a five-spot - use cash onlineWe're almost to Christmas, but first, there's Free Shipping Day -- the next all-important holiday/marketing event. That's the day retailers will offer some or all of their inventory shipped for free when purchased online hopefully to arrive in time for the holiday. But what if you're trying to pay with cash this year?

As a nation, we've been quite good at getting away from credit cards and increasing the savings rate. Restricting yourself to cash purchases is also a great way to stick to a budget. And if you're one of the many no longer eligible for credit, paying for online purchases can be tricky. Many people think there's not a way to use cash when buying online, but they're wrong.True, buying online makes dipping into credit awfully tempting. Paypal is great option for some but it still needs to be linked to a personal bank account, credit or debit card. That means providing the information to PayPal, normally considered a secure site but recent hacker activity in the aftermath of WikiLeaks has some thinking twice.

So eBillme got my attention.

eBillme is another way to pay online. There are some 800 websites signed up with the service and offer eBillme as a payment option at checkout. Unlike Paypal, there's no linking to a credit card or bank account. You just get a bill emailed and then pay it online like a utility bill or mortgage payment. All that's needed is an email address.

Admittedly, there's something nicely nostalgic about getting a bill in the mail, and simply writing a check. This is merely an electronic version of the old process.

eBillme has been around since 2005, but according to Samer Forzley, vice president of marketing, some new and compelling features have been added more recently including buyer protection on purchases similar to those with a credit card and if you find a product cheaper elsewhere online, eBillme will credit the difference.

In addition, participating merchants are offering between 5%-10% back on gift card purchases. The amount is redeemable as a coupon toward another purchase or once it totals $50, they'll send a check. Some are "layering discounts," according to Forzely, allowing buyers to get an extra percentage back through eBillme when they redeem the gift card too.

There's a growing list of retailers using eBillme, including biggies like Kmart, Sears and Crutchfield, and even more offering the option for gift card purchases including Amazon.com, JCPenney, Home Depot and Zappos. Buying gift cards online is a recommended way to avoid one of the many gift card scams this holiday season, and you get to pay in cash.

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