Category Archives: cash basis

Life without a credit card

In the distant past, I wrote a post about shopping online without a credit card. At the time, I recommended Vanilla Visa gift cards; these cards come in denominations of $25, $50, and $100, and can be purchased in many places, such as CVS Pharmacy.

I have come to decide that these cards are NOT the way to go. A big disadvantage of the Visa gift card variety is that they are only good for the face value, and cannot be reloaded. Add to that a steep initial purchase price, and the cost-effectiveness of using the card goes way down. The environmental impact of all those disposable plastic cards is also a concern.

Since then, I have been using– and highly recommend– the Wal-Mart Money Card. Say what you will about Wal-Mart (and I’ll probably agree with every criticism you might have), but the Money Card has changed my financial life.

The Wal-Mart Money Card has many advantages over the “single use” cards:

  • A debit card that can be used anywhere Visa is accepted
  • Card is printed with your name
  • Reloadable
  • Direct deposit for paychecks and income tax refunds
  • Convenient bill-payment service
  • Low fees

Using the Wal-Mart Money Card for direct deposit and bill-paying has made budgeting so much easier… and no more weekly trips to the bank to cash paychecks! Most important, I am only spending what I actually have– no credit card debt or hassles.

Do yourself a favor and check out the Wal-Mart Money Card. You may very well decide it is the right choice for you.



Filed under budget, budgeting, cash basis, credit, credit cards, frugal, money, money management

Shopping online without a credit card

As I’ve made the lifestyle shift to operating on a strictly cash basis, I’ve learned plenty about navigating through the world without a credit card.

Worried that you’ll miss out on great online deals because you don’t have/use a credit card?

The fact is, you CAN shop online without a credit card. The trick is, you need to have the cash to afford what you want to buy. (There’s always a catch, isn’t there?)

Here are a few options for safe online shopping… without a credit card.


Paypal is an internet service that allows you to make payments online. Ebay owns Paypal, so I consider it a solid and reputable . Aside from ebay, many other websites also accept Paypal for online purchases.

Paypal is basically an online bank account that is linked to your primary bankaccount(s). You transfer money from, for example, your checking account to your Paypal account, and then Paypal will release funds at your request to the online merchant(s) you do business with.

Unfortunately, Paypal has been targeted by phishing scammers who attempt to access customer bank accounts. If you get an email from Paypal that requests log-in information such as your password, NEVER give out that information! Don’t click on any links in Paypal emails, even if they seem legitimate. Always open a new tab/window and type in paypal’s web address.


These handy cards can be purchased in various denominations (such as $25, $50, $100) and used just like any gift card. But unlike a store gift card, they can be used anywhere that accepts Visa. They are especially handy for shopping online– they have the familiar 16-digit card number and expiration date. You are, of course, limited to the face value of the card. Remember that a giftcard is as good as cash, so protect it as such!

I buy all my college textbooks on (at a staggering discount), using pre-paid Visa giftcards. For just three of my classes, I saved almost $200 over the school bookstore!

You can also get a pre-paid Visa card from banks, credit unions, and other places such as Wal-Mart. You load money onto the card, and then it is available for purchases.

The reloadable Wal-Mart Money Card is a super alternative to the cards with fixed denominations, as I have recently posted here.

Still other bank-issued pre-paid Visa cards can be custom-imprinted with your name, and the activity on your card will appear on your credit report. There may be some extra consumer protection with this card, but I’ve had no problem using Visa giftcards.

With pre-paid Visa cards, you will usually pay a fee. A $50 card might cost you $53.95, for example, and a $100 card might cost $105.95. The $100 card is a slightly better value at $105.95, since two $50 cards would cost you  $107.90.

Of course, always protect your Visa giftcards and keep them in a secure place– they’re as good as cash to anyone else who might find them.


Debit cards can be used for purchases on virtually any website. You enter your debit card information directly from the card, just like a credit card.

Your debit card is linked to your checking account, so you are of course limited to the amount of money you have in your account. Think about it: you would have to write a check to the credit card company (hopefully) at the end of the month anyway, so use your debit card and save yourself the extra work.

It’s important to know that debit cards are just as safe as credit cards, despite what the credit card merchants would like you to know.

Personal finance author Dave Ramsey has written some excellent articles about debit cards, such as:

The Basics of Your Debit Card

There are ways of living in the world without incurring credit card debt. Hurray for cash!


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Filed under cash basis, credit cards, money management, shopping

I’m economically stimulated now, thank you.

Well, I got my whopping $300 economic stimulus rebate check yesterday.

According to yesterday’s sale flyer, Wal-Mart will cash your stimulus check for free (they normally charge $3). And hey! Since you’re already in the store with a sweaty fist full of cash, why not check out some great deals on enormous plasma TVs!


I thought I might do something really crazy and unorthodox with my stimulus money.

I’m going to (gasp) save it.

Sure, it’s subversive and unamerican to not be a good little consumer-bot.

But the fact is, my little junker car will probably not make it through another winter. Since I refuse to take on a car payment, I’m saving my cash. I expect to buy something in the $3000-$4000 range before the snow starts flying in November/December.

I’m thinking of getting an older Subaru. I’m sort of in love with the older Impreza Outback Sport wagons. They’re cute and sporty and all-wheel drive is awesome in the snow (this is Maine, after all). They also have pretty good gas mileage and last forever.

So instead of leaping into instant gratification at Wal-Mart, my stimulus spending will be somewhat deferred. This is how people used to make major purchases in the olden days. Seems like a good idea to me.

Related post: Car poverty

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Filed under cash basis, frugal, money management, saving money