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The lowdown on layaway: 6 stores offering payment plans for the holidays

Layaway, unfortunately, means paying extra money for something you could buy for less upfront. But if you're really set on layaway this holiday season, here are six stores that offer the service.

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    Customers line up outside a Kmart store on Thanksgiving morning in 2014. For the month of November, Kmart is offering no money down layaway for in-store shoppers, and just $0.01 down layaway for online shoppers.
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As you may remember, Walmart made quite the splash this summer by starting their holiday layaway on August 28, a full two weeks before their 2014 program began. For the record, we're not huge fans of layaway here at Brad's Deals, as it means paying extra money for something you could buy for less upfront. 

In our opinion, it's a poor consumer decision that forces you to literally lend money to big-name retailers AND pay them for the privilege, and as the economy has strengthened, a lot of stores that used to offer layaway have phased it out. But if you're really set on layaway this holiday season, here are 6 stores that offer the service.

For the month of November, Kmart is offering no money down layaway for in-store shoppers, and just $0.01 down layaway for online shoppers. There is an 8-week option, which has a $5 service fee, and a 12-week option which has a $10 service fee. Both require you to make biweekly payments, and both usually have a $10 down payment (which is waived in November), but if you cancel, you'll be paying $10 for the 8-week plan and $20 for the 12-week plan. Note that you're only allowed to choose the 12-week option if your purchase totals more than $300, and you'll have to set this up in-store, as only the 8-week plan is available online. For more information (including exclusions), check out Kmart's website.

This isn't offered in every store, but the ones that do charge either 10 percent or $10 down (whichever is greater) and a non-refundable $5 fee. Your order must be picked up or cancelled within 30 days, and if you do choose to cancel it's an additional $5 fee. Call your local store for details.

As Sears and Kmart are owned and operated by the same company, Sears' layaway is pretty similar to Kmart's. There's an 8-week plan and a 12-week plan, both of which require you to make payments biweekly. The 8-week plan has a $5 service fee, a $15 cancellation fee and is available bot in-store and online. The 12-week plan has a $10 service fee, a $25 cancellation fee, and is only available in-store. Right now Sears is offering no money down layaway for in-store shoppers and $0.01 down layaway for online shoppers.

As with their sister store Marshalls, some TJ Maxx locations offer layaway, but information on their policies is hard to find online. Call your local store and they'll be able to tell you whether or not they offer the service, and what their rates are if they do.

Toys 'R' Us and Babies 'R' Us offer layaway with 10 percent down, and a $5 service fee. The order must be payed for within 90 days: 40 percent after 30 days, 70 percent after 60 days and 100 percent after 90. There is a fee if you choose to cancel, but I couldn't find information on exactly how much that fee is. For additional details check out their layaway FAQs.

As I said before, Walmart's holiday layaway started way back in August, and goes until December 14. There's no opening fee, and a down payment of $10 or 10 percent (whichever's greater), and a $10 cancellation fee. Items on layaway must be $10 or more, and the entire layaway order needs to total $50 or more--but for the record, Black Friday deals will NOT be eligible for layaway.

Again, we will reiterate that layaway is NOT a frugal choice to make. Yes, you will be paying less money up front, but the end result will leave you paying more, and if you need to cancel a layaway order, you'll be paying on average $15-$20 for literally nothing. Bottom line: use layaway sparingly.

What's your experience with holiday layaway? Love it? Hate it? 

This article first appeared in Brad's Deals.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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