The holiday season is upon us and consumers are already searching far and wide for the perfect gifts for their friends and loved ones. In today's cash-strapped society, many people are pulling the reins on their holiday gift budget in an attempt to keep their finances in check. It is possible, however, to head into 2013 with your household budget still intact, without skimping on holiday gift giving.

Many consumers are relying heavily on layaway programs offered by retail stores. Layaway programs allow consumers to place items on hold for weeks or months at a time, until the customer pays off the balance. These programs have increased in popularity in recent years, though it should be noted that not all layaway programs are created equal. Here is a look at the best retail layaway plans of 2012, along with all the pertinent details you need before you hit the mall.

Toys"R"Us
The toy store giant Toys"R"Us is appealing to cash-strapped parents everywhere, with its flexible layaway program. Eligible items under the layaway plan include all toys, video game hardware, netbooks, cameras, baby gear, cribs and dressers, and select large toy items.

As of the date of this publication, Toys"R"Us is offering free layaway with no surcharge. Typically, Toys"R"Us allows customers 90 days to pay off layaway plans. For this holiday season, however, all layaway plans must be paid off and picked up by Dec. 16, 2012. Toys"R"Us' layaway program is only available in store, and you will need to go to the physical store location to pay on your layaway contract. Be prepared to show a photo ID and put a 20% deposit on your layaway contract.

Walmart
Offering a highly competitive layaway program with just a few rules, Walmart's consumers can benefit greatly from the plan offered by the big box store. Eligible merchandise includes toys, electronics, small appliances, jewelry, refrigerators and select sporting goods, costing over $15 each. Walmart requires a $5 layaway charge ($5 is refundable to a Walmart gift card upon full payment), and all contracts must be paid off and merchandise picked up by Dec. 14, 2012.

The layaway program is only valid in-store and payments can be made at any Walmart cash register. When you open your contract, you will be required to place a down payment of $10 or 10%, depending upon whichever is the greater amount. Additionally, the minimum amount of your layaway contract must be $50 or more.

Kmart
Kmart's layaway program comes with a $5 service charge and is valid in-store or online. Its layaway provides a high level of convenience to customers who can shop at their leisure from their home computer and make payments in-store or online. Kmart is one of the few stores offering layaway programs to online shoppers.

Kmart does require its customers to make the full payment by the eighth week. For purchases over $300, Kmart offers a 12-week option in-store. When you open your layaway contract, be prepared to make a down payment of $15 or 10%, with the greater amount of the two being taken.

The Bottom Line
The above retailers offer the best layaway programs of the 2012 holiday shopping season. While each retailer has its own special rules, each program allows consumers to pay for their holiday purchases over a longer period of time. Keep in mind that layaway deadlines are often strict, and if your merchandise is not paid for and picked up by the deadline, it could be restocked. Don't stretch your budget beyond its limits this holiday season. Instead, consider using a layaway program at a local retailer, where you can pay in smaller increments over the course of the weeks leading up to the holidays.

Related Articles
  1. Investing News

    Who Does Cheap Oil Benefit? See This Stock (DG)

    Cheap oil won't benefit most companies, but this retailer might buck that trend.
  2. Stock Analysis

    JCPenney's Path To Profitability (JCP)

    Learn about what J.C. Penney's management team has been doing to profitably grow its business as the company recovers from years of revenue declines.
  3. Budgeting

    Bespoke Post Review: Is It Worth It?

    Find out if Bespoke Post, the fast-growing, e-commerce subscription service for men's lifestyle and grooming products, is worth all of the hype in this review.
  4. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in Costco Stock (COST)

    Read about some of the biggest risks of investing in Costco stock. Gain a better understanding of its business model before buying in.
  5. Stock Analysis

    The Top 5 Retail Penny Stocks for 2016 (TWMC, DXLG)

    Find out which retail stocks trade for less than $5 a share. Learn about bargains that can avoid bankruptcy and produce nice returns for investors.
  6. Stock Analysis

    Wal-Mart's 3 Most Profitable Lines of Business (WMT)

    Learn about the key drivers of Wal-Mart's profitability as the company is concluding its fourth quarter, which is the period of its highest sales and income.
  7. Investing Basics

    4 Value Plays in the Retail Sector for H1 2016 (BBBY, WMT)

    Discover four value stocks of companies operating in the retail sector that can prove valuable investments for the second half of 2016 and beyond.
  8. Stock Analysis

    The Top 5 Micro Cap Retail Stocks for 2016 (KIRK,TCS)

    Identify five promising micro-cap retail stocks that all growth investors should have their eyes on when making portfolio decisions for 2016.
  9. Stock Analysis

    Party City Holdings: How It's Fared Since Its 2015 IPO (PRTY)

    Learn about Party City Holding's performance as a public company. Investors would have lost much more than the Russell 2000 Index by investing after the IPO.
  10. Retirement

    Harry's Review: Is It Worth It?

    Find out if Harry's, the fast-growing, online purveyor of low-cost razor blades and shaving kits, is worth all of the hype in this review.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Does QVC accept debit cards?

    QVC accepts debit card payments as one of its many payment options. The company, which is the world’s leading video and e-commerce ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Does QVC charge sales tax?

    QVC, an American TV network, is registered with states to collect sales or use tax on taxable items. QVC is also required ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Can you pay off a Walmart credit card in store? (WMT)

    Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) allows multiple payment options for its credit cards, including in-store payments. The ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Does Walmart take international credit cards?

    Foreign visitors to Walmart locations in the United States can use their credit cards issued by banks outside of the U.S. ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How can I invest in electronic retailing (e-tailing)? (AMZN, W)

    Electronic retail is one of the fastest growing segments of the economy. Every year, more people are choosing to purchase ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between JIT (just in time) and CMI (customer managed inventory)?

    Just-in-time (JIT) inventory management focuses solely on the need to replenish inventory only when it is required, reducing ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Liquidation Margin

    Liquidation margin refers to the value of all of the equity positions in a margin account. If an investor or trader holds ...
  2. Black Swan

    An event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and that would be extremely difficult ...
  3. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  4. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
  5. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
Trading Center