The best things in life might be free, but groceries cost a freakin’ fortune!

Our bank was recently bought out by another bank. Frankly, I don’t understand how any of that high finance stuff works, like Elon Musk having enough money to buy Twitter. It’s not like coming up with the cash to purchase a vacation condo I imagine. With that kind of price tag, you lost me at “Dear Valued Customer.” 

I do realize that with any major move, there are bound to be some changes and I’ve been keeping an eagle eye out for sneaky things like undisclosed ATM charges or stricter rules about minimum checking account amounts. So far nothing too startling has occurred. If anything, our new bank seems pretty zealous in NOT letting us overdraw any accounts and dedicated to making us keep on top of our finances. 

For example, one of this bank’s interesting features that helps us see how broke we often are is letting us know every single time we swipe our debit card for anything over ten dollars. I like that feature since I often forget even using the debit card on any given day and that reminder reminds me to write the amount down in our checkbook, that quaint artifact no one under 40 would be caught dead using. 

A coworker’s bank has the same feature but slightly more ramped up. Her bank lets her know not only how much was spent at, say, the grocery store, but also what was purchased. 

“I see my husband spent 25 dollars on flowers,” she mused at work one day. “They’d better be for me.” 

Again, a handy tool if ever there was one. 

However, there is one new feature I could live without. We now have a monthly food budget and as soon as we get within striking distance of reaching it, the bank sends a text telling us we’re “closing in on the amount we selected as our food budget.”  

This has me confused, mainly because I don’t recall setting a food budget for us. In all honesty, we’ve never had any kind of budget, a sad fact that explains our lack of trips to Europe as well as our retirement plan that hinges completely on winning the lottery. 

I looked up the word “budget” and learned it was from the French word “bougette” which is a leather purse or pouch. I always thought it came from something along the lines of “if you don’t have the money, you can’t budge it out of a thin air,” a truism if ever there was one. 

My parents had a food budget of sorts. Each week they’d put a set amount of cash in a dish and leave it in the kitchen. The money was to be used only for food, be it at the grocery store or a restaurant or a gas station cheeseburger, but once it was gone, it was gone and for the rest of the week we had to make do with whatever was in the kitchen cupboards. 

The problem with that kind of budget was that someone always needed to borrow a little money for some small emergency so more often than not the food budget evaporated by Tuesday afternoon. 

But back to our mystery food budget. I’m assuming the bank set it up based on our monthly income. I’m also assuming that every time we swipe our bank card at Walmart, the amount is coming out of that food budget, which really isn’t fair since a lot of the stuff we buy at Walmart falls under the “impulse buying” category, such as arch supports, lip gloss and cat treats for the neighborhood stray.  

I suppose I could do some Nancy Drew type sleuthing and contact the bank to see if they’re screening our receipts to ensure that gallon of white ceiling paint doesn’t count as groceries, but I lack the proper motivation. In other words, I’m too lazy. 

What I would like to know if our new bank has taken the skyrocketing inflation of late into consideration as it chides us for going over our food budget. Has Mr. Big Banker looked at how much a dozen eggs cost lately? Or coffee? Or, yes, I’ll admit it, Double Stuf Oreos? 

Whoever said the best things in life are free obviously never had to buy groceries every week. 

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