5.Â Â Â Â What happens if something goes wrong?
Unexpected things happen in life, so itâ€™s a good idea to know what would happen with your layaway purchase, or the money youâ€™ve paid up front, if your finances change and youâ€™re not able to meet the original terms of your layaway agreement.
Are you penalized, for example, if you miss a payment? Are there any â€ślate fee penaltiesâ€ť? Do they return the item into stock or into their inventory? What exactly happens if you donâ€™t pay as agreed? Thatâ€™s important to know.
6.Â Â Â Â Can I get a store credit?
Be sure to find out upfront if a retailer is willing to offer a store credit if you change your mind after making a few payments. You might simply change your mind or maybe you find the same item at a much cheaper price so you decide that you donâ€™t want the layaway goods after all. Well, do you just lose your money or will the store actually issue a refund you or at least give you a store credit? A store that wonâ€™t issue a credit could be a deal-breaker for savvy layaway shoppers.
7.Â Â Â Â What happens if the item goes on sale later?
Ask merchants whether they will discount the purchase price for you if you were buying something that was previously, say, $99 and you were going to pay, $33 a month for it. But then all of a sudden the item goes on sale for $79.
8.Â Â Â Â Do they have a good rating from the Better Business Bureau?
It always pays to do a little homework on the companies with whom youâ€™re doing business. In this case, before you enter into a layaway transaction, you might want to find out a retailerâ€™s BBB rating. It tells you something about the way in which the company conducts business, the level of consumer complaints theyâ€™ve had, and so on.
Again, I like the idea of using layaway. Some people consider it sort of a throwback, kind of a relic of that oldâ€‘fashioned, good old method if saving up enough money for a purchase until you can actually pay for the whole thing in cash.
And you know what? Thatâ€™s a good habit to get used to â€“ or perhaps to get back to.
Back in the day, a lot of us used layaway as a way to budget and avoid credit card debt. And if you do it this holiday season, youâ€™ll find that it can probably work for you as well â€“ as long as you ask the right questions upfront.
â€śAsk The Money Coachâ€ť is a syndicated column written by personal finance expert Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, co-founder of the free financial advice blog, AskTheMoneyCoach.com. Follow Lynnette on Twitter at @themoneycoach.