Your Wallet: The first thing you ever bought

Marketplace Weekend Staff May 22, 2015

On the next episode of Marketplace Weekend, we’re looking at your money across the years.

We want to know: What’s the first thing you ever saved up to buy? Send us your memories of your first purchases and how much they cost. 

Write to us here, visit the Marketplace Facebook page or tweet us. We’re @MarketplaceWKND

Some of our favorite answers:

Kai Ryssdal:

My first ever buy-it-for-myself purchase was a green peugot 10-speed bike. $110. I think I was 11 or 12 years old.


When I was a kid in the early 1980s, a school lunch at the cafeteria was 85 cents. Every day there was pizza or a more healthy option. My mom gave me $1 every week for lunch, but I wasn’t allowed to get pizza for lunch. Every week I’d bring home my 15 cents and put it in a jar and we’d mark down my savings on a piece of paper. When I had 85 cents in the jar (5 weeks), I got to buy a slice of pizza for lunch. I know objectively as an adult that school pizza must have been awful, but subjectively, as a kid, it was the best pizza ever.


In the early 1960’s I wanted a Barbie Doll more than anything. I was in 4th grade and my parents said I had to contribute half the cost which was about $2. At 9 years old I earned some money from extra chores like shoveling snow or raking leaves in my Massachusetts home town. Keep in mind that 25 cents was my typical pay for an hour or more of snow shoveling a long walk, a driveway, and two sets of stairs! It took a long time, but I did end up with a brunette Barbie Doll. Interestingly, my mother saved the doll and her clothing for decades and sent it to me to give to my daughter in the 1990s. She had no interest. And I have no idea why I wanted that doll so much. She lives in a shoebox in a closet.


When I was 15 in 1970, I worked 7 days a week as a dishwasher in a Cape Cod restaurant. I was there to save money for a Kelty backpack and down sleeping bag. I quit the job with multiple infections on every finger as soon as I could to hitchhike to Canada to visit my hippie sister in Montreal. Saving for adventure still makes sense to me.


The first thing I ever began saving up for was a bicycle when I was 4 ½. When my parents saw me continuing to set aside my weekly 5 cent allowance, while my brother, cousins and friends went off together to buy candy bars, they realized how very seriously I wanted one. Fortunately for me, as it would have taken years to accumulate enough nickels, I was given one for my 5th birthday.
The first major purchase I specifically recall having to save for was a trip to Europe when I was 21 and working at my first real full time job. The acquaintance I’d planned to travel with backed out, so I went alone. I had saved up something like $700 or $800, I think. Once I got there, thanks to a part time job for about two weeks, a copy of Europe on $5 a Day [this was 1966], hitchhiking and careful spending, I managed to stay for nearly 6 months, 2 months each in Amsterdam and England, and nearly that long in Paris. Money well spent.


When you asked “the first thing you ever saved up to buy,” I fondly recalled my first bicycle in the late 1950s when I was in about 6th grade. I saved money by picking raspberries at a nearby farm. To get there, I was fortunate that a neighbor offered me a used bike. Oh, I so wanted my own shiny new bike. Mom told me that I could get one if I saved up half the cost. I picked a lot of berries and saved every penny. Soon, Mom had saved enough, too, and I had a shiny blue girls’ bike from Sears Roebuck. Several years later, I realized I really hadn’t provided half the cost, not even close. The bike brought me such joy, and I believe my mother saw that joy every day. I kept that bike a very long time, way beyond its life–but I just couldn’t part with it. Thank you, Mom.
And, thank you for the opportunity to recall a fond memory.


1st thing I saved to buy was a black and silver Schwinn 5-speed(*) Stringray; and I still own it! Expect to give it to my grandson when he’s old enough for a 2 wheeler.


the summer I was 14 I got a job to pay for a three week trip to europe with my school in the spring. I had to save every penny and work every week day from the moment I got out of school in the spring until the friday before labour day. I had to stay home from the family summer trip to save enough! If I saved every dollar I made I would have JUST enough for the admission. I didn’t go to the movies. I didn’t buy records. I didn’t buy books. It was daunting but I did it and my parents were so proud they gave me all the spending money I would need while I was away.


The first thing I saved up for was a racing bike. I grew up in the Milwaukee area. There was velodrome built for the US Cycling Team. Time trials were held there in 1948. I saw my first race there in the 50’s. In the early 60’s I started to race there in stock bike races on a Schwinn with a coaster brake. It was real clear from the start that I could not compete not the Schwinn. Everybody else had lighter ten speeds. I started saving money for a 10 speed, but my allowance and money I made mowing grass was not sufficient. It would have taken me more than a year. Instead I convinced the owner of the local bike shop to help me build a bike from scratch at a greatly reduced price. In a way, He was my sponsor. We had it ready a couple of weeks later. That summer I won my first race with the new bike, and few more after that. I continued to race for several years after that with the American Cycling Association (ACA). The ACA later joined USA Cycling.


I don’t know if I was in 1st grade or 2nd, but I saved up $80 to buy a small, round Jensen boombox complete with CD player, tape player and AM/FM radio. It was blue and silver and after bringing it home, I could not believe I had such a shiny piece of technology in my own bedroom. I also purchased my first CD on my own at the same time. It was Mariah Carey’s “Butterfly” album, and the only reason I bought it was because my friend, who I thought was cool because she was a year older than me, told me it was a good CD to have.

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