Transforming “I Can’t Save” to “I Will Save”

Here, in her own words, is the story of Virginia Saver Christina Mele, who spent most of her life living paycheck to paycheck and is now saving successfully. 

You will not believe what it took to completely change my life. About three years ago, the HR Administrator of the corporation where I worked (as a temp with no benefits) forwarded an email to me. Fifteen seconds. One small act of kindness. That's it - that's all it took!

The headline in that email asked, "Tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck?" and my answer "YES!" was the loudest silent scream I've ever let out. Having lived that way all my life - through college, through ten years of marriage, through raising two boys as a single mom, through two corporate layoffs, through a career change at the age of 48 - I had come to believe living paycheck-to-paycheck was normal. The email was about a ten-month program called BankOn Virginia Beach. A free chance to learn about saving, budgeting, understanding credit, and to find the focus and accountability I needed to make a change.

I never, ever had a savings account - I never thought I could have one! During my first BankOn class, I pledged to save with the help of Virginia Saves and had a major revelation - my financial predicament had nothing to do with my hourly wage and everything to do with ME telling myself, "I can't — I can't get that...I can't go there...I can't do this...I can't have a savings account.” Once I stopped saying "I can't" and started saying "I will," the small percentage of my never-enough-paycheck automatically deposited into a saving account started building quickly - and it never even hurt! Now, I'm an instructor and volunteer financial coach for BankOn, driven to keep what I've learned as a Virginia Saver in front of me and to share it with others - hoping I can offer that one small act of kindness that just might change someone else's life for the better, too.

Today, I can say with gratitude for that HR Administrator, BankOn, and Virginia Saves, I not only have $1,000+ in emergency savings, but I now have a dream job (with amazing benefits) ironically in the financial industry - a desk chair this once hopelessly-living-paycheck-to-paycheck girl never dreamed of being able to fill! So let me encourage you to start small and it will make a big difference. That’s all it will take!

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