“You can have a dog when your sister is your age,” my dad promised. Which meant in four long, painstaking, wishful years I could have a dog. I asked how much a dog would cost me, and my dad said, “One hundred dollars.” He knew my five-year-old brain would convert that to “a lot of money” and hopefully he could be done with this conversation.
Little did he know that these two off-hand comments would cement in my imagination and be pursued with persistence only a child possesses. I reminded him of his promise at every turn, every birthday a countdown to the finish line. And I saved.
Ten dollars is a lot to a five-year-old, let alone a hundred dollars. But I had a goal. So what if I could barely comprehend the mountainous, unattainable summit of one hundred dollars? Puppies are priceless after all. Undeterred, I fettered away every penny. I picked up nickels in the parking lot. I stashed away small birthday sums. I sold my Arthur doll for $5 to a teacher during a garage sale, even though I really liked that doll.
Then the time came. After years of waking up early to watch Animal Planet shows on how to train your dog, reading up on how to prepare your house for a puppy, and pestering my parents endlessly about that offhand promise when they said I could have a dog, we went to Denver Dumb Friends League and adopted this cute little hound:
It was time. My dad was at the dinner table, discussing all the vet bills with my mom, which reminded me, I needed to pay them back the $100 I had meticulously counted out the week before, change in chaotic piles around me. I ran upstairs and hefted the box (actually it was a blue plastic container kept inside a Furby box because I figured a robber would never want to steal a Furby) off the shelf, carefully carrying my fortune down the stairs. This was it. My entire life’s savings.
I handed it over.
My dad looked at the box. “No, that’s okay,” he said. Confused, I tried to explain that this was the one hundred dollars for the puppy. “Keep your money,” he explained that they would handle the costs. I wasn’t sure what to do. A hundred dollars can buy a lot for a nine-year-old. I could buy 20 packs of Pokémon cards. A razor scooter. 4 new Gameboy games.
Instead, I decided to just keep saving. It could come in handy later. I figured I could put it towards another goal so far in the future I could hardly fathom: my first car. Surely my future self would thank me. Maybe by then I’d have enough for ten puppies because puppies are clearly the answer to every woe and the secret to unending happiness (although I did learn some unfortunate truths about dog ownership in the following year that would stymie that ten-puppy-plan)
The habit of saving is itself an education; it fosters every virtue, teaches self-denial, cultivates the sense of order, trains to forethought, and so broadens the mind. —T.T. Munger