Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Momentary Money Crisis

Just now, I went to the grocery store to buy some food. I tried to pay for it on my debit card, only to be told that there were insufficient funds for the purchase. I ended up leaving the two bags of groceries there and walking ASAP to the ATM to find out just what my actual balance was.

Why wouldn't I know? Well, even though the ATM is right around the corner from where I live, I often find that when I need cash, I just go to Walgreens and buy something I needed anyway (such as cereal bars for breakfast), and get $20 or $40 cash back. I'd been doing that for the past couple of weeks or so, and I therefore hadn't checked the actual balance (which Walgreens doesn't give to you on your receipt, unlike the ATM).

The last time I checked my balance via the ATM, it was to make sure that after I paid my rent, I'd still have a couple of hundred dollars in the account for food, transportation to work, etc. I thought that what I'd left over would last me until my next paycheck. And it would have, if I'd deposited the check when I got it! Or to be more accurate, if my employer had done so. The trouble is that until fairly recently, Screenz Computing Center, where I work, had been paying me via direct deposit, just as I'd requested when I'd first been hired. But then the last time I got paid, they didn't pay me like that for some reason. I thought, mistakenly, that it was just a temporary glitch, and that they'd go back to paying me via direct deposit for the next pay period. I was wrong. Apparently, they'd switched to a new payroll company, and I'm just not getting paid via direct deposit anymore, period.

I wish they'd told me that, or that my manager had mentioned that my paycheck had arrived when it did, because my paycheck for April 8 has been sitting here at work for the past two weeks, when all along I naively assumed that it had already been deposited into my account, and that I had $440 more in the account than I actually had there. I'd have realized that it hadn't been if I'd used the ATM and checked the actual balance each time, but because of the way I was getting my money from occasional trips to Walgreens, it never caught my attention.

I now have a copy of the check, for $440.35, and I'm expecting another similar check in just 3 days, on Friday (assuming that it arrives on time). But here's what stinks. I not only didn't have enough money to cover all the transactions I'd done for the past couple of weeks, but I into the negative figures in a serious way. My bank "generously" covers the actual cost of overdrafts when they're attributable to payments made to places like Walgreens. But naturally, they charge an overdraft fee when that's done. So when I finally did get around to checking the balance via their ATM (thanks to the incident at the Potash grocery store, which made me aware that there was a problem), I discovered that I was about $250 in the hole!!! I won't know until I check tomorrow, but I'm guessing that a substantial amount of that amount can be attributed to overdraft charges. Those are charges I'd never have had to pay in the first place if a.) My employer had continued to pay me via direct deposit, as agreed, and b.) My bank had taken the time to make me aware (via e-mail, phone call or whatever) of the fact that I was currently in the process of ringing up overdraft charges because I erroneously thought that there was money in the account to cover those purchases.

I don't mind taking responsibility for financial errors attributable to my negligence, but the way I see it, this was not my fault, and the bank should therefore reimburse me for those overdraft charges, or else my employer should do so because of the fact that the mistake was attributable to the failure to continue to pay me via direct deposit as he had done in the past. We'll see. I know that I am definitely going to go to the bank first thing tomorrow when they open up, and plead with them to refund any overdraft charges attributable to the aforementioned snafu. Meanwhile, it will probably be at least a couple of days before the check which I just picked up tonight clears after depositing it in the bank, and meanwhile, I'm going to need some money, since I'm down to six dollar in my wallet. So I guess that I'm going to have to do the Walgreens thing once more in order to get another $40 to last me until then. Of course, that will mean yet another overdraft fee.

Life really stinks sometimes, especially when one is just barely scraping by financially as it is. When I paid my rent last time, I was still $200 or so behind on the rent after making that payment. What I'd paid was just enough to keep me out of court temporarily. This latest incident just increases the pressure on me and the difficulty of getting caught up on my rent.

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