“Save Up”: A Forgotten Phrase

by Joe Plemon on October 29, 2009

Bank Holiday UK
Creative Commons License photo credit: Stevie-B

In the summer of 1957 a big black water gun the size and shape of a machine gun called to me from the display window of Livingston’s Pharmacy on 10th Street in Mt Vernon, Illinois. The only water guns I had ever seen were actually called “squirt guns”, probably because they were so small that you only got a few squirts before having to refill. But this one, comparitively, was huge…the forerunner to a super soaker. “I could win any water gun fight if I had this baby”, I thought. I imagined myself staging sneak attacks on my best friend Jimmy Kaufman. I snickered as I considered soaking my sisters. I knew I had to be the first kid on my block to own one. The tag read $2.95, but it seemed like a million dollars to me.

Summoning all of my 11 year old charm, I pitched this proposal to my mom,

“Please, Mom. I will do anything you want. Please. Can I have that water gun? Please?”

Mom took a deep breath, exhaled and looked down at me,

“Yes, you can have it. All you have to do is save up for it.”

“Save up? But how? I want it now!”

“Yes, save up. You will have to figure it out.”

I passed out sales bills. I sold programs at the county fair. I mowed lawns. $2.95 was a lot of money in 1957, but I saved up and proudly purchased my water gun. I also learned a lesson: save for what you want.

Over fifty years later, “Saving up” has become an antiquated concept and a forgotten phrase. Whatever we want, we want it now, so we swipe the plastic or agree to monthly payments. We even rent stuff instead of saving up.

What is the result of this instant gratification?

  • The typical household has $48,000 in debt.
  • 70% of families live pay check to pay check.
  • Money issues are the number one cause of marital stress.
  • Bankruptcies have tripled in the last 10 years.
  • Personal savings in the Unitied States has been hovering at a 0% rate for years.

We have borrowed our way into stress, divorce, bankruptcy and defeat. If character could be defined as the ability to delay pleasure for a higher good, we have compromised our character. We should be ashamed.

So here is a challenge: the next time you are tempted to purchase anything on credit, be it a couch or a car, don’t. Pay yourself for a few months and then buy with cash. If your inner child is protesting, listen to my mom’s words:

“Save up. You will have to figure it out.”

The phrase is forgotten, but the advice is timeless.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Branden @ FaithFitnessFinance November 1, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Good article. Although a few decades younger than you, I also learned the value of saving up for purchases at a young age. My mom just never had the money to buy stuff for us, so we were forced to figure out ways to pay for what we wanted.

Of course, there is another thing that happens when you save up for purchases: sometimes you work hard for enough money only to reconsider if the purchase is really worth all the work you have devoted to it. I can’t tell you how many times I have saved up for something only to realize I didn’t need it. Then again, there are also the things I didn’t save up for, payed for with credit, and never used…


Joe Plemon November 1, 2009 at 9:16 pm


How right you are about saving up for something and then deciding, because of all the hard work you put into it, that you really don’t need it. That has happened to me too. Regrettably, I have also been bitten by the credit bug at times and bought stuff I didn’t need with money I didn’t have.

If we can just keep learning from our mistakes…

Thanks for your thoughts.


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