More Chicago Consumers Choosing Layaway Over Credit Card Debt This Year

Maybe it's our fascination with Mad Men. Maybe we're longing for a simpler time. Or perhaps we finally realized the cost of credit card debt.

Whatever the reason, statistics show that more Americans are buying the things on our holiday shopping lists with a retro form of payment known as layaway. And we might be saving big bucks - not to mention major stress - in the process, say Chicago bankruptcy attorneys.

Think of layaway as the older, more responsible sibling of credit. Like credit, you make multiple small payments for an item when you can't afford to buy it outright. But here's the difference. Credit allows you to take home an item the day you swipe your card, but then forces you to shell out interest and fees in exchange for that immediate gratification. With layaway, the goods stay at the store until you're done paying; with the exception of a small fee - usually about five bucks - you pay just the sticker price. In other words, you're simply putting your purchase on hold while you make affordable payments.

As more struggling consumers look for ways to pay without adding to already large debts, more retailers have started offering layaway as an option - stores like Sears, Best Buy, TJ Maxx and Toys "R" Us, to name a few.

Not that layaway - or any payment system, really - is perfect. Though most retailers will give most of your money back if you change your mind, there are exceptions. The best way to avoid losing money is to check the fine print in the layaway agreement - for example, make sure there isn't a major restocking fee if you cancel - and make sure to use solid, trustworthy businesses. If a company closes up shop before you're finished paying, you may not get a refund.

Layaway is a smart choice for many cash-strapped shoppers because it encourages planning and saving, while preventing new debt. But what to do about the lingering debt that you already have - debt that may be interfering with your ability to make mortgage payments or other bills? The next step for many consumers is bankruptcy. The right bankruptcy plan can lower or discharge your debt while protecting assets like your house. Have questions or concerns about bankruptcy? Get them addressed for free when you try a complimentary personal debt analysis with a professional bankruptcy attorney in Chicago.

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