My debit card got rejected at the grocery store this week, and it didn’t even bother me.
First, let me backtrack a little. I’ve been getting our weekly groceries at the same store since we moved here almost eight years ago. It’s affordable and has a good selection. It also only accepts cash, checks, or debit cards.
About a year after we moved here, I was checking out with a cart full of food and two chatty toddlers. As I swiped my debit card, I just assumed there was money in our account. My husband was at his first job after graduate school and I knew he’d recently been paid. I entered my PIN number absentmindedly, and was surprised when the cashier said the card wasn’t working. I shrugged and figured I had entered the wrong PIN. I went through it again, but same thing—no luck.
The cashier quietly said, “It’s saying insufficient funds.” Now I started to sweat. My husband had a good job. We should have money in our account. Where was it?
She asked if I had cash or a checkbook with me, but unfortunately I had neither. My girls were restless, and I was red-faced and confused. I apologized and asked if they could set my groceries aside while I made a quick phone call.
I didn’t have a smart phone then to see our account balance, but I called my husband to find out what on earth was going on. Was this just a mistake? Had our account been hacked?
As I explained our predicament, he started to apologize profusely. He’d taken the last paycheck and put a bunch of it in savings. But he didn’t remember that our rent check must have gone through, cleaning out almost everything in our checking account. This wasn’t a robbery; this was us being terribly disorganized. I was so embarrassed.
Fortunately, my husband was able to move money back to our checking account right away and the debit card ran through fine a few minutes later. But I was a bit traumatized.
This week I stood there at the same store with another cart full of groceries, and my debit card was rejected again. This time I didn’t blush or panic. I knew first-hand that we had money in our checking account. I was confident. In fact, my first thought was it was a problem with the machine. And you know what? It was! The cashier said the machine had been acting weird, so I ran it twice more and finally it worked.
Since that first mortifying moment at the checkout, my husband and I have realized the importance of teamwork when it comes to managing our finances. It can’t be a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
We’ve had times when I handled all the bills and finances, and other times when he took over everything. Obviously it didn’t work well for one of us to be hands-off. That’s how I ended up standing there embarrassed at the store, and it’s one reason we ended up with a crushing amount of student loans.
Thankfully, now both of us are involved in our finances. I’m the budget administrator—I love me some charts and graphs and numbers—while he pays most of the bills. We try to hold regular budget meetings together, we each enter our spending into our budget app, and we work together to make financial decisions. We still do stupid things with our money, but we’ve sure come a long way.
Getting our finances in order has blessed us in many ways, but this week I’m grateful for that small moment of peace and freedom. I hope to never go back to the disorganization that we used to drown in, and I hope I can always experience financial peace, even at the grocery store.