How I Stopped Spending and Started Saving

woman holding cash in credit union

Let me first start by admitting that today, I love to save money. Not just on stuff like groceries, shoes, electric bills, and plane tickets, but actual cash I can tuck away and watch grow. This wasn't always the case. In fact, I was the child in our family whose allowance disappeared before everyone else's, blown on things like candy and comic books when I was younger; makeup and movies when I was a teenager. 

The savings bug hit me in my early 20s during my first real job out of college. One day I found myself standing in front of an ATM, staring in shock at a withdrawal slip, realizing I had only a few dollars to last me till my next payday. Zero savings, no was just spend, spend, spend, then white-knuckling it till my next payroll deposit.

A chill crawled down my spine. What if I lost my job? How would I pay my share of the rent? Would I have to move back in with my parents? Egads! I decided that moment I didn't want to live like this anymore, on the razor's edge of financial catastrophe. I headed back to my apartment, grabbed a yellow legal pad, and scribbled down a rudimentary budget and savings plan in pencil.

I knew from reading magazines (and my mother's nagging) it was important to have emergency savings of three to six months of living expenses, so that's where I started. Every payday, I deposited a small amount in the underutilized savings account attached to my checking account while working on paying off credit card debt and my regular expenses.

At first, saving was hard. There were weeks where I had very little left after I'd paid my bills and it was tempting to skip a deposit, as well as dip into my slowly growing savings. But I resisted and instead, began looking for ways to make my money stretch.

Take-out lunches were replaced with home-cooked brown-bagged meals (my co-workers became envious of dishes like pasta with red clam sauce and three-alarm chili). I planned my cooking around what was on sale that week. A rapacious impulse-purchasing habit was curbed when I learned to tell myself I could come back in three days and buy whatever it was that caught my eye. Do you think I went back? Hardly ever. My bills were paid on time (no late fees!). Lights got turned off when I left a room; it was no to the thermostat, yes to blankets. Not long after, I noticed there'd be cash left over in my checking account when my next paycheck arrived, cash that went straight into savings.

Six months later, my financial life had improved significantly. My bill-paying was down to a science and I was used to living on a budget and within my means. I remember the excitement I felt when a teller handed me my passbook and I'd hit $1,000 in savings...which grew to $2,000, then $3,000 as months passed. Every time I got a deposit receipt, I'd get a little thrill seeing that number grow each month. The temptation to dip into it disappeared. In fact, I was determined not to touch it! It was inspiration to keep going, to figure out new ways to save. When little emergencies cropped up, I found that I could handle them without digging a credit card out of my wallet. By the time I turned 30, my transformation into a Super Saver was complete. I shuddered whenever I reflected on my previous life as a serial spender.

I don't ever recall a product that would let me save money automatically; that is, on a certain day of the month, have money withdrawn from checking to savings. It would have made saving a lot easier, especially in the beginning of my financial fitness journey when it was difficult to physically part with cash.

It's why when I started working at Hanscom FCU and learned they offered an automated savings plan called CU Thrive that yes, even this savvy savings junkie got excited. What a cool way to build an emergency savings account or fund a retirement account, or to set money aside for a dream trip or a wedding...or what I did and have money automatically withdrawn from my checking account to help me put a substantial down payment on a new car.

You can start with as little as $5. That's key. Almost anyone can save $5 a month, and hey, if that's all you can afford, then start with five bucks. You can also save as much as $500 a month, and if at any time you need to adjust the amount you want to save, you can with no penalty. (Speaking of penalty: you will have to pay one if you withdraw your money before the end of the year-long savings period, equivalent to 90 days of interest on the amount withdrawn.)

Recently, Hanscom FCU increased the rate on its CU Thrive account to 5.00% APY*, which is a sweet savings rate. I have my fingers crossed that when my current CU Thrive account period ends, I can take advantage of another year of savings with this new, outstanding rate.

Here's my question to you: If you were once a spendthrift but then turned into a saver, what was your trigger? Please add your story below; I'm eager to hear it!

*APY = Annual Percentage Yield. No minimum balance requirements apply to this account. Rates for a CU Thrive Account are fixed for the full term (12 months) with a maximum contribution amount of $500 per month. You may schedule transfers up to $500.00 (minimum $5.00 ) each month from a Hanscom FCU checking account. This account will not automatically renew at maturity. There can only be one CU Thrive account open per membership. Please refer to the Disclosure for Personal Accounts for more information. Early withdrawal penalties may apply to certificates. Fees may reduce earnings and the principal amount may be reduced to cover the penalty. To get started click here, stop by any office or call our Member Services Department at 800-656-4328.

 Open a CU Thrive Account Today


Others are reading:

CU Thrive: The Automated Savings Program That Pays 2.00% APY*
Hanscom FCU Pays 2% Loyalty Dividend to Members

About Author

Diana Burrell
Diana Burrell

Diana Burrell is the communications manager at Hanscom FCU and edits the MoneyWisdom blog. She has a background in magazine journalism, as well as marketing, advertising, and public relations, and has written over a dozen books. You can reach her at


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