As we confront a third wave of the Coronavirus, expected to hit later this week, I was thinking about how much our lives have changed over the last 15 months.
We have had to re-evaluate almost everything that we measure our modern lives against.
One of the things that has changed fundamentally, is how we spend our money, and what we spend it on.
I have previously written about the financially destructive prevalence of buying things on credit.
I remember talking about how the trusty old lay-bye was a near-perfect system that I reckon should be brought back.
It was a way for us to buy a big item without having to lay out all of the cash immediately.
The patience required to pay it off every week or month, was a good exercise in delayed gratification and led to the excitement of finally getting the thing that you had been waiting for for so long.
It was an all-round win-win system, because it meant that the retailer also got a sale that they otherwise may not have had, if they had insisted on all the cash up front.
Now that we are all turning over our pennies again, making sure we have cash on hand for just in case, retailers have been forced to look at new ways to sell their wares.
So the lay-bye is making a welcome comeback, albeit in a new high-tech format.
And while this is a worldwide new phenomenon, at least three local companies that sprung up to service South Africans have seen extraordinary growth in the last few months.
LayUp, PayJustNow, and Payflex all work on a similar system that allows you to buy what you need by putting down a deposit and then paying the remainder off over a period of time.
There is no interest, which means you don’t pay an inflated price for the thing over time and in most cases, you get the item straight away.
The most critical part of the arrangement is that you pay the instalments on the dates you agree to, otherwise there will be penalties.
But beyond that, there truly is no other catch.
The retailer makes a sale (which they otherwise may not have made), from which these companies take a commission and you get your new fridge for the cash price, without having to wait.
When I was a kid, just about every new thing we had was bought on lay-bye.
It gave my mom a lot of breathing space and she was diligent in paying the instalments every week.
And in the case of my prized “Donkey Kong” game, it taught me the value of delayed gratification in exchange for the eventual excitement.
I have always considered credit and Higher Purchase agreements to be highly exploitative and part of the reason many people are unable to dig themselves out of the debt cycle.
While this pandemic has been extremely frustrating for a number of reasons, it has given us the opportunity to rethink our priorities; how we can live our lives better and more to our own benefit. And I reckon this is one such opportunity.