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We Wish You a Debt-Free Christmas

Before starting your holiday shopping, take a moment and view some sage advice from a “consumer expert:”

Sure, it’s a funny video, but only because we are laughing at ourselves! Of course you shouldn’t buy stuff you can’t afford. Bad things can happen when you abuse credit, especially if you have over-extended your finances.

This holiday season layaway is making a comeback as a financing option. Layaway was very popular with holiday shoppers years ago, but its popularity diminished as credit became easier to obtain during the 1990’s. The basic idea is that you set aside an item at the store, hold it with a deposit, and make payments over time. Once you have fully paid for the item, you can take it home.

Recently New York Sen. Chuck Schumer issued a public warning that the fees that retailers are charging for layaway purchases can add up to a higher interest rate than any credit card would be allowed to charge.

“These layaway programs are nothing more than hideaways for sky-high interest rates that consumers would never tolerate with a credit card,” Schumer told the AP. “The holiday season is supposed to be about giving and not taking, but these layaway programs are taking advantage of people and charging them outrageous interest rates, under the guise of making it easier and more affordable to shop.”

A good example of how the typical layaway program works is at Kmart. The retailer offers an 8 week layaway plan that charges an initial $5.00 “Service Fee” for all new layaway contracts. The customer is required to put down a minimum of $15.00 to hold the item, and must make four “easy” payments over the next eight weeks. There is a $10.00 “Cancellation Fee” if you change your mind. If you can’t pay for the item or change your mind, kmart keeps $15.00 and you get nothing.

Bankruptcy debtors are especially susceptible to high interest credit schemes since credit cards are generally not available. However you decide to pay for your holiday purchases, make sure you make a wise choice. If you decide to use layaway or some other form of credit, be sure that you understand the details of the deal. That way you can make an informed decision.

“We wish you a debt-free Christmas and a fresh start New Year!”