For as long as we’ve been together, my husband and I have placed almost all our purchases–gas, groceries, clothing, vacations, restaurants, and practically everything else we purchased–on a reward-earning credit card.

We thought we were being smart.

After all, we always paid off the balance each month, even when that balance made us cringe, or was the source of yet another huge fight about money. The day the credit card bill came was always a dark day each month in the Soukup household. Month after month we were always shocked. We weren’t really spending that much, were we? Besides, look how many rewards we were earning.

Even long after I started this blog and began curbing my shopaholic ways, we still used that card for our daily purchases. And even though I was budgeting and using coupons and finding amazing deals and buying things on sale, we were still frequently shocked by our bill. How could we still be spending so much? Where did it all go?

And then last fall we took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class and finally realized how disconnected we were from our money. As Dave says, we needed to feel what we were spending. So we started using cash. We made a cash budget, filled our little envelopes, and for the first time ever, actually spent less than we had budgeted. Not only that, for the first time ever we were finally working together to stay within our budget, rather than simply waiting for the bill to come in to see which of us was to blame this month.

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It was incredible.

I cannot say enough good things about the importance of cash and sticking to a cash budget. In fact, for me there was really only one major problem. With the exception of groceries, I do almost all my shopping online. Why? Because I can usually find things cheaper and I don’t have to leave the comfort of my own home.

Except you can’t pay cash online.

After our first month of cash I found that our carefully calculated envelopes were of no use to me for the bulk of the purchases I needed to make. So I pulled out the old rewards card we had been so careful not to use–the one we were supposed to cut up–and I made my online purchases. Of course that just left me with the cash I had budgeted still sitting in my envelopes. And you know what I did? I spent most of that too, and once again, we went over budget.

But this sad tale of budgeting missteps does have a happy ending.

I discovered Visa Prepaid, which is essentially a way to have my cake and eat it too. We can set up our cash budget each month, but then instead of putting all our cash in envelopes, we can allocate some of our cash to our Visa Prepaid card–as little or as much as we want. And unlike a debit or credit card (but just like cash), when the money is gone, it is GONE. There are no overdrafts or extended credit limits.

It’s like it was created just for ME! Because frankly, I sometimes still need hard and fast limits when it comes to spending.

Setting up & using the card is really easy. You can purchase one in person (find retail locations here) or online. Fees and terms vary by card, so read them carefully, but many of the cards waive the fees if you set up an automatic deposit. You can also keep track of your balance and purchases online, which is a huge advantage for those of us **cough cough** who might occasionally forget to write down our purchases. There is even a handy video that shows you exactly how to set up and activate your card:

I don’t think credit cards are actually bad in and of themselves, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who use them wisely. But I do know from personal experience that for many people they make overspending far too convenient. If you, like me, are struggling with a way to continue making online purchases yet stick to a cash budget, this might just be the perfect solution.

This post has been underwritten by Visa Prepaid. All views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Discover more at http://www.VisaPrepaid.com or view more Visa Prepaid videos at http://www.youtube.com/visaprepaid.

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Do you use mostly cash or mostly credit? How do you budget for online purchases? Do you ever find yourself spending more than you should on a traditional credit card?

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