Burning Desire For FIRE

Financial-Independence-Retire-Early(er). Achieved the first two letters of FIRE, now onto the rest!

My chilly ankles Winter Challenge.

Why I don’t buy many things online.

Unlike most of the people I work with in The Danger Zone, (our section of the staffroom), I don’t buy clothes and shoes online as a rule. Sure, the convenience is good and you get the fun of unwrapping the parcel and showing what you bought to the rest of us, because of course, we use the school’s address for deliveries. But what do you do if you don’t like the thing you ordered, or it’s too big, too small or just slightly the wrong colour?

That’s what turns me off going clothes shopping online.

But even Frogdancer Jones can be seduced by the words of others. I was on BookFace 6 months ago and someone was raving about Scarletto shoes, saying that they look good but feel like she’s wearing her comfy old slippers. What could be more seductive than that??? Imagine going to work all day in your comfy old slippers? I leapt across to the website and began flicking through what was on offer.

As it happened, I needed some flat shoes for work. I was looking for Ballerina-style shoes that I could wear with anything – I’m low maintenance like that – and I was hoping there’d be some black ones.

The shoes on the site were more exxy than I was used to, but there was a “Sale” page. No black ballerinas, but there were these black and white ones half price – $60. Hmmm… Not want I wanted but maybe I could accept these as a compromise?

I ordered them. If they measured up and were as comfy as that unknown woman said, then I’d go back and buy the full-priced black ones.

When they arrived I was taken aback at first. They were a lot shinier than I’m used to. I’m a leather shoe person and these were… not. Still, I guess I could put up with shiny feet. They have leather insoles so it wasn’t as if my poor feet would be encased in plastic all day. I began wearing them.

After only two days at work with the black and whites, I came home and kicked them off. As I turned to leave my room, something caught my eye. A big white patch at the heel of the right shoe. I bent down, frowning. A couple of the black spots had peeled off.

I was totally unimpressed. I looked closer. There were a few other spots with the edges starting to peel upwards.

Well wasn’t that lovely? Clearly, they realised there was a problem with this particular design and so instead of pulling it from sale entirely, they flogged them off on the ‘Sale’ page.

I was furious. Both with them and with me. WHY had I broken my rule about shopping online for clothes? I’d only worn them twice, so that means I’d paid $30/wear. That’s outrageously expensive!

I jumped online and checked their returns policy.

Of course, this only applies to shoes that were full-price and unworn. How very convenient for them.

I knew I could contact them and get into a debate about faulty shoes, then have to find packaging to send them back and find time to get to the post office… but could I be bothered with it? But the alternative was to keep these now unusable shoes that started off so cheap and ended up so expensive.

But hang on – were they so unusable?

I looked at my ugg boots that I’d bought in China over 6 years ago. They were mid-calf length, black leather on the outside with proper soles and real sheepskin inside. They’d been my slippers all that time, but now the soles were starting to come loose and they were looking a bit shabby.

On an impulse, I binned them and swapped the black and white ballerinas into the “comfy slipper” category that the unknown woman on BookFace had claimed they were. (She was correct, by the way. They may look like they have a skin disease but they’re very comfortable.) This was going to be my Winter Challenge!

So how did my winter go with my frugal slipper choice?

I won’t lie; I missed the comfort of sheepskin on my feet on winter mornings. My ankles were cold. Nights after school, when I’ve walked the dogs and kicked off my shoes, I wanted the warmth and softness of my old ugg boots to encase my tired feet. But I’ve gritted my teeth and stuck to my guns. I live in a temperate climate where snow never comes. One winter wearing ballerina shoes won’t kill me.

But it did make me slightly uncomfortable. And you know? I think that’s not a bad thing.

I could have driven to the ugg boot warehouse near my home after work any day and bought a new pair of boots to wear as slippers. Lord knows, these days I can afford it. But something inside me feels that if I caved in and did that, I’d be negating all the lessons that were hard-won when I was utterly poverty-stricken, back when the boys were babies.

In those days I had to live with the consequences of my decisions, both in life and in spending. If I bought something on impulse (like I did with these shoes) I had to live with it, often for years. I had absolutely NO spare money to replace things if I made a mistake.

The shirt I bought in a sale from Target, for example. It was only $5. WHAT a bargain!!! Red and white… I didn’t love it. I barely liked it. “Meh,” I said to myself. “It’s only $5. It’ll do for a year.” Nearly 10 years later, I finally binned that thing. Yes, I wore it over that time and felt not-so-good about how I looked every time I pulled it on. But for most of that time, I seriously didn’t have enough money to comfortably replace it. Boys’ needs, the bills and the mortgage took precedence.

The year of the brakes and heating oil that I wrote about in my About page. That was a tough one. I was weighing literally every cent. Would I have even contemplated spending sixty whole dollars on a pair of shoes?? Never in a million years. So how could I casually throw that amount of money away now?

So. I lasted the winter. It was far easier living through this 2019 winter than the 1998 (I think) winter of the brakes and heating oil because, in the big scheme of things, slightly chilly ankles in a house with ducted heating isn’t a patch on living in a house all winter with no heating.

My full-time wage from teaching means that I take home roughly $1/minute of teaching time. My price/wear of these shoes has plummeted, which makes me happy. Why?

If I’m thinking of buying something that isn’t a necessity, I work out how much face-to-face teaching time that item will cost me… and then I think of my least favourite class for that year. (Hello 8K English.) If I’ve put in an hour of putting up with 8K’s shenanigans to only get $30 per wear out of a pair of shoes, that’s definitely not a good use of my time. Change that to an hour of putting up with 8K equaling less than a dollar per wear, then I’ve got a lot more value for my time.

Anyway, these are the games I play. I feel like I can now discard the shoes whenever I feel like it. Every now and then I find more black spots on the floor that the shoes have shed, which reminds me to stick to my guns about not trusting online shopping for clothing and also to not buy anything at all that I don’t totally love.

Sometime this summer I’ll drop into the ugg boot outlet and buy a new pair of mid-calf boots with proper soles and I’ll be so happy.

It’s good to have something to look forward to!

12 Comments

  1. I don’t like buying shoes and clothes online too – for exactly your reasons – it’s too much bother to return them when they are not quite right. But I have been very tempted by those ads …

  2. But.. were they comfortable? Despite the cold ankles and falling off black spots? Would you buy another pair on special if they were a plain colour or have they done their dash with you now?

    Oprah told me many years ago to get a pair of Cole Haan shoes because they were the most comfortable things she ever wore. These were not easy to find in Australia so I never did, I just hung onto that little nugget of knowledge.

    When I went to Hawaii in 2013 I finally managed to go to a proper Cole Haan store and I bought two pairs of ballerina shoes, each pair was DOUBLE the price you paid for these Scarletto things, but I have worn them constantly out to places for the 6 years since and they still have a lot of wear in them. Oprah was right, too – these are the most comfortable shoes I ever wore.

    I do have one pair of Diana Ferrari Supersoft Galaxy slip on sneakers that I wore to work for over 12 months – because my Cole Haans were not the right colour for that. They are extremely comfortable as well, and I have seen them on clearance for as low as $40. Supersofts are usually very comfy I have found, definitely the most comfortable thing easily found in Australia.

    This winter I got a bargain of knitted socks which are lined with soft fluffy stuff from Kmart for $5 each – kind of like those slumbies you see but much longer – and they go to mid-calf, I have worn them endlessly and even with socks underneath them, my feet get so cold now.

    But yeah, when a brand sells something knowing it is faulty, generally they get wiped off my buying list for good.

    I would have entered into the debate myself – at the very least letting them know I was super unhappy. Usually I find they will do something to try and compensate even if they have a policy that seems set in stone.

    • No, they’ve done their dash with me. It was obvious that they were a sub-standard material and they were trying to flog them off instead of cutting their losses.
      I’ll look into those shoes you mentioned. I don’t mind spending money if I’ll get years of use out of something. (Hence my thermomixes.) I don’t know how much longer I’ll be working so I’m reluctant to buy a huge work wardrobe now, in case I don’t end up using it for very long.

  3. I like thinking about these kind of decisions too. For very busy people, having efficient, comfortable and low maintenance possessions can boost our productivity, health and happiness. I think of my wardrobe as essential tools in life.

    With such a high bar for performance (I think we are similar in our requirements) sourcing them requires some thought and, of course, sometimes it’s hit and miss. When I miss I adopt the Marie Kondo approach of mentally thanking the experience for what it taught me as I send my error on somewhere useful.

    Also a favourite strategy is to monitor my favourite hard-to-replace vital items on eBay for the same brand/style/size so I can replace them cheaply, especially for things like work pants where I am very fussy and they can be very expensive.

    FWIW I think you should cut you losses, donate the shoes, and have a mission to source excellent but not very expensive slippers. Those shoes will take your life force with their peely off bits and ankle chilling evilness!! Slippers should epitomise self-care and I just don’t know if these shoes will replenish you the way slippers should. Actually I’m just kidding they’re only slippers and I’m totally overanalysing it.

  4. I have sworn off internet shopping for clothes and shoes. I need to feel the material and see how it looks and feels on me. Every time I weaken, I experience what you have – disappointment and annoyance in myself. Only time I do is for clothes (never shoes) if I know the brand very very well.

    I love equating cost with hours worked. Is this worth X hours doing Y.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t shop online for clothes and shoes. The girls in The Danger Zone do it all the time and they’re rarely disappointed – but if one of them doesn’t like something she’s bought, one of the others usually does. It all seems to work out.

  5. I’ve been wondering about that brand as it keeps popping up in my Facebook feed. I will happily learn from your experience and avoid them!

    FWIW I usually wear Ziera (I have very wide feet so I’m hard to fit), but I’ve also found Planet shoes to be good for work. 🙂

  6. This inspired a “Maybe this time it will be different” note on my phone for all the things I keep trying, am consistently disappointed by, then can’t remember I was disappointed so I try again. So far, it’s casinos, buying clothing online, and sweaters.

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