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Finding Financial Peace, Even at the Grocery Store


Financial Peace Even at the Grocery Store

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.

Insufficient Funds

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.

Rejected Again

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.

Our Budget Process…


Want to know how we work our budget magic?

1) We found a method that worked for us.

We were originally inspired by the Dave Ramsey method. The envelope system was the reason we became debt free the first time. It was also the reason we went back into debt. It was simply too much of a hassle and we never had the right envelope when we needed it. Chris would have the grocery envelope and which meant I couldn’t stop at the grocery store if it happened to be more convenient that week. Same with gas money. Sometimes we’d drive my car more, sometimes his. We tried splitting the cash between the two of us but someone was always short which meant we pulled out the debit card (and eventually the credit card) and ended up spending money committed to something else. It was a hot mess.
We’re starting our seventh year of using YNAB as our budget software. We went through quite a few methods that didn’t stick but after years of searching, we found one that fit us. I’ve recommended YNAB to lots of folks. That said, it might not be the best fit for you. The best fit for you is the one you can stick with. If you haven’t found your method yet, try try try again until you do. Envelopes? YNAB? Every Dollar? Calendars? I don’t know! Try them all! Recognize that as your life changes, your method might change too.

2) We budget together every month.

Oh Lord. You know there were some nasty fights. It took us about a year to settle before it became comfortable. A YEAR. We start by reviewing the spending from the previous month which is always eye opening. There is no chance to hide anything because we both know we will look at it together at the end of the month.
Once we finish reviewing spending from the previous month, we budget for the next month. Since we are on a single income from a corporate source, it’s nearly the same to the penny each month. Chris is able to pull in occasional construction side hustles but we don’t budget any of that money until it actually hits his account. This month, we were hit with two unexpected expenses. Our impound account was off by $270 and we had a dental bill for $55. We struggled to figure out what categories should suffer to pay those bills. After some tweaking, we were able to shake it out. Thank goodness February is a short month!
We review the budget top to bottom again to make sure we didn’t forget anything and we call it good. Thanks to those bills, this month is the tightest we’ve had since Chris started staying home with the kids. I smiled, looked at him and said, ‘We got this!’ He grabbed me into a hug and kissed me. Yeah, cheese factor was at 900%. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t always end in glitter and rainbows but most of the time… it does. It took us a LONG time to get there.
We check on the budget throughout the month. If you don’t, it’ll turn sideways in a hurry. By the end of the month, Chris will usually call to say something like, ‘We’ve got $77 left in the grocery budget, do you need anything or am I good to spend the rest?’ Let me be clear, neither of us asks ‘permission’ to spend, we simply communicate before emptying a budget line item.

We were searching to find a budget method that worked for us and somewhere along the way, our marriage grew stronger.

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