5 Benefits of Online Layaway

Layaway programs popular in the '70s and '80s allowed shoppers to make bigger purchases without credit.
Layaway programs popular in the '70s and '80s allowed shoppers to make bigger purchases without credit.
Dennis Hallinan/Archive Photos/Getty Images

During the Great Depression, when cash was scarce and easy credit was a gleam in the banking industry's eye, merchants had to find a way to make the unattainable attainable. The solution was brilliant: Need a $30 gas stove but can't scratch up $30? Give us $10 a week for three weeks, and then come pick up your new appliance.

"Layaway" let people pay in installments, and it was a very popular program until the late '70s/early '80s. With the birth of the common credit card, buying something you couldn't totally (or remotely) afford became so simple, layaway plans all but vanished. Who needs to wait when you can swipe?

Lots of people, it turns out. The economic downturn that began in earnest in 2008 has had some ugly effects on household finances, leaving people paying exorbitant credit-card interest rates that lead, for many, to a lifetime of debt. And as people begin to forego, either by choice or necessity, the evil pleasure that is credit, merchants have once again heeded the call for another option.

Layaway is back. And this time, it's online.

An old program has been revamped for the digital age, and it's popping up at more retail Web sites every day. Pick your item, hand over a down payment and sometimes a small layaway fee, pay in installments over a set period of time, and your item is ready for pick-up or shipping when the final installment comes in.

The retailers that also have a brick-and-mortar presence offer layaway in their stores, too; but the online version seems to have particular appeal. Here, five reasons why people are flocking to this budget-conscious mode of online shopping.

Let's begin with the simplest benefit of online layaway: It's online.

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