Layaways are back

Payment due marked on calendar

If you're trying to pay off your credit cards, the last thing you need to do is charge a bunch of holiday purchases.

That's why some retailers are reviving an old way to buy gifts that won't plunge you deeper into debt.

If you've been near your TV lately, you've probably seen commercials pushing Kmart's layaway program, which lets you pick what you want now, leave a down payment, then make a payment every two weeks. When the balance is paid, you take the items home.

You skip all the credit card interest (and angst) and pay just a $5 fee for the service. You'll have eight weeks to pay -- just in time for the holidays. If you change your mind, there's a $10 cancellation fee.

Layaways aren't offered at all Kmarts. Check Kmart.com to find a store near you that offers the service.

Not a blue light special shopper?

Check out elayaway.com which lets you use layaway plans for online shopping. There's a 1.9% service charge for every $100 of layaway merchandise. Some discount stores like Marshalls and Burlington Coat Factory, plus KB Toys, offer layaway as well.

Kmart never stopped offering layaway, but the plan became less popular when credit came cheap and easy. Target and Walmart, for example, phased out their layaway plans in favor of store credit cards.

Could that change?

Target and Walmart officials have said that they have no plans to bring back layaway in the near future, but as consumers look for ways to avoid racking up credit card charges, layaway could be the way to pay again.