My Story: Saving for My First Big Purchase

By: Patrick V., Michigan State University

My parents decided to teach me the value of money just before I turned 8, in the summer of 1999. This was when the Nintendo 64 reached its peak popularity. The problem? I didn’t have one. So, I asked my Mom, and then my Dad in turn to buy me one. A fool-proof tactic, no?

Well, to say the least, that didn’t work, and my parents were a united front on this issue, “It costs $99.99! And video games will rot your brain out!” The next tactic, my supposed ace in the hole, was, “But MoooOOmmmm, Jimmy’s parents bought him one! This is so unfair!” This also brought about unexpected failure. So, my parents sat me down at the kitchen table (where all the important conversations were held), and told me that I was going to have to earn the money “as we weren’t living in a world of hand-outs” as my father would tell me.

So, that’s what I did. I started doing chores around the house, but this was a lot of effort for low-yield work. A single measly quarter for an ENTIRE load of laundry! This was hypocrisy! So after weeks of toilsome labor, and 5 dollars to my name, I decided that a lemonade stand was the way to go. I invested my 5 dollars into a pack of Country Time lemonade, and set up shop outside of my house. Thankfully, my neighbors took pity on me. So, after 6 sweaty hours, and drinking half of my profits, I finished the day with $5.25. All that work, and I had only made a quarter.

The next idea was dog-walking. I took a picture of myself with my Dad’s old Kodak, and quickly created a flier that I put in every neighbors mailbox. After a few days, I began to receive phone calls, securing for myself 2 dog-walking gigs. After the first walk, I earned 5 dollars, doubling my earnings! My parents got wind of this payment (not by my exuberance of course…), and made me return the $5 and accept a lower payment. Between you and me, for that first walk, the neighbor told me to keep the money.

After a few more weeks of dog-walking, another neighbor called and asked if I had wanted to possibly do yard work for them as opposed to walking dogs. With the Nintendo on the line, I was more than willing. This cycle continued, so that soon I had five of my neighbors regularly contacting me for various jobs, and in a little over three months, I had enough to buy it!

I was so excited. I went to the store and eagerly purchased the Nintendo for myself on the 24th of October, 2000, two days before my own birthday.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Two days later on my birthday, the PlayStation 2 was released. After that, no one wanted to play Nintendo 64. Months of blood, sweat, and tears and I had finally EARNED my gaming console. Overnight, that console became obsolete. However, I learned many important life lessons from this.

  1. Employers will try to take advantage of you to receive cheap labor, so know your worth.
  2. Word of mouth can be your best source of employment, so be sure to make a good impression on everyone.
  3. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone to gain more experience. It will make you highly employable.
  4. Don’t frivolously waste your money on fads. People are always chasing the latest and greatest things, so save it, and spend it instead on what you truly value.

I have applied these credos in every part of my life since. Following the first, I have decided to only work for free to acquire new skills, while always maintaining a source of income. The second credo has earned me many strong letters of recommendation. The third credo first landed me on a Green Acres apple farm, which with a strong recommendation led to a research laboratory in tart cherry genetics and genomics. Finally, ending at the laboratory position I have held for four years, and that has funded my Master’s degree program in biomechanics research under Dr. Haut. The fourth credo has fueled the frugality within me. Due to this, during my parents’ divorce, I was able to fund the last 2.5 years of my undergraduate by myself, completing my undergraduate, and now Master’s degree with no debt. So for these lessons, I thank you Nintendo 64, Mom, and Dad.