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The cold sweats start, tunnel vision kicks in as you try to focus on the pin pad in front of you. Through the ringing in your ears, you can hear the awkward shuffling of feet from the person behind you in line as they try to act casual and give you some space. This response, straight out of a nightmare, follows the dreaded explanation from the cashier, “Sorry, your card doesn’t seem to be going through.”
I have never been in this situation before. The idea of a card being declined was foreign to me, although I had heard tales from friends having to forgo getting items at the grocery store after their bill had rung up to high. But now, hefty lawyer fees and a lack of any financial support from my ex has left me in a bit of a monetary slump. It’s nothing that can’t be handled, but in the check-out line at Marshall’s Homegoods isn’t the ideal location to find out that your account balance is lower than you thought.
Between rent, my cell phone bill, electricity, car insurance, and all the other bullshit I have to pay for myself, there always seems to be some automatic payment plan pulling from my account and barely any automatic deposits going in. The big issue comes when charges don’t always show up right away. I assumed I had enough in my online piggy bank to cover the lampshade I intended to purchase that day, but my Comcast Wi-Fi bill had other plans.
The first thought to run through my head after the news of my poverty hit was, “FFFFFUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKKK.” But I was eventually able to use my critical thinking skills to quickly evaluate my options.
(I only have the one debit card with a single checking account. I also have a credit card I try not to use, but a new card is currently being mailed to me after my info was stolen and used to purchase large quantities of pornography in Albania. So, using another account in my name wasn’t included on the option list.)
Option 1: Be upfront with the cashier and say I won’t be purchasing the item today, and do the walk of shame to put the lampshade back.
Option 2: Apologize profusely and claim that my debit card is new and just hasn’t been activated. Excuse myself to go outside and call my bank, and say I will be back inside to take care of the bill after I get it sorted. Once out of the store, beeline for the car and enter the witness protection program.
Option 3: Dig through my purse and see if I can’t come up with the total in crumbled $1 bills and coins rolling around with my chapstick and sunglasses.
Option 4: Grab the lampshade and run.
Eventually, I decided to go with Option 5: Charge the purchase to the emergency credit card my father gave me years ago and never took back. I shot a quick text to let him know I’d reimburse him ASAP.
The whole situation was hyper embarrassing, and I will most definitely be heading back to the budgeting excel sheet I created during a productive moment in my life to see what I’m doing wrong. I’m now questioning every coffee I’ve purchased in the last week and kicking myself for donating $20 to a friend’s “No Shave Movember” GoFundMe.
I keep reminding myself it could have been way worse. I can’t imagine getting brick walled by my bank when trying to pay for something important/expensive. What if I had been getting my oil changed? Would they siphon the oil back out? Would I be forced into indentured servitude by the Volvo dealership to pay back the service? I hope I never find out the answer to that question.
In a couple of months, I’m sure I look back and see the whole thing as a learning experience and laugh about it. For now though, I’ll take a little more time to wallow in my broke misery while googling how to start selling used panties on Craigslist. .
Image via Shutterstock