[UPDATE: Story edited to reflect the current layaway fee of $5, down from $15 previously.]

Walmart/flickr source

In what is perhaps a sign of serious and continued economic distress here in the United States, Walmart, citing customer demand, will be offering its holiday layaway financing once more — even earlier this year than last year. Starting in September, customers will be able to put down payments on gifts they’d like to buy for loved ones come Christmas, rather than pay for everything afterward as has become the norm in the last few decades.

There’s no doubt that saving up for large purchases is the way to go about buying things, but layaway seems like a better option for consumers than credit cards — especially for those who have a tendency to get themselves into debt, or who have bad credit. But layaway comes with its own fees and inconveniences. So let’s take a look: is Walmart’s layaway a good deal?

The minimum total value of a layaway purchase must be at least $50 and each item included in the purchase must cost $15 or more. Toys, electronics, small appliances, jewelry and some sporting goods may be purchased this way. First a customer must pay a $5 layaway fee to Walmart, and a $10 or 10% down payment, whichever is greater. Layaway customers then have until Dec. 14 to complete their payment for their purchases, after which point, they can pick up what they’ve bought, and Walmart issues them a $5 gift card to pay back their deposit — great for stocking-stuffers, we suppose, and deviously clever on Walmart’s part.

If customers fail to pay for their layaway goods by the deadline, Walmart will refund your down payment and any payments, but it keeps the $15. That’s a reasonably good incentive to continue paying towards your goal, but not overly punitive. Failing to put money in your piggy bank or savings account, by comparison, will only lead to feelings of guilt. So while it’s mortifying to think you might give Walmart something for nothing — and who could be less deserving! — you can also think of the $15 as a carrot or stick to keep you moving in the right direction.

The other big downside to this layaway deal is that it might mean biweekly trips to Walmart, which, well there are more enjoyable places to go on payday. At the very least, you can avoid your local Walmart on Black Friday and closer to Christmas when crowds get big and sometimes, in rare instances, violent.

So is Walmart’s layaway a good deal? It certainly is for Walmart, which gets your $5 whether you manage to pay for your goods or not, and for consumers we’d have to say it’s a good deal, too. It’s better than credit card debt, and it’ll crack the whip a little harder than a savings goal you set for yourself might.

Then again, you might be able to negotiate layaway with your local mom-and-pop shops, and maybe that would be better all around?

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  • Bargain Shopper

    $15…or interest rate on a credit card?  You do the math…I’ll stick with the Walmart plan…

  • JKB

    If you can make payments from September through December, why couldn’t you start doing the same thing to your savings account a few months earlier in the year?  Then you have the money when the item is in the store and can purchase it before it sells out.  I realize there may be a few people who may have had emergencies during the year and just weren’t able to do so, but I’ll bet most people could if they had any type of self discipline.

  • eric

    From someone who has family who have worked retail and layaway, part of the reason for the layaway fee is to cover the dedicated space, stocking, etc that comes with the logistics of the layaway (and the re-stocking when persons don’t make their payments)..
    For those of us who have kids that like to snoop around the house, looking for any hidden Christmas presents, layaway provides a place to hide their presents where they won’t be found, at least until the 2 weeks priro to Christmas.  And as was mentioned by a prior poster, you don’t get the post-Christmas credit card blues.  At least Wal-Mart is giving something in return for the layaway fee, as long as the “gift card” does not have an expiration date or monthly carry fees.

  • Barbara93

    Why not offer layaways year round like K-mart and Sears? It pays to shop at Kmart and Sears.

  • kristie

    the $15.00 fee has been changed to $5.00. If the layaway is paid in full, the$5.00 fee is given back to the customer on a Walmart gift card

    • Simon Zhen

      Kristie, thanks for the update. We’ve updated the story to reflect the current pricing for Walmart’s layaway plan.

    • Think_Wise

      As far as the deposit, Do we get the deposit back once the layaway is paid for?

  • Think_Wise

    Do we get the deposit back once the layaway is paid in full?

  • Simon Zhen

    Your deposit is credited toward your layaway balance.

  • Stephanie Daugherty

    Yes, and no. Compared to the alternative of consumer credit, it’s a solid alternative, and depending on the item, may actually be a boon to consumers – they can lock in pricing when an item goes on sale. As consumers who are buying gifts at Wal-Mart are likely shopping there anyway on a regular basis, getting the $5 fee back at the end on a gift card is hardly a bad deal, so it’s only a ripoff if the sales the customer’s tempted by aren’t really sales, or the customer doesn’t follow through on their purchase, and even then, not much of one, since the item has to be restocked. Barring an exceptionally good sale though, you’d be better off adding money to a gift card every week until the balance is enough for what you want to purchase.

  • RON.


  • bob mcmillan

    lay-a-way is good option, you are sure to get the product you want before it is sold out before christmas. but can or do they adjust the price if that item goes on sale before you pick it up?

  • shawnita

    i think the Walmart lay-a-way sucks!! you cant put shoes or clothes in layaway & it has to be over 15 dollars..
    I planned my morning and wasted 2 hours shopping only to find out everything had to be over $15…

    why not everything??

    • Dave

      Obviously, Walmart does not have an endless stockroom, which is the reason they did away with lay-away in the first place. The customer demand grew too large and shut down the whole program. To bring it back in anyway whatsoever it had to be restructured to take storage space into consideration. There isn’t room for a hundred thousand customers to layaway every little thing they need.

  • Beth

    I was sick with both of my kids were sick as well. So when I went the day after to pick up my layaway, it was cancelled and home office is mailing the check. So I am waiting and now find out it will be a month or so before I get my post card with instructions! Mean while, my kids have NO christimas!! NO WHERE ON THE TERMS DOES IT STATE THIS!!!!

  • Yvie

    There is no layaway fee this year, you just pay the 10% down. Then if you don’t pay it on time or decide to cancel, they keep $10 and refund you the rest back that you’d already paid.

  • CL

    Walmart needs to have their layaway year round and no price on what you put in layaway. $15.00 or more on an item. I think Walmart needs to think more of the customers and not themselves.

  • jen

    I just went to get a layaway . I’ve always gone to kmart but thought I’d go to walmart this year. Ill admit I like to get smaller things to make it look like more. Nothing could be.put on layaway even though my stuff added up to Well over 200 bucks. I was extremely upset. Looks like I’m going back to kmart.

  • clem238

    I had a tv stand and a nuwave oven both over 70.00 and a lot of other things, NOT ONE could I put on layaway, not even the tv stand. I will never shop at that stupid store again. I put it all back and left.

  • jhodle

    It is now march 8th and I finally got a card from Walmart in the mail that I can finally pick up my deposit, on items that I put on layaway over three months ago. They held my money for over ;three months! If they do this to everyone of there customers that placed items on layaway, and weren’t able to get there in time nationwide that’s a lot of interest they collect on everyone’s money. Gives a new meaning to words valued customer.