Some people spend a small fortune buying lots of cheap shoes. Others blow their budget on only a few pairs of expensive shoes.
No matter how you justify it, shoes are not good investments. They may, however, be a perfectly justifiable expenditure.
I was having dinner with a friend last week, and he mentioned that he wanted to order custom shoes if he ever had the chance to visit Italy. After a cursory Internet search, I discovered that such a luxury might cost well over $1,000. Although that may be on the higher end of the spectrum, I almost choked.
The thing is, I've always known this guy to be quite careful with his money. In all the years that I've known him, he's never mentioned an abnormal obsession with his wife's shoe leather, or his own.
Normally, when spending more than the average amount on any item or service, people rationalize it in one of three ways: 1) It's an investment; 2) They have a higher-than-average appreciation for said good or service; or 3) They are bad with money. And sometimes Points 1 and 3 are related.
You might think that I've missed the "I'm worth it" factor. I haven't. Any time you defend a purchase based on the "I'm worth it" mentality, you might just be bad with money.
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines an investment as "the process of exchanging income during one period of time for an asset that is expected to produce earnings in future periods. Thus, consumption in the current period is foregone in order to obtain a greater return in the future."
You can cross all depreciating assets off the list of investments. That would include shoes.
The obvious rebuttal would be the argument that paying more for a high-quality pair of shoes that lasts longer can save you in the long run versus buying cheaper pairs of shoes more often. That logic is sound. But it assumes that price is correlated strongly with quality. In reality, we know that sometimes you are paying for a designer name and sometimes you are just paying to be trendy.
My friend and I are on the same page. He began to tell me about the orthotic customizations of the handmade shoes, and his trials and tribulations in finding mass-produced shoes with the correct amount of arch support for his presumably abnormal feet. Scheduled maintenance of these shoes includes resoling, buffing and regular use of shoe trees.
I instantly related this thinking to cars. If we actually perform the proper maintenance on cars, they can last a lot longer than we realize. There are people who are daily drivers of everyday cars that last 20 years or longer. They don't wait for things to break, and they don't abuse them. They actually take care of them.
Given that the shoe is the main point of contact with the ground and that our time spent wearing them is perhaps as much as a third of our lives, we should probably pay more attention to our footwear.
I hesitate to use the term "investing in high-quality footwear," but paying more than average for shoes can certainly be justifiable if you can look at it objectively and not from a fashion perspective.
However, let's be serious. I know some people are going to use this column as an excuse to go out and buy high-priced shoes for all the wrong reasons. You can count them in the "bad with money" category.
(Hey, if the shoe fits...)
Preet Banerjee is a senior vice-president with Pro-Financial Asset Management. His website is wheredoesallmymoneygo.com.