the option of credit card or layaway and you didn't have the money to make the purchase, which method would you choose? 

CategoriesCredit & Debt