Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Tale of Two Shoes (or, rather four shoes, because two pairs )

This past month, J-son went the frugal route and paid $140 for a pair of "new" shoes for himself, while I went crazy expensive and plopped down $5 for mine.

Or something like that.  Our experiences are just a little story about how "anchoring" prices can affect what we think about what we pay.

J-son loves shoes.  He really, really loves them -- so much so that last Easter, instead of putting candy in J-son's Easter basket, I gave him a shoe polish kit, and he fell over himself thanking me.  He has a carefully curated stack of shoe boxes in his bedroom, each containing its own pair of sneakers.

About a month ago, J-son came home jonesing for a new (well, new to him) pair of shoes.  His friend's dad had bought them a year ago for $400, had hardly ever worn them, and was now getting ready to sell them for the low, low price of $140.  J-son had spent most of his money on other things already (snacks, movies, and other shoes), so he didn't have the money in his bank account, but he knew that his birthday was coming up and with that, he saw the possibility of beaucoup de birthday money dawning on the horizon.

You can take it for granted that he got the usual Miser Mom homilies delivered during his waiting period:  "A sure-fire way to blow $260 is to buy a pair of shoes for $400 and sell them a year later for $140."  "This is why you don't waste money on silly things like Quick-Mart snacks; because you won't have money for things you care about."  "Before you got the last pair of shoes, you said that they were the only thing you wanted; how do you know these will be any different?" Blah, blah, blah.  He'd heard it all before, but he and I both know that consistency is a crucial aspect of parenting, and who was I to let him down on the consistency front?  J-son listened to my pearls of wisdom with good grace, even occasionally agreeing with me.  But he really, really wanted the shoes.

His birthday rolled around, and with his birthday came some birthday money.  I will admit that haggling was involved: J-son is super nervous about the prospect of voting, and his community-oriented mother hinted strongly that actually registering to vote (which he wasn't super keen about) might somehow be linked in her mind to birthday-shoe money (which she wasn't super keen about).  Voter registration happened, and birthday money happened, and J-son scraped his money together into a pile and spent "only" $140 on this amazing, wonderful, long-awaited pair of shoes.

With the box.  Because the box is part of the package, apparently.
Are these not lovely?  Already he's told me he's saving up for a bigger shoe-cleaning kit.

About a month before J-son joyously emptied his bank account---and also pre-dedicated his birthday money, and would have given away his first-born child (had that been part of the asking price)---for his new shoes, I went through my own kind of anguish over whether to spend as much as $5 for a pair of shoes for myself.

The reasons for my recent shoe hunts are manifold.  Because of a case of frostbite I got as a kid, my feet get cold easily, even in the summer, so I wear shoes a lot.  I wanted summer shoes that I could slip on without socks, that had good grip (so I could bike in them), that I could wear with just about anything (skirts, shorts, etc),  and that were super flexible and light, so I can sit cross-legged in them.  My previous summer shoes (N-son's abandoned water shoes) had been perfect -- and free.  The pair before that, I found at a yard sale for a dollar.  But both of my previous summer shoes were wearing out badly, and yard-sale searches had turned up nothing.

I have a personal rule of thumb to try to spend no more than $1 for a pair of shoes, unless the shoes are so amazing and so hard to find that I agree to double that amount to $2.  The last time I violated the rule was almost three years ago:  while I was training for a marathon in a super-cold January and was worried about frostbite, I bought a pair of warm running shoes for the exorbitant price of $11.  I've tried to avoid a similar crazy splurge ever since.

So I was keeping my eyes open for a decent pair of summer shoes, but as yard sale season waned I was realizing how vanishingly small my chances of success were becoming, and I could feel my price point slipping.  And then I popped into a so-called thrift store and saw this pair for $5.

So expensive.  So, so expensive.  But the shoes were everything I wanted, and actually even prettier than my previous summer shoes. (Can you see in the picture that there's gold tint mixed in with the brown stripes?  oooohhhh . . . )  They've got great tread.  They're flexible.  They slip on and off.  They look great with all my outfits.

So I splurged, spending a whopping $5:  500% of my normal shoe budget and 250% of my "fancy" shoe budget on this cute little pair of shoes.  I didn't clean out my bank account or spend future money, but I was just as spendy, in my own Miser-Mom way, as my young and enthusiastic son.

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