It may sound strange to youth now with cell phones being ubiquitous and often containing high-quality cameras. However, stand-alone cameras were once a much desired and hard worked-for item for young people who enjoy taking pictures. One Redditor reflected on the work they put into getting their first camera saying their result was, “A 700 dollar camera. I cleaned and organized garages and sheds for months and months. Totally worth it. I was about 13 or so, and I’m very proud I achieved that. I will carry that mindset for the rest of my life.” What a lesson.
Showing that the item often truly isn’t as important as the lessons learned while working to earn them, one Redditor remembered a crummy video camera they toiled for. The user said, “I wanted to be a filmmaker, so I started working at my dad’s office over the summer to save up for a video camera that aged quicker than milk. I loved it tho[ugh.]” Another Redditor shared just how much cameras used to cost, saying their big purchase was a “Canon SL3 camera and 250 gig SD card, set me back $900.” It is hard to believe we used to pay that much for just a camera that couldn’t call or text.
If you were a science-minded youngster in the 1990s, there was no height you could reach greater than going to space camp. The commercials were ubiquitous on children’s networks and made space camp look like the coolest imaginable destination. The advertisements worked on one Redditor who remembered, “I saw a commercial for it, copied the address, wrote to them to ask for a brochure. I told the mailman to hold it for me until I came home from school and not let my parents see it. Got a job at 14 and worked as many hours as they would let me.”
They continued, “[I] opened a passbook savings account and saved my paychecks, my allowance from chores, my babysitting money, birthday and Christmas money for an entire year. I even had a jar of change that I had found on the sidewalk. I saved over $1,000 and then asked my parents if I could go. They said no, it was too expensive. I handed them the passbook that said I had more than enough. They couldn’t say no, and I went to space camp! My grandmother even chipped in an extra $200 for spending money. Best ten days of my young life!”
One enterprising Redditor realized very young that individual items for sale are often marked up quite a bit higher than bulk items and that this applied to their beloved Pokémon cards. Not to be overcharged, they made a plan. /U/the_loneliest_noodle reminisced, “When I was a kid, I realized buying Pokémon cards by the booster were a rip-off compared to buying a booster box. More money up front, but saved like 1/3rd the money overall compared to buying from my local comic shop. So I spent a summer as a kid with no job just hoarding every dollar I could scrounge up.”
They continued sharing their summer-long adventure. The user stated, “Finding coins, into the Pokémon fund, someone giving me money to buy myself a snack or something, into the Pokémon fund. I didn’t get an allowance. So, I’d do the normal kid thing of trying to find things I could do for neighbors and stuff to earn a few dollars, cleaning up their yards, walking/watching pets, etc. I think it took almost three months. However, I still remember that summer day where my best friend and I sat on the porch, drinking lemonade and opening 36 booster packs together.” What a fantastic memory.
When you’re a young kid trying to stand out in school, a cool backpack can make an outfit truly compete and set you apart. While they serve a practical purpose, they’re also a staple fashion item that you’ll always see within the hallways. Many Redditors shared stories of saving up money to buy themselves cool backpacks with fancy characters or name-brand labels. /U/otterfacegirl reminisced, “As a young child, I recall doing chores to earn money to buy a Tigger backpack from the Disney store.” Disney items are typically quite expensive, so that backpack was likely no joke.
Another Redditor worked hard to achieve the dream of a designer backpack saying, “I was 12-13yrs old, and I wanted a stylish backpack from “The Gap” to start high school. At the time, it seemed ridiculously expensive. It was 1990. I think it was one of those silly gap prices like $38 or $42. I still remember it. It was navy blue and green plaid, thick cloth, and brown leather straps. I had a chart that I made on the fridge to keep track of the cash I made babysitting. And I bought that backpack and had it all through high school plus…I loved that [expletive] backpack.”
One of the most heart-warming items multiple Redditors saved for was educational materials to better themselves or quench an overwhelming thirst for knowledge. One Redditor talked about an animal encyclopedia. The user said, “My mother was very poor, but she still let me earn a bit of money by doing extra chores around the house. There was this big animal encyclopedia at a local book store. It was $150 — way too much for even a present, so I saved up all my chore money for a very long time. I believe around a year. […] I spent days reading that thing and kept it for years, and in the end, I gave it to my younger brother.”
Another Redditor, /u/noUsernameIsUnique, shared their story of hoping to learn English. The user stated, “A physical Merriam-Webster’s dictionary from Staples, at the age of 10, so I could learn how to speak better English and go to a good college someday.” Given that their post was in perfect English, they accomplished their goal of speaking English well, and one can only hope they also achieved their dream of going to a great college. Few things show more dedication than a child saving up for an encyclopedia or dictionary! While most kids saved up for video games or tv, there were quite a few learners.
Many of the items on this list have been worked hard for by children. However, this one is for those a little bit older. Many Redditors shared stories of their first big saved-for item being an engagement ring for their intended bride. One Redditor couldn’t help but gush, “Saved up money for a year to be able to get my wife the engagement ring she fell in love with early into our relationship. We’ve been together since 2016 and married last year on Valentine’s Day. Almost a whole year married!” Given that the thread was in February 2021, one can only hope they happily made it to their anniversary.
Unfortunately, not all of the stories of engagement rings savings were quite as happy, with /u/jelasher explaining that their ring was for an ex-wife joking, “An engagement ring for my ex-wife [smiley face emoji].” They went on in response to say that their next, and even better, money spender was their divorce, quipping, “That divorce was the best money I ever spent :). Happily remarried a better match ten years ago and haven’t looked back.” While many of the reminiscences about long toiled-for items were a mixed bag in the comments, none were more so than the stories about engagement rings.
Most of the items on this list are fun, hoped-for items that most kids work hard for. However, it’s important to remember that sometimes kids still have to work just for basic needs like food. Redditor /u/dharma_curious1 shares a heartwarming (or wrenching, depending on your perspective) tale of working their first job to help their single mother keep food on the table. They talked about their first job, saying, “I got my first job at 14, as a dishwasher in a bakery. It was about half a mile from the house, and a really nice walk, as we lived in a large city, so there were sidewalks and crosswalks.”
They talked about how they used the money, remembering, “I used the money mainly to buy groceries and help with the bills. My mom was a single parent, who worked two full-time jobs, and raised her own two sons. Also, a boy from our neighborhood who had been effectively abandoned by his mother, and my mom raised him for eight years or so. She also helped take care of our roommates’ two toddlers because the roommate (also a single mom) was only working for minimum wage.” They ended their story with a simple plea, “Call your mom, folks. They’re amazing.”