I guess layaway IS better, financially than credit. The biggest positive difference is that on layaway you aren’t spending money you don’t have. I’m not certain, but I don’t think you’re charged interest with most layaway plans. I’ve even heard it argued that layaway is just forced budgeting: putting aside a little bit every month, so that you can save for that big purchase etc.
I’m still suspicious though. Better is not the same as good.
Look, I get that it’s the holidays and that people are going to spend more than they should, and that they still aren’t going to spend nearly as much as businesses would like. I don’t even really blame businesses for pulling out every trick they can to get people to spend more. It’s just that I imagine people buying more and more things, putting down a little bit here and a little bit there, and I wonder how much better layaway is than credit. In the case of credit you have a slowly increasing bill that for many people gets so large that the possibility of every actually paying it off becomes unthinkable. With layaway, you simply commit larger and larger sections of a budget which is apparently already tight enough that you had to buy on layaway.
The real problem here is that our economy is reliant on people buying things they don’t need and can’t afford. Credit has only made this problem bigger, it isn’t the real cause. The true cause is our insatiable thirst for more more more stuff.
A woman on the radio the other day said that she liked layaway because she’d used it to buy herself a pair of $1000 shoes that she otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. I can’t explain exactly what about this bothers me. Is our need for brand reassurance the same as our need for an endless supply of cheap crap? I’m not sure. Neither seems all that healthy though.