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November 11, 2021

Could layaway ever make a comeback?

For a certain generation, credit wasn’t always an option.

Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, that is, credit cards simply didn’t have the same stranglehold on consumers as they do now.

Many bought things with cash or they just didn’t buy. At the very least, they used the now all-but-defunct method of shopping known as layaway.

You might remember layaway. With it, shoppers could pick out any merchandise they didn’t have the up-front money for and have the store stash it aside to pay off in instalments. At the end of a pre-determined payment cycle – usually a month or two – the product was finally yours.

Think of the reward for customers, too. This item was something you’d truly worked toward, something you’d genuinely earned.

Of course, that was then. Try explaining layaway to a new generation of shoppers and you’re going to get the same perplexed reaction:

So, why wouldn’t I just use my Visa again?

Indeed, we live in a culture of “buy now,” no matter what the consequences. But, could layaway ever make a comeback?

The San Jose Mercury New seems to think so, noting many big-time retailers like Sears and Toys R Us are dusting off their layaway programs and bringing them back for shoppers to consider this holiday season.

And customers appear to be, especially where online shopping is considered.

Third-party financing sites like are becoming popular, offering layaway partnerships with stores like Best Buy and Home Depot for a fraction of the interest (1.9%) charged by your credit card.

Now, it’s tough to argue against layaway without sounding like a short-sighted moron because, frankly, it’s the more responsible thing to do.

Any parent will tell their kids not to buy something unless they can afford it, and they’re right. But, we want things now, and with a credit card, we can get that.

So what’s the big deal about layaway, then?

“When you don’t really have the money to buy something, putting it on layaway forces you to budget,” one source tells the Mercury News. “Use a credit card and you’ve already bought it and are enjoying it and you don’t think as much about making the money to pay it off.

“So layaway is safer. (We) wouldn’t be in the credit card mess we’re in if we’d all just use layaway.”

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...