My clever cheap shopping system is trying to beat me.
It’s kicking me in the shins and stomping on my toes and pinching my heels until they bleed.
Oh yes, this is about shoes.
I’ve come up with a theory which I think applies to lots of things but especially clothes and shoes these days.
The theory is that there are three levels of purchases – cheap junk, expensive junk and expensive quality stuff.
We know how Western society’s consumerism has escalated in the last few decades to the point where fashions change much quicker and more often than they did a long time ago.
With the growth of Chinese manufacturing our focus has shifted from quality to quantity.
Cheap junk is the mass produced rubbish that plenty of lower-quality chain stores are dishing out for bargain prices. It’s made of bad materials, it’s uncomfortable and it doesn’t last long. But it looks alright and does a fair job of ripping off styles from big designers.
I don’t mind cheap junk because at least it’s cheap. It’s the expensive junk I have the biggest problem with.
Expensive junk is cheap junk masquerading as quality, brand-name products.
It’s made of the same dodgy material but it’s ultra-fashionable at the time or sitting in a store labelled with a brand that has some kind of fabricated street-cred – so they charge you more.
When expensive junk goes on sale it becomes cheap junk. That’s the only time I don’t mind it anymore.
Expensive junk is usually distinctly cheaper than expensive quality stuff – but I figure, what’s the point? If I’m paying for junk I might as well pay less, or go all out and get the good stuff.
While this theory was brewing in my head I guess I knew I’d never be super rich and so would never be able to justify spending hundreds and thousands on good quality, premium, designer, expensive quality stuff.
I’m talking leather.
On a writers wage I figure I’d be left with the masses among the junk, both expensive and cheap.
But I found a loophole, and our friends in hipster-ville will nod their heads.
Op shops! Of course there is limited choice but I can basically buy expensive quality stuff for the price of cheap junk – and often I don’t even mind paying expensive junk prices for second-hand expensive quality stuff.
This is where my plan failed me miserably.
For years I figured I couldn’t afford a beautiful pair of high leather boots so I just put them out of my mind.
I bought multiple pairs of cheap ones at anywhere from dodgy Asian shops in Swanston St, Melbourne, to Big W.
They fell apart after a season but I didn’t mind because I just went out and chose a new pair – guilt-free.
I tried this out for a few years until I discovered the secret to op-shop shoes.
I was a little grossed out at first but soon realised a careful choosing eye, a touch of spray-and-wipe and a trip to the cobbler made buying second-hand shoes a happy reality.
Until I found the perfect boots. For ten bucks.
And now I’m spoilt. They’re black, high boots with nearly-flat soles and they’re leather. They’re comfy enough that I can wear them for days on end without the hint of a blister. I sometimes even choose to wear them on the weekend instead of sneakers. I sometimes keep them on when I’m chilling out at home. They’re wonderful.
I finally properly appreciate expensive quality stuff. And I can’t go back to cheap shoes.
Recently I stepped it up and tried on some brand-new expensive junk heels and they were uncomfortable and junky, as I expected.
So I ventured into the fancy shoe shops – just for fun, I said. Just to see what’s out there. Just for research.
And I found the perfect pair of heels! Guess what? They weren’t ten bucks. They were $225.
And I suddenly felt the horrible guilty feeling of inadequacy that comes from really really badly wanting something you really really can’t afford and just knowing it would be really really silly and against everything you’re working towards to succumb to that desire.
So I found the perfect shoes. And I had to say goodbye.
For the first time in years of being super proud of my awesome bargains, I felt shameful and sad.
What do you dream of buying but know you will never be able to really afford?