Question of the Day: Are layaways good plans for holiday shopping?

Kristina Sanborn

Are retail layaway plans a reasonable convenience or a dangerous tool for consumer spending?
Mega-retailers such as Kmart, Walmart, and Sears are pushing advertisements for their layaway plans to help consumers finance their holiday spending.  In a layaway, consumers make multiple small payments on their bill over an extended period instead of paying it all at once. Are layaway plans a more reasonable alternative to racking up holiday credit card debt or are they only disguised as a convenience to push irresponsible consumer spending?