“12/2011″ it says on my credit card. It still does. It didn’t get the replacement – it was sent to the wrong address. I could have easily gotten it by now, but I chose to try something else instead. What if I had to survive online without a credit card?
A friendly disclaimer
Don’t think of this as a guide. I did it as an experiment and to see if it would work, so I don’t claim this is practical for everyone. But it was fun for me! It was the couch potato’s version of the Bitcoin road trip!
My credit card bill generally averaged around 500$ for various subscriptions, doodads and most importantly hosting for various sites I help run. For real-world shopping I generally use my debit card (Maestro), accepted basically everywhere in Switzerland and bills are paid via online banking.
At least I wasn’t going to starve to death. Always a plus.
Off to a promising start
I also didn’t bother canceling anything. Letting my subscriptions run out one by one gave me a chance to look for alternatives without being overwhelmed. One of the first things that ran out was my Skype Unlimited subscription. I looked for Bitcoin alternatives and it turns out there are a few, but in my case – I couldn’t remember the last time I used Skype’s paid features anyway. So I just let it quietly slip away.
Next one that came up for renewal was Megaupload. I’m known to be quite data hungry and apparently that puts me in the illustrious company of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. Living outside the US and not owning a TV, I know Kim Kardashian only vaguely from being graphically murdered on South Park, but from what I understand she’s famous. And who’s to argue with that.
After some searching I stumbled on Premiumize.ME. (Disclosure: This is my referral link.) For a very reasonable sum of Bitcoins, this gets you premium access to download from any of the most popular file hosters. And they even throw in a proxy feature that on sites like Hulu and Pandora lets you bypass the annoying “This content is not for you, non-US scum!” message — alright, I may have dramatized that message some. But I’m very happy with Premiumize.ME and I pay less money than ever.
Next up was the big one. Hosting. Amazon AWS came in at $351.45, mostly for 42 million requests and 1.7 TB transfer out on S3. Ouch. Since Amazon charges retroactively I had to settle that with some creative accounting, but I resolved to find an alternative. Enter SnelServer. They cater specifically to professionals by offering very powerful hardware, a huge bandwidth allowance (10 TB included) and great admin tools. I won’t bore you with the technical jargon, but I set up a nice server with plenty of capacity to take over for S3 and for another server I wanted to retire. In the end, I paid 30 BTC/month, at the time worth about 50% less than my S3 bill.
I couldn’t renew di.fm – they don’t accept Bitcoin yet. But thanks to Premiumize.ME, I have Pandora to listen to until they do.
Flattr doesn’t accept Bitcoin yet either, although their community wants them to. Fortunately, some of my favorite projects to support now accept Bitcoin donations directly, so I satisfied my monthly desire to “give back” by sending some coins to SparkleShare and the Internet Archive.
Probably the most painful sacrifice of the whole experience was missing the Humble Indie Bundle 4. I love old school platformers and if they come with a sound track like Super Meat Boy’s my hand reaches for the credit card almost automatically. Except this time it came up empty. I know some folks from the community contacted Humble Bundle regarding Bitcoin acceptance and MtGox actually clocked in as their largest donor last time, but despite all that it still hasn’t happened and so I remain meatboyless and sad.
A silver lining
Despite the setbacks the whole experience had an interesting side effect. When looking for substitutes I noticed how much I was paying on a monthly basis for stuff that I no longer needed or wanted. Thanks to some good substitutions and without all the clutter I reduced my monthly “Internet-related expenses” from 500$ to less than 300$ worth of Bitcoins.
Now that I have some money left over, I’m curious: What are your favorite places to spend coins?