Layaway deals available now

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You may be getting the Halloween costumes together, but retailers are already thinking Christmas. And they are offering some incentives to get your list together early.

Layaway is growing in popularity as a way to budget, as long as you stick to the plan. 

And therein lies the rub. With more and more people utilizing layaway, those "hot toys" are likely to leave the shelves a lot earlier. So it may pay to think about your Christmas list now rather than later.

Toys R Us one of a growing number of stores offering layaway, and now waiving the fee that typically goes along with this service.

"We waived the processing fee," said Toys R Us manager Kevin Hildebrand. "With just 20-percent down, they love that. Not a lot of stores are doing it, so it brings a lot of people to our store."

The Christmas shopping season starts earlier every year because it's the meat and potatoes for the retail industry. It's a crucial time for their bottom line. So retailers have to come up with different ways to get you in their store earlier and, hopefully, spend more. Layaway is one way to do that.

That's why Toys R Us waived their program fee.  They will require a 20-percent down payment, and you must pick up your purchases by December 16th.

Wal-Mart started its layaway program a month earlier than last year, and charges a $5 fee, with the option to put down $10 or 10-percent to hold your purchase. Their pickup deadline is December 14th. 

Best Buy has no pickup deadline date, but requires a 5% fee and 25-percent down.

In all cases, if you miss a payment, or don't make the deadline, the store will put the items back on the shelf. Which means the hot toy might end up under someone else's tree.And if you procrastinate by waiting until mid-December to shop, some layaway customers will cancel their purchases, meaning the hot toys they reserved might go back on the shelves.

More and more stores will be offering free shipping.

Hildebrand said layaway "gives mom and dad a great opportunity to budget their money this Christmas season, because it's hard to put all that money down at once. It's a great chance to reserve all those great toys that may be harder to find closer to Christmas."