Feb 20, 2013

On Buying Shoes When You Are Frugal and Guilt-Ridden

My US-Made Frye Campus Boots. Swoon.
Shoes are tough, aren't they? It is difficult to get by with just a pair or two. I have (and feel like I need) nice shoes for work, running shoes, hiking boots, sport sandals, work sandals, and winter boots (which may need to get traded in for rain boots now that I live in the south). Other folks probably also need fancy shoes for church and weddings too. And if I wasn't so fearful of being overrun by stuff (and if I lived in a bigger house) I would want at least two colors for most of those shoe uses - brown and black. First world problem, I know. And yet, many of us have it.

A couple of years back, I came to the end of the life of my main pair of shoes. The leather was cracked, and the resoled-sole was worn through. These plain shoes were worn for work, play, dress up... you name it. I was going to need to replace them. In the mean time, I had been ogling other people's boots for years. So versatile, boots seemed to be the perfect multi-use shoe... and sassy-looking to boot (see what I did there?). With a genuine need for a new pair of shoes, this was my chance.

The interesting thing about shoes is that hardly any are made in the US anymore. Almost all the shoes I can find in any store are most often made in China. As you may know if you've been here before, I have serious guilt about buying stuff made by baby hands in China. How much of my $20 or $40 or $100 actually gets to the laborer? How are they treated? How many hours do they work? What are the environmental impacts of the making of my purchase in a country with little regulation? With this boot purchase, I decided I wanted to buy US made boots. And that limited my options very, very quickly.

US made shoes are very expensive when you are on a limited budget. But they are quality shoes and most of them can be resoled, which means that if I chose a timeless style and take care of them my boots could last me forever...saving me money in the long run. That said, I knew I could only afford one pair. As you can see in the photo, I went with a very basic black boot from Frye (who make some of their boots in the US, but some elsewhere, so be sure to check if this is important to you). I can use them anywhere I would have used a black shoe - work, play, fancy events; with pants, skirts, or dresses.

I also purchased them not from my local shoe seller, but from an online big box that provides me with free shipping. They were about $100 cheaper than their normal retail price. Ideally, I would have waited, and scrimped and saved until I could support my local business and buy them there, because that is really important to me too. But I needed shoes sometime in the next century, and my income was stuck at just below my cost of living. Both what we buy and where we buy it have an impact. I've learned that being on a budget means that sometimes you just have to do the best you can.

I can't (and don't) always buy US made. When we moved to this beautiful area, I quickly discovered that I needed hiking boots if I wasn't going to break my ankle while hiking (which is a wonderful free activity that I was not willing to give up). I had $100 from a generous family member's holiday gift. The boots I got were on closeout, within my budget and a pretty screaming deal, but they are made in China and I bought them online. For me, it isn't an easy decision because I have to be careful financially. I wish I could buy everything locally, and US made. I just can't. I do try to limit my unnecessary purchases so that I can spend more on the things I need... but it is a constant battle.

How do you tame the "want" beast? What do you pay attention to when making purchases?

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