Back in the day, folks didn’t have credit cards. If they wanted something that was more than they could swing this week, they saved for it. Hence banks had “Christmas Club” accounts, you would set aside a certain amount each week, then withdraw it all at Christmas time, and get mugged in the alley. But if you were lucky you could buy nice presents for all, a BB gun for Ralphie, a doll that shits chocolate pudding for little Suzie.
But the chap who saves $500 in 1949 dollars? Probably a platinum mine, or a Yacht “for his wife”. Depends on the interest rate?