I remember the days my mom and dad would go to the store and put holiday purchases on layaway.

This was the way to get our home all dressed up for the holidays. My parents preferred this method of obtaining things instead of using a credit card.

That's the way to go!

Layaway plans are back, and although it might be tempting to just do it, there are a few things to keep in mind to maximize your time and money savings.

Once you know that merchandise you want can be placed in a layaway plan, here are my top three tips to make layaway work for you:

1. Do the Math

I know most of us don't like math; however, this is the only way you'll know if buying that toy or product through a layaway plan is worth it. We are looking for the total cost you would have to pay to be less than if you were using a credit card. Most layaway plan fees start at $5. This is the interest charge your card will have to beat.

2. Understand the Payment Plan

It's imperative that you understand when you need to make payments and how long you have to pay in full your layaway. As with any financing plans, there might be penalty fees if you miss a payment. Plans like the ones from Sears and Kmart will let you upgrade the item but not downgrade. Knowing your options will not only give you peace of mind but help your wallet as well.

3. Ask about the Return Policy

This is a must-ask question. Please don't assume that the regular returns policy will apply to your layaway purchase. Before you sign on the dotted line, know your rights and get answers to questions like: Will you get your money back or a store credit? Are there re-stocking fees associated with the layaway plan?

Remember, make the layaway program work for you! This is a great way to avoid the post holiday debt and avoid big lines at the stores.

Yoly Mason writes about frugality and savings tips and tricks in her popular Atlanta-based Spanish-language blog Cuponeando.net.

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