Sustain.Home, Work/Professional

Cobble My Shoe

It is no secret among my coworkers, friends, and family that I love shoes. Signs of my shoe-loving are evident in several different aspects of my day-to-day life, including: maintaining a desk drawer of shoes in my cubicle, participating in a shoe-of-the-month club, regularly donning a different pair of pumps for each day of the week (or month!), consistently pairing any outfit with an apparent coordinated pair of heels, wearing 5.5” pumps at 7 months pregnant, and owning a couple pairs of brightly colored pumps, to name a few.

one of my favorite pairs of shoes

And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking of all of the money it would cost to build up a collection like that. Well, it’s true, my collection does not consist of Manolo Blahniks, Louboutins, or Alexander McQeens. But the truth is that those brands, which offer select foot-art this season that tops more than $6,000 each, are very obviously out of reach for most people. So what are we poor shoe-lovers to do? Improvise.

Here are some tips for building an affordable collection:

1. Check out local thrift and second-hand stores. I am fortunate enough to live in a college town with high-end second hand stores. In fact, if I’m ever looking to purchase something, such stores are often the most convenient place for me to start. Right now I’m actually wearing a pair of Anne Kleins which I purchased second hand for $15 (regularly $100).

Second-hand stores are also a great choice because the concept itself is a wonderfully sustainable alternative to throwing away perfectly good shoes. Not to mention the fact that most are either locally-owned (meaning you are supporting a small business and keeping money in your community) or benefit a charity (like the Goodwill stores, which benefit people all over the world).

2. The loveable discount stores. Similarly, discount stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and others offer heavy discounts off of in-season overstocked items. I find them to be a great source for basics, cute flats, and an occasional sandal. And, just like second-hand stores, they offer a secondary market to name-brand stores which may otherwise discard unused merchandise. Meaning while you save green, you’re also acting green.

3. Subscription services. If you ever troll the internet or watch anything that might appeal to a mid-20’s professional female, chances are you have probably seen ads for a subscription shoe service that offers low-cost but fashionable footwear. Companies include Shoedazzel, Sole Society, ShoeMint, and Just Fab, to name a few. Prices range around $40 per month for one pair of shoes. The only downside is that some sites do require you to pay each month, which can add up quickly.

4. Sales. Need I say more? I love shopping for shoes once the season is well underway. When stores want to push merchandise, they often offer an occasional sale, discount, or coupon to continue meeting their quota. And as annoying as those marketing emails can be in your inbox, I can say from experience that signing up for email lists and quickly breezing through the weekly emails I get from my regular stores has saved me a lot of money.

Another tip is to consider when people typically purchase items and avoid those peak times. I find a lot of great retail sales in July, November, and end of September (after the back-to-school boom). With a little planning and foresight, you can definitely stretch your dollar just a little farther.

5. Don’t be afraid to spend the money. I know, this is really easy to say. But there are times where you see something that you absolutely love, but it’s outside your price range. Now, I would like to preface my advice by saying, this is not something you do every month, it’s something you do once or twice a year. You need to be aware of your purchases and your needs, and definitely consider keeping a journal of large purchases if you find your credit card can’t be paid off each month.

So, in the rare event that a perfect pair of shoes comes your way, and you know those shoes will get some serious mileage (like years, not months), consider buying them. I have several pairs that have literally lasted me nearly a decade because I take care of them (more on that in a later post).

6. Consider a trade. It happens to the best of us, we absolutely have to purchase something when we’re at the store, we tell ourselves why we need it and how much use we’ll get out of it, and when we take it home we wear it once or twice, and then it finds its way to the back of the closet. I am fortunate enough to have a few fashionable females in my family that have great taste and similar sizes. So when the time comes to clean out their closet and ditch unfortunate purchases, they often consult with the rest of us. I couldn’t possibly count the number of items (clothes, shoes, household goods) I have received as elected hand-me-downs from my family. Sure, plenty of stuff still makes its way to Goodwill, but along the way I have snagged some seriously wonderful pieces – for FREE!

7. Yard Sales. Not my favorite, to be honest, but I see them a lot these days – yard sales that sell wearable items in addition to household goods. If you happen upon them, sometimes you can pick up a really unique piece for next to nothing.

8. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. As much as we would all love to instantly have everything we could ever need, the truth is that it takes time to build a collection of items that you like. That holds true whether you are accumulating household items, furniture, or wearable items. Resist the urge to purchase for the sake of purchasing. Be picky. Wait for things to come to you. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone on a hopeful shopping binge with money to burn and found myself coming up empty-handed because there was literally nothing that I liked. When these things happen, don’t panic. Instead, take that money and put it into your savings account for a rainy day because before you know it, you may just find yourself at the sale of the year with 30 things that you want, and nothing in your wallet.

So there you have it, a summary of my advice as an admitted shoe-addict discussing how to build a collection and keep it on the cheap.  In my next post I’ll provide tips on keeping the collection up so that it lasts for its worth. Happy shoe shopping!