Lay-away Memories

I grew up in a lower-middle class/upper lower class family. My mom was a single mom, with two young kids, working a job where she probably wasn’t making more than $19-25k/year as a secretary at a local bank. We shared a two bedroom apartment where my brother and I slept in bunk beds. We got one present for Christmas each year and it normally didn’t cost more than $25-30 dollars.

That said, I never felt growing up that I was missing out on anything. I knew that I wouldn’t get video game systems or expensive toys like my friends. We had birthday parties in the park with Little Ceaser’s to share with the friends.

One part of our lives that I never put much thought into was lay-away. And until today when I saw a Kmart commercial I never considered the fact that lay-away had disappeared from our culture.

Every summer we put on lay-away our new school clothes. And 2-3 paychecks later (about a month and a half) she’d finally finish paying off our new clothes and then we’d get to take them home with us. If my mom wanted a new work suit she’d put it on lay-away and pick it up usually 4-6 months later as she slowly paid it off. And as a child this was a completely normal process for us. We didn’t have the money, so it was fantastic that we could still get the clothes that we wanted without having to worry about them getting bought before we could save up funds for them. You got them when you paid for them.

By the time I got to high school my family was doing better financially, my mom moving up the secretary ladder and by high school she was the secretary to the president of the bank and probably making around what I currently make now ($39k). She was married, she bought us a home and my brother and I had our own rooms now. And somehow law-away went out of fashion and was replaced by the credit card. Get your stuff now, pay for it later – and pay a little bit more in interest.

Instant gratification replaced saving up for you wanted before you got it. And that is the culture that existed when I started to care about money. The world has become a more frugal place, a less credit-ful place, and somehow… I’m excited to see that lay-away is back. But perhaps just because it reminds me of my mother.

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4 Responses to Lay-away Memories

  1. That was a really sweet post. It’s funny which things that trigger childhood memories.

  2. Jessie says:

    It looks like you’ve really thought this through!!

  3. Jessie says:

    Oops. I meant that comment to be on your budget post you did today. Sorry about that.

  4. TMcImmy says:

    We were squarely middle class for most of my childhood, and I remember once asking my mom what layaway was, and her awkwardly trying to explain it. You’re absolutely right that store credit cards and bank credit cards replaced layaway. Layaway certainly was an interesting beast. On the one hand, people had some of the same criticisms about it as they do for Credit cards. On the other, you couldn’t spend more money than you had. That’s probably why layaway is back for some stores; in a world with tight credit markets, it does give people a way to save.

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