Best ways to pay for something you can't afford

Best ways to pay for something you can't afford

Say you don’t have the cash on hand for something you want to buy – does that mean you can’t afford it? Let’s look at some of your options.

Things like a debit card linked to your account, contactless payment or online payment are all ways of paying money that you already have. What we’re talking about here is when you don’t already have the money to finance a purchase. These include:

  • Credit cards
  • Gift cards and vouchers
  • Lay-by
  • Afterpay and zipPay
  • PayPal

Credit cards

Credit cards allow you to buy something on the spot, whether or not you have the cash to pay for it. To obtain a credit card you must fill out an application with your bank or financial institution.

Credit cards certainly make purchasing easier. However, you need to remember that you are still spending money when you use your card, and will have to pay the bill when it arrives. If you don’t pay the full amount by the due date, then you will be charged interest – meaning it’s easy to end up owing more than you intended.

Gift cards and vouchers

Gift cards, vouchers and store cards all basically serve the same function. You use them like a pre-paid credit card. Money is pre-loaded on the card and it can be used until all the money is spent. The difference between these sorts of cards and pre-paid credit cards is that they can only be spent at the store they were issued at.


A lay-by agreement is one that allows you to you buy something and pay for it in several instalments before taking it home. You won’t be allowed to take it home until it is completely paid for. You’ll usually pay 10-20 per cent as a deposit (and any deposit you pay is an instalment). You must get a copy of your written lay-by agreement that states all terms and conditions, including any termination fees that may apply.

Lay-by can be a useful way of spreading payment of purchases over a longer period, to help your budget cope. However, there are drawbacks to consider, like:

  • Large department stores often charge service fees (although many smaller retailers might not)
  • Large department stores may also keep your deposit (up to 20 per cent) and the service charge if you cancel your lay-by
  • Your lay-by is always locked in at the original price for the product, so if it later goes on sale, you miss out on the lower price
  • If the store goes into receivership before you’ve finalised the lay-by, you will probably have lost the item and you may become an unsecured creditor, meaning you become the last in line to get your money back

Remember these tips to helps protect your rights:

  • Before you sign the agreement and pay any deposit, make sure you read and agree with the terms and conditions, including payment dates, amounts and any extra charges you’ll have to pay if you decide to cancel
  • Keep copies of the agreement and receipts for the deposit and all instalments, so you’re covered if there is a problem later

Afterpay and zipPay

Afterpay is a system similar to lay-by. It offers online shoppers a simple instalment plan, allowing them to pay for purchases in four equal instalments, which are due every fortnight. When you shop from a store in Afterpay’s online Shop Directory, you then choose Afterpay as your payment method at checkout (like PayPal). First-time customers must provide payment details to set up an account.

After you check out, the goods will be shipped to you by the seller. You can log in to your Afterpay account to see your payment schedule, and/or make a payment before the due date. Otherwise, the instalments will automatically be deducted from your debit or credit card every fortnight.

There is no fee to you when you’re purchasing. The only fees applied are late fees if your scheduled payments are unsuccessfully processed and you fail to make your payment via a different method. 

zipPay is basically identical, except that you can pay weekly, fortnightly or monthly, giving you more flexibility than the fortnightly system used by Afterpay.


PayPal pays the seller on your behalf when you purchase, and then retrieves the money from you. You will be required to link a credit card or bank account to PayPal when you create you first create your account.

If you have enough money in your PayPal or linked bank account to cover a purchase, then it will simply be deducted. If you don’t, PayPal will make two attempts to complete the transaction from your bank account before switching to your backup funding source.

Your bank may charge you fees for each failed attempt, so you should immediately add sufficient funds to your bank account so that the payment is successful on the first attempt.

Did you find this helpful? Why not share this article?



Money Health Newsletter

Subscribe for news, tips and expert opinions to help you make smarter financial decisions

By signing up, you agree to the Privacy & Cookies Policy and Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy


Learn more about bank accounts

Can I link a bank account to Paypal?

Paypal is a safe and convenient way to pay online without the need to share your financial details. You can send and receive money or accept credit and debit cards as a seller using Paypal.

It’s easy to link your bank account to a Paypal account and start making transactions within minutes.

To start, you first need a Paypal account (it’s free to join). When setting up your Paypal account, you will be prompted to link a credit card or bank account (or both if you wish).

PayPal works without a balance; you can use Paypal to shop or send money when your balance is zero.

When your Paypal balance is zero, Paypal will ask you to choose your preferred payment method at the checkout.

This could be either your linked bank account or credit card. Your bank details can be updated if you change banks or credit cards.

How do I transfer money from Paypal to my bank account?

Transferring cash from Paypal into your bank account is simple…if you have a Paypal account that is.

Once you’re logged into your Paypal account, the account balance will appear on your home page. Below your balance are two options:

  • Add money
  • Withdraw money

Choose option two if you want to transfer money from your Paypal account to your personal bank account.

The next screen will prompt you to either enter new bank account details or choose a bank account that’s connected to Paypal. You can always add more bank accounts to your Paypal profile.

Another way to transfer out of Paypal is by jumping to the wallet tab on the top menu, and clicking ‘transfer money’. Both options will give you the same result.

Can I have a PayPal account without a bank account?

You don’t need a bank account to send or receive money through PayPal. However, you do need a bank account if you want to withdraw money from your PayPal account.

Can you deposit money into somebody else's bank account?

One of the easiest banking tasks in the world is depositing money. You can even deposit money into someone else’s bank account if you wish.

The basic information you need to deposit money into a third-party bank account is:

  • Payee’s name
  • Bank, building society or credit union (though this isn’t necessary)
  • BSB (or bank code, which is the branch identifier)
  • Account number

Including the name of the financial institution isn’t necessary – particularly with online banking – because the BSB will identify this for you.

A handy tip is to record yourself (or add a personal message) in the transaction description or reference. This will show up on the recipients account, letting them know who’s paid them the money.

Do you need a bank account to sell on eBay?

You don’t need a bank account to sell on eBay. But if you don’t have a bank account, you must provide either a credit card or debit card.

Can debt collectors take money out of your bank account?

Many people find themselves struggling to cope with debt at one time or another. In these cases, a debt collector could contact you to demand payment for a debt, to explain the consequences of you failing to pay a debt, or to organise alternative payment arrangements.

If you’re contacted by a debt collector, you may be wondering what their rights are and whether they can take money out of your bank account.

Creditors cannot access money in your bank account unless a court order (also known as a ‘garnishee order’) is made to allow creditors to recover debt by taking money from your bank account or salary.

If this happens, the creditor can take money out of your bank account unless you pay the debt in full or make an alternative payment arrangement such as paying in instalments through the court.

Can I find my bank account number online?

Yes, you can find your bank account number by logging into your online banking and clicking on the relevant account.

Can I open bank accounts for my children?

A common question for new parents is, ‘Can I open a bank account for my child?’

The short answer is yes – as a parent you can open a bank account for your child.

Once you’ve compared your options and found a bank account that suits your needs, the process is relatively simple.

As the bank account is for your child, you’ll need to provide some documentation such as proof of ID, including your tax file number.

You will also need a copy of your child’s birth certificate, and in some cases you may also need to sign a guarantee of indemnity.

Depending on the bank and whether you’re an existing customer, you may be able to open a bank account for your child online. However, you may still need to go into a branch to prove your identity.

How do you transfer money from PayPal to a bank account?

Transferring money from PayPal to an Australian bank account is simple. Just follow these three steps:

  • Go to your Wallet
  • Click ‘Transfer Money’
  • Follow the instructions

The money will take three to seven business days to reach your bank account.

Once you’ve made the transfer request, it can’t be withdrawn.

How do you set up a bank account online?

Once you’ve compared bank accounts and found the right one, the process of opening a bank account online is quite simple and can be done in around 10 minutes.

To set up a bank account online, you’ll need to prove your identity and provide an approved form of ID as well as your tax file number (TFN).

If you’re a new customer of the bank, you’ll need to verify your identity and potentially upload documents before you can complete your online application.

Once your ID has been verified and you’ve set up your bank account online, you should receive your bank cards in the mail along with your PIN and any other account details.

How can I close a Commonwealth Bank account?

You can close your Commonwealth Bank account at any branch, provided you have appropriate identification. You can also close your account over the phone, by calling 132 221, 24 hours a day.

How do I close my bank account online?

You can usually easily open a bank account online, but you often can’t close it online.

Many banks and credit unions will only let you close an account if you go into a branch or call them on the phone.

However, some banks will let you request to close the account via your internet banking. Check your financial provider’s website for details.

Just remember: If you still have funds in the bank account, transfer them to another account, or withdraw the cash. Also, if you have any payments like direct debits going in or out of the bank account, these will also stop when you close your account.

What do I need to open bank accounts online?

Opening a bank account online is a simple process and only takes between five to 10 minutes to complete. To get started you will need a computer or smartphone with internet access.

Information to have available when you’re ready to apply is:

  • Identification (such as driver’s licence, birth certificate, passport, proof-of-age card)
  • Tax file number
  • Residential address, email and a contact number

In some cases, you might be asked to provide employment details. If you’re not able to verify your identity online, most financial institutions let you provide this in the branch at a later date.

There are some types of bank account that you can apply for only in a branch. However, most bank accounts can be applied for conveniently online.

Are bank accounts frozen when someone dies?

Yes, Australian bank accounts are frozen when someone dies. If you want to close the account of somebody who has died, you might have to provide proof of death and a copy of the will. You might also have to prove your relationship to the deceased person.

If you have a joint bank account with somebody who has died, you will generally be entitled to all the money in the account. Again, you might have to provide proof of death if you want to change the bank account from a joint account to a one-person account.