It is estimated that less than 5% of the population live entirely by cash alone. We have beome dependent on using plastic banking cards and online purchasing in the last 20-30 years, since the first ATM machines appeared in the early 1980s. There are obvious upsides such as primarily convenience, but there are downsides too.
The drawbacks of living off of plastic become more self evident when one finds themselves going through bankruptcy, divorce, lawsuits, debt collection, back taxes, etc.
Using plastic ATM banking cards and credit cards leaves a paper trail for the snoops in your life to follow. But there is a workaround that can allow you to have it both ways - keep your plastic and leave no paper trail of your purchases.
Cash Only Living:
Get cash out of your credit cards. Going to the bank and getting a cash advance is eay to do, and as long as you pay the difference in 30 days, it will be just like using a debit card on your chequing account. Once you walk out of the bank with cash in your hands from an advance on your Visa cards, there will be no trace of where the money went, and what it was used for.
Start using a prepaid credit card. Use the cash from the credit cards to buy prepaid credit cards. The term "pre-paid credit card" is a misleading one as they are not really credit cards nor even bank debit cards, even though they are issued by companies which also deal in retail credit products, such as Visa for example.
These cards will not even have your name on them, instead using just the account number and there is no approval process, as they are really, in practical terms, gift cards issued by credit card companies. You dont even need a bank account to purchase one from a bank.
If you are going through bankruptcy, divorce etc, and need some extra cash flow that you do not want others to know about, try this golden tip: get a cash advance from your Visa card, and then walk out of the bank with the cash, give it to a friend to buy a pre-paid credit card for you. Truly untraceable. (note: though that it's fraudulent in some areas to try to hide assets, such as money from a bank account or just plain cash, from your creditors. It's one thing to take money out to ensure access to it; it's another to take it in order to try to hide its existence and location. They could nail you for that.)
Learn to carry cash for all of your basic expenses. Using your credit card as a debit card, by paying off your cash advances monthly, you will have a literal stready cash flow. Use this cash to pay your rent, buy your groceries, pay your utilities, gas, etc all with cash.
This will also totally eliminate the risk of exposing you to ATM skimming fraud, which is becoming more prevalent daily, especially with those no-name ATM machines. By paying cash only, you cover yourself against these risks.
Use money orders to pay bills. Getting a money order can be relatively expensive if you buy a Western Union money order from one of those cash-a-cheque stores. They usually cost $1-$3. Not only do you save the $30 that a box of cheques costs you, but they are also safer than carrying large sums of cash on you to pay the rent or mortgage.
Keep your receipts. There are instances where you will need receipts such as returning a faulty consumer product, or doing your tax return. Go to Walmart and buy one of those cheap paper accordion style file folders for storing your receipts to keep things organized for you.
Save money by living a cash only lifestyle. Privacy is not the only benefit of living a cash only life. Arrange your life from a week-to-week spending perspective and keep only enough cash on hand that you need to make it through the week. Get one of those fireproof safes for some added security as they are not unreasonably expensive for the smaller ones.
Use your credit card cash advances to guard yourself against fraud. Contrary to popular belief, when you fall victim to a typical ATM skimmer fraud, you are not insured against loss as you are with a major credit card. Usually when your Visa or Mastercard gets lost or stolen and someone uses it fraudulently, all you are on the hook for is the $50 deductible. With your debit card, not so - you are not protected at all.
One of many reasons why the system needs to be reformed, as the 1980s magnetic strip technology which is easily circumvented by a fraudster's skimmer could be replaced with a more secure technology, but the banks are resistant to spend the money for this upgrade, and the government (which seems essentially owned by the big banks and corporations today) is resistant to force them to do anything about it - a move which would greatly protect consumers.
But, I digress. Meantime, we have to find more ingenious ways to avoid falling victim to both a system which is gamed to work against us and criminals who want to steal our hard-earned money.