Studies have shown that people have greater and longer-lasting satisfaction with a purchase when they save up for it and anticipate it, thereby delaying their gratification. Some years ago, my daughter saved up to buy her own Game Boy, and she really seemed to enjoy that purchase -- for years.
A few weeks ago, my 8-year-old son plunked down two years' worth of savings for ... an iPad. His allowance is between two and four dollars per week, depending on how many chores he does. Every holiday (from Valentine's to Halloween), my in-laws send each child a card with $5, so that adds up. Throw in a little birthday and Christmas cash from my parents and a few First Communion checks from relatives, and he almost had enough.
For the first year or so, he didn't even know what he was saving up for; he just knew something he really wanted would come along. When he decided, I didn't help financially, but I did find a discount Apple Store gift card on Craigslist that saved him $80.
At first, I was conflicted. Should an 8-year-old even have an iPad? Then I realized all the things he could have spent his money on, but didn't (candy and Pokemon cards come to mind), and I was so happy.
I was so proud of him. He is loving his iPad and allows his sisters (and parents!) to use it whenever they like. He is having a blast playing around with it, and his typing skills are really improving.
Now I am inspired to save up for something of my own. I wonder what it will be? Maybe three college tuitions ....