Jessica’s Story: SaverLife’s Grand Prize Winner of the Bluefield Story Contest

Meet Jessica, a customer support representative who lives with her husband and two daughters in Virginia.

Jessica was the $5,000 Grand Prize Winner of the Bluefield Story Contest. Even though the SaverLife team couldn’t meet her in person, we were grateful for the opportunity to congratulate her virtually. Normally, we go out to our winners and actually surprise them in person with a check, but we couldn’t do that given the travel advisories. So we did a Zoom call instead! 

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Honaker, Virginia. It’s a small town about an hour from Bluefield. We weren’t poor poor, but we were pretty poor. We didn’t really have a lot, but I had a good childhood—just didn’t have what other people had.

Can you talk about your financial upbringing?

I remember little things like yearbook day, where you take your yearbook in and get your classmates to sign it. I never got one because we couldn’t afford it. My senior pictures and class ring were also too expensive. I had to borrow a cap and gown to graduate. I also didn’t get a car on my 16th birthday. When I got older, I realized that I didn’t want my kids to ever have to miss out on any of that stuff. I’ve been working since I was old enough so I could give them a better life.

What do you and your husband do?

He works for JS Construction. They build houses and do roofs and things, and then he does work on the side. On his days off, he’ll go fix roofs.

And then I work at Alorica for Mint. I do chat support. If someone needs help with their account, I can help them with troubleshooting. I’ve been here probably six or seven months. I’m blessed to be able to work still with the COVID-19 lockdown going on. I worked at a call center previously and then when one opened in Bluefield, I was really excited. So far, it’s been great! The teamwork is amazing. I love it.

How is the working from home going for you with your family there?

It was hard at first because the kids wanted to play while I was working and I’d have to say, “No, you can’t be in my room during these hours.” But they like having me here at home even if I can’t be next to them.

What did you like about SaverLife?

I’ve never been one to save. I’ve wanted to, but I just never could save. Our HR representative sent a notification out about SaverLife and suggested we sign up for the program. I did, and it made saving so fun! I’ve never seen anything like that before. Usually, I dip into my savings, but I’ve actually left it alone.

There’s lots of tips on there. I’d read through on how to save, especially with COVID-19 going on. Then there’s the savings challenges like the Races to $100 that you guys have. You track it and actually see where you’re at as far as how much you saved. I really like it.

Have you been participating in Scratch & Save?

I just started because I have direct deposit set up, so I have $50 a week going into my savings account. My husband and I are both working now, and while we’re not rich by far, it just makes me feel better knowing that I have some money in there. I have something saved in case an emergency happens or anything can happen.

Plus, I wanna teach my girls about money, too. Ever since they were little, they’ve seen me work. They know that you have to work for what you want to get in life, and then you need to save because you never know what tomorrow might bring.

What was it like finding out on TV that you’d won $5,000?

I was shaking like a leaf on a tree, I’m telling you! When I was interviewed, the news person asked if I knew why I was there. I said, “I’m a finalist for this story contest.” Then she said, “Well, you’re not just a finalist.” My heart started beating and then she grabbed that check and turned it around. I started crying. It was amazing. That was the best day ever.

Honestly, I didn’t think I was a winner because I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I was thinking, “Maybe there are five finalists?” Nothing good like that ever happens to me, so I was really surprised.

What are you planning to do with the money that you won?

I’m going to put some of it back in our savings account to get a head start on saving now that I can. Then I’ll probably take the girls and get them some clothes and let them pick something out. Maybe go out to eat or something whenever restaurants open back up.

Also, the house we live in now was where my husband grew up, and we’re wanting to buy it back. We’re hopefully going to save and do that eventually. He has a lot of memories here.

What does winning mean to you?

I’m speechless. It means more than you guys will ever know. That is gonna help us so much. We work, but it’s hard to save when you have bills upon bills upon bills. This is gonna give us something to put in our savings account. I’m forever grateful to SaverLife.

Do you know how much you’ve saved since you’ve signed up for SaverLife?

I think I’ve saved about $179. I just started a month ago. Like I said, I just recently started doing direct deposit.

What did you learn about money as a kid?

Honestly, to cherish it. I didn’t have a lot of it growing up. It was always government assistance and whatnot. And I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I was determined to be different, to make a different life.

I was in and out of group homes and foster homes most of my childhood. So, having a home and family is more important to me than any dollar amount could ever be.

It’s little stuff. Even if it’s something like school pictures or yearbooks, we make sure they get them just so they’ll have those memories. Our school is closed for the rest of the year, so the memories will definitely be treasured.

What does money mean to you in your life?

Family to me is more important. Don’t get me wrong, I like having money, but if you have it, save it. Like I said before, you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

When have you felt most financially comfortable?

Right now. Just knowing that my husband and I both work and we don’t have to depend on the government to help or anything like that. We are really self-sufficient and that means more to me than anything in this whole entire world. I’m not knocking government assistance because I grew up with it, but I wanted to be self-sufficient. I wanted to be able to take care of myself and my own.

Have you had ups and downs with money in your life?

Oh yeah, absolutely. Before, I could never save. The minute I got money, it was gone. I never valued it, I guess. And then I’ve always worked, but I didn’t save money. I would pay my bills and take care of my kids, but I didn’t save anything. The older I got, the more I realized that you have to. You have to think about the future. Not just for me, but for my kids.

What’s been a low point for you financially?

I was homeless at one point and living in a car with my two kids.

I ended up staying with a friend. And when my husband and I moved in together, we got ourselves a little apartment and were literally sleeping on wooden floors while our girls had a bed. We just had blankets on the wood floors—no furniture, nothing. All we had was the car, the kids’ beds, and clothes. From there, we started building a life, and I think we’ve done pretty good for ourselves considering.

It seems like it. How has your life changed since you started saving?

I’m not as anxious. I can just sit back and breathe a little. If something happened tomorrow, we would be okay for a little bit. It’s nice to know that it’s there if we need it.

What’s your favorite thing about SaverLife?

I’m a competitive person, so I’m like, “If this person can save $100, then I’m going to save $150,” and it ends up being good for me. It makes saving fun. That’s the biggest thing. I actually shared SaverLife on my Facebook. I’ve told everybody. I’m like, “Get on there, it’s fun.”

What are your hopes for your daughters?

That they see that even though life hasn’t always been easy, I tried, and I did it all for them. I wanna know that they’ll be okay and see what it’s like to work for things you need and want. And that you need to save and be a good person. I just want them to be okay.

I want them to look back and say, “When I was younger, my mom worked her rear end off. She did what she had to do to take care of us, and now we know how to work and save and make it.” As long as they’re proud of me, that’s all that matters.

How would you describe SaverLife to a friend?

Amazing and fun! You get a lot of information. In addition to the website being fun, you do actually get savings tips and stuff. Then you have the community of members on the forum. It’s not just throwing you out there and saying, “Figure it out.” It’s just really awesome.

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