Flip on the TV, peruse a newspaper or visit an online site and you'll discover a host of major retailers offering layaway -- either for the holidays or throughout the year.
"Layaway never completely went away," says Daniel Butler, vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation.
For many smaller retailers, especially those in rural locations, layaway has always been "a way they could service their community and be competitive," he says.
While layaway currently lacks the explosive popularity of gift cards, it's a trend that bears watching, says Butler. Depending on consumer reaction, stores offering holiday layaway could extend their programs year-round, and retailers without layaway could make it available, he says.
The smartest move for consumers using layaway is to step back and look at the big picture.
Calculate "exactly what are you paying for the product," says Nadine Samter, attorney with the Federal Trade Commission. It's equally important to note when you can collect your items and what happens if something goes wrong, she says.
Considering layaway? Here are eight things you need to know.