When I was a little girl I went to the bank in January and started a Christmas Club. Every week I would put part of my allowance in my account to save up to buy presents for the holidays.
A variation on that idea is to put your Christmas gifts on layaway. Layaway gives you the opportunity to purchase gifts for family and friends without going into debt. This is the time to look into layaway purchases.
The key to layaway is to make regular payments. But be sure to read the store's layaway policies. Some stores are offering free layaway but are charging a cancellation fee if you decide not to purchase the item. The Better Business Bureau suggests you look at this checklist before putting an item on layaway.
1. Is there a fee to open the account?
2. How much do I have to put down?
3. How much time do I have to pay off the item?
4. When are the payments due?
5. How do I pay? Do I need to come to the store or can I do it online?
6. Are there any storage or service plan fees?
7. What happens if I miss a payment? Are there penalties?
8. What if I change my mind? Can I get a refund or store credit if I no longer want the items?
9. Is there a cancellation fee or other penalties that might apply?
10. What happens if the item goes on sale after I've put it on layaway?
11. What is the deadline for making final payment?
12. What is the deadline for picking up my merchandise?
You don't want to have your layaway experience cost you money. Remember, the reason you are using layaway is to budget your money without putting anything on credit. If done right, layaway can help you have a debt-free holiday.
Walmart is advertising a free holiday layaway program. There are no opening fees, but the store charges a $10 cancellation fee.
Kmart has free layaway valid on new layaway purchases made until Nov. 23. Members can also earn up to $10 back in points when they complete a layaway contract.
Toys R Us and Babies R Us requires a 10 percent deposit of the total cost of your purchase, but there is no service fee. Final payment and pick-up must be made on or before Dec. 15. If you cancel your layaway account, payments will be refunded minus a $10 cancellation fee.
Other savings opportunities
■ If you are ordering anything online, don't forget some stores are paying you to shop there. Check out ebates where you sign up and earn a quarterly check based on your purchases. Right now sign up to receive a free $10 gift card. http://bit.ly/17Nxr9q
■ Another online shopping tip is to load up your online cart then leave it there overnight. Many sites will email you that you forgot your order and giving you an incentive to purchase. I went online at CVS.com, put items in my cart, and the next day they gave me a 15 percent discount to make my purchases.
■ Go to any Chipotle dressed in costume on Halloween from 4 p.m. to close and you can purchase a $3 burrito.
■ Kids eat free Tuesday nights after 4 p.m. Oct. 22 and 29 at Bob Evans with adult entrée purchase. Celebrate Halloween by decorating your own candy bag there and receiving cookies.
■ Procter & Gamble has another holiday rebate offer. Through Dec. 31, whenever you spend $50 or more on CoverGirl, Pantene, Secret, Venus, Ivory, Herbal Essences, Aussie, Clairol, Safeguard, Olay, Crest 3D White Whitestrips, Always, Tampax, Head & Shoulders or Vidal Sassoon products, you can get a $15 VISA Pre-Paid Card via the mail-in rebate. http://bit.ly/1ctqlMy
■ Get free samples from P&G brand sampler. Request Gain Fireworks, Cascade Platinum, Pantene Expert. Try it and receive a coupon book. http://bit.ly/1ctqlMy
■ Through Jan. 5 you can get free movie admission to see Disney's Frozen whenever you buy an eligible Blu-ray combo pack or DVD. http://bit.ly/1hF2wld
■ Through Nov. 7, get a free one-day DVD rental when you enter promotional code 9MXW2LPC at a Redbox kiosk.
■ Have your kids write a letter to their favorite Disney character about why they love them so much. Mail the letter and you should receive an autographed photo in a few weeks. Walt Disney Company, Attn: Fan Mail Department, 500 South Buena Vista St., Burbank, Calif., 91521 or Walt Disney World Communications, P.O. Box 10040, Lake Buena Vista, Fla. 32830-0040.