A recent post on one of my favorite personal finance blogs, First Generation American, was about getting things repaired rather than buying new.
It made me think about a pair of boots I recently had repaired. They are lovely shearling boots made by a local couple that I bought when I moved to Santa Fe almost 12 years ago, clunky, and fuzzy on the inside. Basically, they’re high-end slippers.
I had just moved here, I was single and I had a good job. I spent hundreds of dollars on them, intrigued by this big-footed, cozy Western style in my new city. They were my symbol of leaving the East behind. Someone told me her pair were still going strong after 10 years. That was all the justification I needed.
Over 10 years later, part of a fabric trim was frayed through and the sole was on its way out. I contacted the makers who said they would supply the materials for me to take to a cobbler they work with. I swung by their studio, plunked my beautiful boots on their worktable so they could see what fabric was needed, and the woman smirked.
“Wow,” she said. “I think you should look at our newer boots over here.” She suggested it several times, pointing out I’d spend a fair amount of money to fix the old ones up. I was pissed. I had assumed they’d be pleased to have seen a well-loved pair of their boots and be happy to help me.
Well, they ended up being very helpful, and perhaps, economic times being what they are for luxury products, she couldn’t help herself. And it turns out that the repairs were more expensive that I had expected – the cost of maintaining nice things – but they are under a third of what that brand of new boots would cost.
Today, I wouldn’t buy boots like that. There are cheaper ways of keeping my feet warm. But to me, a third of the original price is worth it, especially if I get another five or more years out of them. To me, the boots are beautiful, still, vibrant. You can see faded sections of the suede, but that, to me, is cool, like faded jeans.
It’s interesting to think about how and when people buy new and when they repair. This was a huge battleground between my parents, with my father willing to buy anything as long as it was cheap, and my mom willing to buy less but only the best, which she kept and looked after for years.
I ended up being on both sides. And I’ve found that’s a good flexibility to have as my economic winds change. All along, I’ve tried to make going to Goodwill or a consignment store just as exciting as a store with new clothes for my girls, because playing around with thrift items is fun. It’s an interesting life lesson about figuring out how to make what you discover fit in your life in interesting and maybe even better ways.
So far, the strategy has worked. Luckily, for these days it’s a vital practicality to make sure we check out cheaper sources of clothing first. There’s no real whining about not getting high-end items. They’re just pleased to be getting more clothes – which, ahem, is another issue entirely.