Photo by Prixel Creative

The holiday gift giving season is here! And yes that means many people are crowding into stores on a daily basis looking for deals or a special present. However, a few years ago during the economic downturn, many people had to start planning for the holidays a bit earlier than usual using the tried and true layaway plan to make sure there were those special gifts to give to loved ones.

As a reference point, layaway is a system of placing a deposit on an item or items to secure or hold them for later purchase. It is a practice that is often resurrected and becomes popular during tough economic times or recessions.

But even with the best of planning, there are still those that have a tough time getting their items out of layaway in time for the holidays. That is where Layaway Angels come in!

Have you ever wanted to do something for someone anonymously and as a surprise? Whether your answer is yes or even no, there is something you can do that would truly change someone’s life and ensure they had a holiday to remember.

You can be a layaway angel! You can ensure that a family has the best holiday by ensuring they have what they wished for when they initially put the items in layaway.

A few years ago, my family began participating in this trend of helping others. Initially, it started with my family making a last minute decision on Christmas Eve to pay for a layaway with all of us reaching into our pockets, billfolds and purses to find some cash. My brother was put in charge of the task of finding a store still open. His only request was that layaway be filled with children’s toys. He always wants to make sure children have a wonderful Christmas morning discovering many gifts and surprises under the tree.

From that day, it has evolved for my family into an annual Christmas tradition. We no longer purchase gifts for each other but instead putting those dollars we would have spent towards paying off a layaway…and yes, it must still be filled with toys.

Since 2011, the numbers of anonymous “layaway angels”—those who pay balances on store accounts and try make the holidays nicer and maybe even merrier for needy families—have grown developing this activity into a national phenomenon.

According to USA Today in 2012, Walmart stated that layaway angels visited stores from California to South Carolina, making donations from $40 to $27,000 in efforts to pay off someone’s dream.

So, some readers might ask how they can participate in this effort? Is there still time? Below are five steps you can take to becoming a layaway angel:

  1. Set a budget. Determine how much money you want to spend in paying off someone’s layaway.
  2. Ask family members or friends to join in the effort.
  3. Review the stores in your community; check online or via calling them to ascertain if they do layaway and what is the date all items must be removed [each store has different dates in which they request the items to be paid for and removed]. (Stores that have participated in the past include Kmart, Walmart, Toys R Us, Sears, Burlington Coat Factory.)
  4. Decide if you want to pay off one layaway item in full or put some money toward a number of layaways; either way is a win-win!
  5. If it is too late to pay off someone’s layaway in your community (meaning the stores have ended the program this year), then find someone in the community whom you could help. Check with any of the following organizations which usually know of families and children in need: YWCA, YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, VA Hospital, local hospital, senior center, senior residences, etc.  There is still time to be Making A Difference ® (MAD).

BONUS TIP: By doing this, you also provide a gift to the layaway clerk/manager who gets the delightful task of calling to inform the customer that their layaway has been paid off.  Having personally witnessed this, it is a wonderful gift to give to someone working in retail at the holiday season

There are so many things that tug at us this time of year…from making cookies, to purchasing and wrapping presents, trimming the tree and decorating to traveling. Let’s not forget those in need…and find a way to help. One way is layaway angels.

You can be Making A Difference® (MAD)!

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