6 Stores with the Best Layaway Programs

Layaway, for those not old enough to remember, is the way lots of people shopped for Christmas back before credit-card debt was fashionable. Or shall I say, tolerable.

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With layaway, instead of bringing all of your purchases home and then paying on the credit-card bill for many years to come, you leave your selections at the store, making a down payment at time of purchase.

Then you make regular payments to the store (no interest). Once you’ve paid in full, you get your stuff out of layaway. The benefit is that you can shop early at your leisure, make regular payments, and pick up items once they are paid in full.

Years ago layaway programs were designed for people who could not get credit cards. And as plastic became more available to the masses, layaway became unnecessary so many programs disappeared.

As the economy has been going through such an upheaval, causing so many to flee from using credit, other smart retailers like Sears have dusted off their layaway programs in hopes of attracting customers like us who would enjoy that debt-free convenience. And to shore up their bottom lines.

TOYS R US. Not only makes layaway possible for the hottest toys and game consoles of the season, but also holds items for you so curious children can’t find them in your closets. When you deposit 10% of the total cost of your purchase and the $5 service fee will be waived. All payments can be made at any register or online, 24 hours a day. Make your final payment in store, and take your items home right away. Or, if you make your final payment online, you will be notified of the earliest time you can pick up your items.

WALMART No set-up fee, but there’s a $10 or 10% down payment (whichever’s greater), and a $10 fee if you cancel. Individual items must be $10 or greater, and your total purchase must be at least $50. You can’t layaway wireless phones that require contracts, and you can’t put anything on layaway 11/24 (Thanksgiving 2016). Layaway is available for Electronics, Toys, Infant Toys, Infant Furniture, Small Appliances, Large Furniture, Auto Electronics, Select Sporting Goods, and Jewelry. You can use coupons on layaway items at Walmart.

SEARS.  For an 8-week layaway contract, pay $0 down in-store, $0.01 online, a $5 set-up fee, and a $15 fee if you cancel. For a 12-week layaway, pay $0 down in-store, a $10 set-up fee, and a $25 fee if you cancel.The only items available for layaway online will be marked as “Available for Layaway” on the individual product page.

KMART. For an 8-week layaway contract, expect to pay a $10 down payment, $5 set-up fee, and a $10 fee if you cancel. For a 12-week layaway contract, you’ll have to pay $10 down, a $10 set-up fee, and a $20 fee if you cancel. No down payment is required when you start a new contract between 9/15 and 11/26, and only one penny is required down for online layaway.

BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY.  Offers 60-day layaway for clothing and household goods, and 90 days for Baby Depot items like baby furniture and strollers. Buyers must stick to a payment schedule, deposit at least 20% and pay a $5 service fee. There is a $10 cancellation fee if the layaway purchase is canceled and not completed.

TJ MAXX AND MARSHALLS.  Only offer layaway at certain locations and have quite a few rules and restrictions. Where available, you must make a 10% down payment for layaway on brand-name and designer items. Jewelry and clearance items cannot go on layaway. The payment term is 30 days and because the program is only offered at certain locations, it’s best to call ahead to inquire.

Question: Have you ever used layaway programs? Will you this year? Do you know of other stores offering layaway programs this year? What is your favorite? Respond using the comments feature below.

Should You Re-Sell or Donate Your Used Stuff?

A very strange phenomenon exists in the average American household wherein no longer needed clothes, shoes, boots, coats, pants, shirts, toys, games, seasonal decor, sports equipment, electronics, appliances, computers, kitchen utensils, dishes and other useful items seem to reproduce in the dark of night filling cupboards, closets, attics and basements to the brim and beyond.

I call it Stuffitis—a condition for which there is an easy, and surprisingly profitable, treatment. Should your home have contracted this maladythere are two effective ways to treat it: a) Sell the stuff or b) Donate the stuff.

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SELL THE STUFF. There are several ways to do this, none of which guarantee success. I hosted my final Garage Sale several years ago, to great disappointment. Having carefully cleaned, priced and displayed every item of which there were many—and being met with way too many offers of, “Would you take five bucks for everything?” at the end of a very long, hot and disappointing day—we hauled all that was left to a donation bin, which was most of it.

But don’t let my experiences dissuade you should you elect to re-sell your stuff. Depending on what your stuff is, you may find success with CraigsList, eBay or local buy and sell groups.  Read more

A Shoemaker Can Save Your Sole—and More

To some people a cobbler is a lovely fruit dessert, best when served warm. To others it is a shoemaker who repairs shoes—an almost forgotten trade. And that’s changing. Suddenly, shoe repair is coming back. Big time.

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Sales of luxury goods are down, but it’s a flush time for people who repair them. High-end cobblers, tailors and jewelers have seen a spike in repair business from frugal customers, thanks to a trend toward fixing goods rather than replacing them. We’re quickly moving from a disposable society to one that’s learning to mend and make do.

According to Randy Lipson, third-generation cobbler and owner of Cobblestone Shoe Repair in St. Louis, shoe repair shops nationwide (of which there are only about 7,500 remaining—down by half from a decade ago) are reporting a 20 to 45 percent surge in business. Things are beginning to shift as consumers are learning to make do. And for many, that means getting shoes that fit, fixed.

Not long ago I grabbed the opportunity to sit down with Randy and I learned a lot—not only about the value of repairing rather than replacing shoes, but also that a shoe repair shop does more than just repair shoes. Read more

From Clutter to Chaos … to Calm

Recently I read about a couple who live in Oklahoma City. They don’t have a lot of clutter in their house but they do find it impossible to part with their children’s things. The guest cottage behind their house is nearly filled with old toys, outgrown clothes, years of kids’ artwork, school papers, trophies, sports paraphernalia, baby beds, bassinets and a rocking horse. Seems they can’t bring themselves to clean it out or part with all of these things for fear their now-grown children will think they don’t love them.

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I know the feeling, and honestly I don’t think it’s that unusual. It’s just that most of us don’t have a guest house where we can stash and hide all the clutter. Thankfully, it is possible to deal with clutter in realistic and reasoned ways so that it doesn’t turn into chaos.

Marla Cilley, known to many as the Fly Lady and author of the fabulous book, Sink Reflections, says CHAOS is an acronym for “Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.”

The good news is that clutter does not have to control our homes and our lives. It requires only a modicum of determination to take that very first baby step toward conquering stuff. Then another and another all the way to peace and serenity. Read more

Would You Clean Out Your Closets for $400?

Are your storage areas overflowing? Do your children outgrow their clothes at the speed of light? Have you “outgrown” (or just grown tired of) some of your clothes and household items? Wouldn’t it be nice to receive some cash for those unwanted but perfectly usable items that overwhelm your storage space?

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It’s a typical scene. You’ve cleaned out a closet or your garage and have a box full of items you no longer want. Maybe they’re left over from a garage sale. You’d rather give it to charity than send it to a landfill or maybe you just don’t want to have a garage sale.

You know you can deduct the value of the items on your tax return. (By the way your return for 2015 is due April 18, 2016 with thanks to Wash., D.C. for the gift of a 3-day extension. Washington will celebrate Emancipation Day on April 15 and the IRS will be closed. The next business day is Monday, April 18, 2016.) But the question is how are you we supposed to know the values of items in good condition that we donate to qualified charities?

The problem: If we overstate the values we risk an IRS audit, penalties and interest. If we underestimate, we could end up paying more taxes than required.

For many years the hubs and I have relied on William Lewis, CPA, who compiles one of the most valuable resources I know of for ordinary folks like us. “Money for Your Used Clothing” is an amazing resource that lists  more than 1,300 values for commonly donated household and clothing items based on current prices of these items on the secondary market.  Read more

How to Rescue Fabric and Clothes from the Stench of Mothballs

I love fabric and fine textiles of all kinds, but mostly I love cotton goods—cotton sheets, cotton quilts. You might say I am a collector, but only in the best sense of the word. My friends know me as a recovering fabricholic. That’s why I was particularly drawn to a letter that hit my inbox recently. When I read the sender’s dilemma involved fabric, I was on it.

Dear Mary: I was recently given some fabric that had been stored in mothballs. Any advice on how to get the smell out? I tried washing and ended up with a whole load of laundry that smelled of mothballs. Thanks, Lucille

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Dear Lucille: This a tough problem. So difficult, I called in the pros for advice on how to rescue your fabric and that load of laundry. Here’s what I learned:

Mothballs are small balls of chemical pesticide used to protect clothes from hungry moths and other insects while in storage. The active ingredient, depending on the age of the mothballs used, is either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, both of which are petroleum-based and toxic to both people and pets. Read more

Blown Out Vacuums and Teen Clothing Allowance

Dear Mary: Back in 2012, you posted an article in Everyday Cheapskate regarding blowing out your third Hoover Wind Tunnel and electing to go with the Shark Navigator. At the time, I wasn’t in need of a vacuum, but I printed off the article and archived it in a folder I hold for future reference.

Recently I’d become so disappointed in the way my current vacuum was performing, I talked my husband into purchasing a Shark Navigator. Taking you at your word, we put the product together when it arrived last week, and then my husband left for a business trip. The morning he left, I pulled out my new Shark and began tearing the house apart to do a deep clean while he was away. OH. MY. GOSH. I was not only awe-stricken, I could not believe what was happening. That Shark performed way beyond my expectations and I was amazed at the dirt that was coming out of what I thought was a fairly clean home. I kept calling my husband telling him he would never believe what was happening; as well as kicking myself in the rear-end for not purchasing this item many years earlier.

I just wanted to take a moment to write you and tell you how thankful I am that you wrote that article; as well as to let you know how much I enjoy reading all your information. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and information with the rest of the world. I look forward to many more years of helpful tips and information. Kind regards, Robyn Read more

Get Paid to Donate Your Stuff

If you itemize your tax return, you probably know that you are allowed to deduct the fair market value of items you donate to charity. But what’s the fair market value of say a pair of shoes or a lamp? More than you might think.

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The law does not allow the charity to determine the value of an item you donate. The charitable organization gives you a receipt saying that you made the donation. You, the donor, must determine its value. And that’s the problem.

If you overstate the value you risk an audit, penalties and interest. If you underestimate you’ll pay more taxes than you should.

In the process of paring down and purging in anticipation of our big move to Colorado in the spring, my husband and I donated an antique pump organ to a church where it will be used in services and enjoyed by many.

The organ is more than a hundred years old so looking up the new price and depreciating it appropriately was not possible. Our accountant suggested we locate similar antiques that have sold in say the past year and then adjust accordingly for our specific situation. Right. Like there’s a brisk market for antique reed organs down at the mall.

But then I got to thinking …. hmmm … eBay! Sure enough, several pump organs have sold in the past year. I printed the documentation and will attach that to our next tax return to back up the deductible value we assigned to the donation. Read more