You may have seen a commercial that K-Mart has been running lately encouraging people to make use of the “layaway” system for purchases this holiday season. To explain layaway for those who didn’t grow up middle-class in the last few decades, here’s the deal: Back in the hoary days of yore, when you wanted to buy something but didn’t have sufficient scratch on hand, one of the choices available was layaway. The way it worked was, you put some money down, and then made payments every one to two weeks until you had paid for the item. Then it was yours.
I know that, sadly, there are probably some people who have been struck dumb with incredulity at that description. “Mon Dio!” you say, aghast. “Surely you would just put such a purchase on your credit card.”
And, of course, nowadays that’s exactly what you would do. But, as horrifying as it may seem, there once was a time when people didn’t leverage their futures just to have the new shiny now. Maybe it’s actually a good sign that stores are bringing the concept of layaway back. Of course, the banks will find some way of making a shekel off it somehow. Such is life.