Often the subject of layaway plans is only discussed during the holiday season. In recent years, credit availability was at an all-time high and purchasing items through layaway plans became passé. However, with the recent economic downturn, many companies instituted layaway policies back into their normal store operations. Because of this, many people that would not be able to afford purchases could use layaway plans to pay for an item in its entirety before being allowed to take possession of the item. In addition, layaway plans vary from store to store, and they also require placing a down payment that ranges from varying percentages. This means that before a customer relents their cash, the details of the layaway plan should be completely understood in their entireties including any restocking fees that will be required if the plan is not completed and the customer receives a refund.

Whether or not a layaway plan is suitable for a particular customer depends on the personal circumstances of each customer, but if layaway plans allow people to attain things that are not attainable by other methods, layaway plans can be an effective means of purchase, but those with other means of credit or the ability to pay cash for items may not need such a system. However, there are certain methods by which a consumer can protect themselves from unscrupulous plans or hidden fees and requirements. First, the exact price and a description of the items in layaway should be spelled out concisely on the back of the receipt. In addition, a payment schedule that reflects when the payments are due, and the number of payments that are due before a zero balance is achieved. A customer should also have a clear understanding of the repercussions of paying late.

This is also true for when a complete refund is necessary. Often, companies will have a length of time or some other restriction that will cause the refund to be less than the amount paid. In other circumstances, the store may only issue a store credit instead of a refund after certain amount of time in the layaway process. Additionally, layaway systems can be utilized by small businesses. Often these businesses can go out of business or have erratic hours of operations. In these cases, it may not be advisable to buy anything from these types of stores. This is especially true if a layaway may not be available for some event like Christmas or birthdays. Layaway plans should only be used with companies that are reputable and financially sound. It is important to remember that layaway plans are contractual agreements. This means that understanding the terms clearly before signing is advisable to prevent any problems in the transaction.