A few days ago I heard an NPR interview with a Harvard professor discussing the disintegrating credit scene in the US; she noted that layaway was making a comeback. K-Mart's pushing it in their new advertising campaign and Walletpop named layaway one of the most underrated concepts in the American financial scene.
JESUS. Remember layaway? The counter in the back of Bradlees or Caldor, mom with a Winston dangling loosely from her lip, pointing out a coffee table circled in a catalog? Oh, the 80's.
Layaway apparently started during the Depression: The Prologue in the 30's. The idea is simple: you purchase an item by paying for it incrementally, but you don't get to take it home until you finish paying. There's no interest and you must plan your purchases. After credit got easy and cheap in the 80's, most stores discontinued the service, supposing few would pay $0.25 today for a hamburger they'll collect Wednesday when instead they can pay 18% APR to eat that hamburger today.
The idea of credit is weird. When my cousin's wife (and my familial BFF) moved to San Francisco from Madrid, she signed up for plastic to start building her state-side credit. After three months, the card was canceled--she'd never paid, assuming, like in Europe, American credit cards linked automatically to your checking account and paid bills in full each month.
Anyhow. Apropos of nothing, here are a few links finance sites I like:
Walletpop, AOL's personal finance blog, is pretty good for a quick glance at what's going on in the world of money.
Penny Plastic is the real-life tale of a lady of my age who's trying to dig herself out of a pile of debt. $23,000, to be specific. Honest and smart.