I can’t think of many things worse than waking up on Dec. 26 with a raging debt hangover — an all-too-common after-Christmas condition. Been there, done that and gratefully now live to tell!
Of course, you promise yourself you will pay the balance in full the minute the statement arrives, but who are we kidding here? That’s an easy promise to make, but it’s hard to keep, especially at this time of year.
Perhaps you were already carrying a balance on every card in your wallet, so now all of those new purchases exacerbate the problem by plunging you even deeper into debt. Worse, you don’t even know for sure how much you spent because who keeps track when you pay for everything with plastic?
Just imagine if you’d kept your promise that this year would be an all-cash Christmas — that you locked those credit cards away where they were safe from you.
As you wake up the day after Christmas, you’d be heading into the New Year with a much different attitude. No excuses, no hiding the holiday bills, no worries and no regrets.
I’ve got some good news for everyone, and not only those who are already carrying credit card balances. This year really can be an all-cash Christmas. You can do it and make your cash stretch even further when you take advantage of the deals and free shipping when you shop online.
You really can shop with cash at Amazon and hundreds of stores with online shopping sites, absolutely no credit card or debit card required. Let me show you how to do that using Amazon as an example.
Step 1: Purchase an Amazon gift card. Stop into the nearest Walgreens or any number of supermarkets, drugstores and convenience stores nationwide that sell gift cards. Purchase an Amazon gift card in the face value of your choice and pay for it with cash. Now that gift card is activated to be used at Amazon.com.
Step 2: Deposit the gift card to your Amazon account. Go to Amazon.com and log in to your account. (Create a new account if you do not already have one.) Go to “Redeem a (Amazon) Gift Card.” Follow the simple instructions to add your Amazon gift card’s unique claim code to your account. It is super easy and takes only a minute.
Now those funds are available immediately and held safely in your account, will not expire, have no activation or maintenance fees, and will automatically apply to your next Amazon order (unless you select a different payment method at checkout).
See how easy that was?
You can use the same tactics to shop online with cash at other online retailers such as Target, Walmart, Apple, Netflix, Nintendo, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Sephora, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot and so forth. Just follow the steps above for Amazon. The process is the same:
You go to that store’s online shopping site, sign in, go to your account and, once there, identify the place to upload or add that store’s gift card.
Here are some other ways to spend cash online:
Coinstar. Got a lot of loose change? You can take your change and cash to any of the more than 20,000 Coinstar kiosks located in grocery stores everywhere and have it converted to a gift card (Amazon is only one of the dozens of retail and restaurant options), with no fee deducted. But if you convert to cash, a hefty 11.9% fee will be deducted.
Follow the steps above to add these funds to your Amazon or other favorite online retailer account.
Western Union. You can purchase an Amazon claim code with cash in any amount from $25 to $2,000 at 42,000 Western Union Agent locations across the U.S. Add the claim code to your Amazon account. Follow step 2 of the Amazon instructions above.
MoneyGram. Visit a participating MoneyGram agent location at MoneyGram.com (there are more than 350,000 worldwide) to purchase an Amazon gift card claim code with cash and no fees. Follow step 2 above.
There you go. Simple, convenient ways you can enjoy the convenience of Amazon shopping while still experiencing an all-cash Christmas!
Buy an Amazon or other online retailer’s gift card with cash and use it to pay for your online purchases at those sites.
Amazon gift cards are for sale for any amount from $15 to $500 at drugstores, supermarkets, discount stores — just about everywhere.
Coinstar machines in grocery stores will accept cash and coins and payout an Amazon gift card with no fees deducted.
Western Union locations sell Amazon claim codes, which work the same as an Amazon gift card.
So do the 350,000 Moneygram locations worldwide.
Mary Hunt writes this column for Creators Syndicate. She is the founder of www.EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of “Debt-Proof Living.” Submit comments or tips or address questions on her website. She will answer questions of general interest via this column, but letters cannot be answered individually.