The boots theory of socioeconomic unfairness

The boots theory of socioeconomic unfairness

When I wrote about my $80 pajamas, I never imagined it'd spark a three-part series of articles. Yet here we are.

  • On Monday, I wrote about why I chose to buy high-quality pajamas. (I've been wearing them all week, by the way. They're awesome.)
  • On Wednesday, I published a follow-up piece that explored the “buy it for life” philosophy, and explained why sometimes it makes sense to shop based on quality instead of price.
  • Today, I want to spend a little time exploring the ethical implications of buying expensive items.

Quality tends to come with a price. While there are ways to mitigate some of these higher costs — buy used, wait for sales, etc. — if you want to buy new quality items, you're going to pay a premium.

Because of this, quality is often something reserved for the rich. If you have money, you enjoy the luxury of being able to buy quality items (if that's what you want). If you're struggling with money, if you're still in debt, then it may be difficult for you to prioritize quality over price.

Like so many things in life, this is fundamentally unfair. But that's how things are.

The Boots Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness

In our discussions earlier this week, two different GRS readers pointed me to the Boots Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness, which is derived from this passage in a Terry Pratchett novel:

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes' ‘Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

This is an astute observation.

Quality costs more in the short-term. In this example, purchasing quality boots costs $50 instead of $10. However, the economics reverse over time. When you look at cost per use (or similar metrics), quality items eventually become less expensive — sometimes much less expensive.

That catch — the reason for this “socioeconomic unfairness” — is that if you're poor and/or struggling to make ends meet, you cannot afford to pay for quality. You're forced to choose the cheapest option…which is actually the most expensive option.

If, on the other hand, you're wealthy, then you have the luxury of being able to absorb the initial expense and allowing time to reduce your cost per use.

Going back to my pajama example, I had been buying the equivalent of $10 boots. Each year, I was spending $20 to buy a new pair because the old ones were wearing out. Because I'm in a position to afford it, I decided to buy the equivalent of $50 boots. I spent $80 on high-quality sleepwear in the hopes that it will last years instead of months.

If these PJs make it through four years, I'll have reached a break-even point with the cheap pajamas. (And, as an added benefit, I will have received much more pleasure from them.)

Does all of this make sense? If not, maybe a graph or two will help.

Socioeconomic Unfairness, Illustrated

I spent thirty minutes producing the two lousy charts below. Despite the poor quality, I believe they do a good job of illustrating the boots theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

Both charts cover a period of ten years. The red lines represent the total amount spent on boots during that decade. The blue lines — which are pretty worthless, I'll admit — illustrate the cost per month.

This first chart illustrates the cost of purchasing cheap boots:

The cost of cheap boots over time

As you can see, there's a low initial outlay to buy cheap boots, but the total amount spent on boots grows at a steady rate. What you cannot see is that the cost per month hovers at just above $1.67. (Every six months, the monthly expense hits $1.67. Then, when new boots are purchased, the cost per month increases.)

The second chart shows the cost of purchasing expensive boots:

The cost of expensive boots over time

Here you can see that there's a high initial outlay to buy expensive boots — but the total amount never changes. It stays constant over the decade of ownership. Meanwhile, the cost per month drops sharply. It's very high at first, but eventually declines to less than fifty cents per month.

Some implications from these two charts:

  • At two-and-a-half years, the costs of ownership are identical. (That's what my fancy arrows are trying to indicate.) At this point, the cheap path will have cost $50 — the same as the expensive path. The cost per month at this point is $1.67.
  • After two-and-a-half years of ownership, the cheap boots become the expensive boots and the expensive boots become the cheap boots. From this point forward, the “cost-of-ownership gap” slowly widens with each passing month.
  • By the end of ten years, it will have cost four times as much to purchase cheap boots than to have purchased the expensive boots. The cost per month for the cheap boots will be $1.67; the cost per month for the expensive boots will be 42 cents.

Note, however, that there's risk involved. The expensive boots aren't automatically the better deal.

If something happens to the expensive boots during the first two-and-a-half years of ownership — they're lost, they're stolen, they're damaged, they're destroyed — then they forever remain the most expensive option. The cost per month never reaches the break-even point.

But here's where another aspect of socioeconomic unfairness comes into play. We already understand that it's tough for a poor person to save enough to buy the expensive boots. What happens if the boots are stolen after only one year of ownership? The rich person is frustrated, but she's able to replace the boots (with another expensive pair). The poor person, on the other hand, isn't able to self-insure. If the poor person's boots don't last thirty months, he's doubly screwed.

This is another example of how the rich get rich and the poor get poorer.

The Value of Mindful Spending

Here's the thing, though. Even if you're struggling to get by, even while you're trying to get out of debt, it is possible to prioritize quality with some purchases. You can't spend a lot to buy the best every time you make a purchase, but you can absolutely target the items that are most important to you.

I'm a big fan of conscious spending, the notion that you should give yourself permission to spend on the things that are important to you but cut back hard on the things that aren't.

In my own life, for instance, I recently opted to purchase a hot tub. This wasn't an easy decision. Hot tubs are expensive. Building a deck to surround the hot tub is even more expensive. Yet I recognized that Kim and I would get a lot of value from owning a spa. And we have. In the five months we've owned it, we've spent over 500 hours in the thing! Our cost per use is still high — about $14 per hour — but it will decline with time.

This is an example of a luxury purchase that's aligned with my own habits and values. No, it's not a necessity. But Kim and I are receiving a lot of value from this.

On the other hand, I choose not to own a fancy car. While it's fun to ride in them once in a while, I have little desire to have a modern vehicle. Buying a new car doesn't match my habits or values, so I get by with my 15-year-old Mini Cooper. (And Kim drives a 20-year-old Honda Civic.)

These are examples of conscious spending in action.

The same principle can be applied to deciding whether or not to buy quality.

If there's a tool you use every day, for example, one that's an important part of your work or home life, then I believe it's fine to pay more to buy quality. You might disagree, but I don't view this as consumerism. In fact, I see it as the opposite of consumerism. You're trying to buy less in the long term, not more.

Let's use the boots as an example again. If Vimes purchases the cheap boots, he'll buy ten pairs and spend $200 over ten years. If he purchases the expensive boots, he'll buy one pair and spend $50 during that period. Which option is embracing consumerism? Which is actually an example of frugality and thrift?

After you've managed to build a nest egg, you have the freedom to apply mindful spending to most aspects of your life. You can buy $80 pajamas. You can buy a hot tub. You can spend more for quality luggage.

You don't have this sort of freedom if you're struggling to get by — thus the “unfairness” portion of Vimes' socioeconomic theory — but you can (and should) exercise mindful spending on a selective basis, for those items that are truly most important to you. Like boots.

Socioeconomic Unfairness in Real Life

This week on Twitter, one of my followers took me to task. @PenninRay believes that by arguing in favor of high-quality, expensive luggage (and by purchasing a hot tub), I'm pushing people toward consumerism, that I'm working to undermine my own message. I disagree.

This Twitter user is unhappy with me

There's no doubt that Ray is correct when he suggests that consumerism — our obsession with the acquisition of Stuff — is a problem, especially for those who are still in debt or otherwise struggling with money.

Where Ray and I disagree, however, is what constitutes consumerism. He seems to be arguing that certain purchases are always consumerist in nature. (I could be wrong here. It's tough to get nuance on Twitter.) My argument is that, due to socioeconomic unfairness, what's a poor decision for one person might be a fine decision for another.

If this were 2003, if I were still $35,000 in debt, then buying a hot tub would absolutely be a foolish decision. But it's not 2003 and I'm not $35,000 in debt. It's 2018 and I have a substantial nest egg. It may not be fair, but I believe buying a hot tub — especially when that purchase is aligned with my habits and values — is perfectly fine for the J.D. of 2018 even though it would have been stupid for the J.D. of 2003.

Perhaps, like Ray, you disagree with me.

I believe that money is a tool. Like any tool, it can be used to build or to destroy. If you've managed to accumulate some cash, what's the sense in having it if you don't use it to improve your life? To me, that seems like having a workshop filled with tools that you never put to use.

While it may not be fair that some folks have a workshop filled with tools and others don't, if you do have the tools, there's nothing wrong with using them to build the life you want. If you can afford quality and want quality, then buy quality. If you can't afford it (or don't want it), then exercise caution and restraint.

More about...Economics

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WantNotToWantNot
WantNotToWantNot
1 year ago

Boots Theory—I love it! Excellent and timely post, J.D.! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the purchase of expensive goods. My SO and I are naturally frugal and up until we joined the two-comma club (15 years back), we owned a $2500 used car. When it finally gave out, we negotiated a great deal on our first new car, another Toyota Corolla that we loved until we gifted it to a needy friend. We’ve always been price conscious because it is, well, more mindful and less wasteful. But last year, I needed a new winter coat. Ah, needed isn’t… Read more »

Carol
Carol
1 year ago

Not just quality. I’ve seen similar commentaries on the cost of diapers. “Rich” people can buy large boxes, which lowers the cost per diaper. “Poor” people may not have the funds or the space to purchase a $50 box of diapers. Or poor people may not be able to afford the start up costs of using cloth diapers.

Treo
Treo
1 year ago
Reply to  Carol

Having cloth diapered ourselves, I agree that the startup costs of cloth is certainly a factor, however, you can start small with a set of 5 inserts and maybe 2 liners and slowly add to that. While it may sound disgusting to some people, cloth diapers are actually easier to use than most people realize. If you’ve ever picked up after a dog, for instance, you’ll be fine with cloth diapers. Lastly, cloth diapers contribute minimally to landfill waste (they will eventually wear out, but we actually bought some second hand from friends). Neither my wife nor I are “crunchy”… Read more »

Marisa
Marisa
1 year ago

JD, one thing that neither you nor any of the commenters on these posts thus far have addressed is the environmental impact of purchasing crappy products that fall apart quickly. These low quality products are often produced very inexpensively in far flung countries lacking worker protections, and through practices that ruin both the local and eventually the global environment (as well as the health and lives of the workers). For example, every single year, the textile industry alone is responsible for producing 59 million tons of plastic. That’s new plastic, made from finite resources, that won’t ever disappear. Do people… Read more »

dh
dh
1 year ago

It’s easier to buy quality,too, once a person realizes how little they really need. In the case of shoes, most of us don’t need more than one pair of sneakers, one pair of sandals, and one pair of dress shoes for special occasions. Or let’s take the example of wool t-shirts, seeing as how JD owns so many. Yes, the wool t-shirts are super expensive, yet when a person realizes they can get by with owning only TWO, then it’s not such a daunting task anymore to come up with the money. Wool t-shirts don’t collect odor like other shirts,… Read more »

dh
dh
1 year ago
Reply to  dh

Video of Leo Babauta talking about his ONE pair of pants (Hey, if we all realized we only need one pair of pants, we could probably make them a quality purchase, right?):

http://zenhabits.s3.amazonaws.com/Ultralight%20Video%20-%20My%20Favorite%20Gear.mp4

dh
dh
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

And, of course, this basic idea extends out to EVERYTHING, not just clothes. Once we realize we hardly need anything to fill our small condos or apartments, then everything we buy can be top notch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYaxgVcgHLU

Once we realize we can be super healthy by eating only, say, spinach, wild fish, and blueberries, we don’t need tons of groceries anymore, and the groceries we do buy can be of high quality:

http://leobabauta.com/shop/

Bethany D
Bethany D
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Hey, it’s about what brings you joy not just what is stoically ‘enough’. I have over a dozen Tshirts because I enjoy having a whole spectrum of colors and slightly different fits to rotate through. Jeans? Just 3 pairs and that’s plenty. In fact now that I don’t have babies/toddlers coating me in bodily fluids on a daily basis, I might even be okay dropping down to 2!

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago

I do not argue the point. In fact I think it’s made more directly in non-fiction in George Orwell’s “The Road To Wiggins Pier”: The coal miners need a safe lamp, but don’t have money to buy one so they rent from their employer and windup staying poor and paying for that damned lamp over and over before they work themselves to death. It was this type of experience that made Orwell’s a socialist. However he noticed that once he advocated for socialism for a time that his cohorts “didn’t love the poor as much as they hate the rich”… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Yes, thank you. I was writing from my phone. I realized I misspelled it after posting. Unsure if it was a slip, or a weird autocorrect.

Frogdancer Jones
Frogdancer Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Thanks for posting that link, JD. This book sounds interesting. I’ve downloaded it. 🙂

Joe
Joe
1 year ago

You’re killing me with this “Buy it for life” series. Your example is for extreme cases. For most things, you don’t have to buy the best. I bet you can find $40 PJ bottoms that will last a long time too. Just avoid the cheapest things available and you’ll probably do fine.
The buy quality theory is just an excuse to buy luxurious goods. How many of these things will you use for life anyway? You’ll get bored of them in a few years, usually.
I guess everyone will have to figure things out what works for them.

Joe
Joe
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

The LL Bean backpacks are not too expensive. They’re $40 which is not much more than the price of a Walmart backpack. I consider that midrange. You can spend a lot more than that on a backpack. 😉

Anne
Anne
1 year ago
Reply to  Joe

Totally agree here on every point. First, it’s highly likely the rich person will wear the boots/carry the expensive purse for ten years so that they do come out ahead. It makes them feel good so they tell themselves they will. Secondly, it’s oftentimes hard to know what quality is, unless of course your anti-example is cardboard boots. I love blind taste tests. I recall Thrifty ice cream coming out in the very top taste choices when people weren’t aware of the brand names. Another great example was a wine tasting some years back. A bottle of two-buck Chuck made… Read more »

Anne
Anne
1 year ago
Reply to  Anne

“highly UNlikely the rich person will wear the boots/carry the purse for ten years.”

Yikes!

Cindi
Cindi
1 year ago

I find it disturbing that you would value an idiotic hot tub over the safety offered by the new, modern cars of today. Your money or your life? Obviously, neither you nor Kim value your life but have fallen into some sort of luxury trap and are actually driving cars 15 to 20 years old. Do you realize those cars are death traps and will suffer catastrophic structural damage when in a car accident as compared to the many safety features newer cars are built with today, thus saving both of your lives? You’ve given up safety for a plunk… Read more »

Barb
Barb
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I always find it interesting when people judge other’s spending by their own standards and values, and there are lots of frugal and non frugal people who do this, including, dare I say it, Mr. Money Mustache. I for example cross country on a regular basis (In my own vehicle, I never understood the rental for travel thing), and have handicaps. Therefore, while my car is used (2009) and past the 100 thousand mile mark, it is an SUV and is a year that is considered one of the safest models for a Nissan Murano (never mind the seat is… Read more »

Greg
Greg
1 year ago
Reply to  Cindi

Cindi’s post made me laugh! After reading ESI Money’s recent post on trolls, I immediately recognized it as a classic example of “You Are Wrong and/or Stupid Trolls.”

Car safety is an important thing, but it is not The Ultimate thing. Everyone’s personal calculus is different.

Ross
Ross
1 year ago
Reply to  Cindi

Cindi, I’m looking for a good quality driving helmet. Do you have any suggestions? What brand(s) do you wear?

Cindi
Cindi
1 year ago
Reply to  Ross

It’s called ‘Italia’
Figure it out.

Andrea
Andrea
1 year ago
Reply to  Cindi

I believe JD also works from home which means he probably doesn’t spend as much time driving as the average American. Therefore he is less likely to get in a car accident.

Pete
Pete
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Oh man, not the “Unforgettable Fire!” Seriously, I really like that album. That said, replaceable at least. 🙂

But seriously, back to car safety. While there is a risk, I have viewed cars as a calculated risk. And the fact that you drive few miles per year is a huge factor in safety. As is time you drive. I tend to drive off-peak so it’s relatively very safe for me compared to other times of day, and I suspect that you do the same.

Cindi
Cindi
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

You can laugh and make fun all you want. Only takes one accident to totally ruin your life. I guess when you have children and grandchildren, you just think differently. Or at least I do. I drive a 100% total luxury car, with every bell and whistle possible. I am astounded at the safety features. Until I sat in the car and drove it, I had no idea of its value, safe wise. New, the car cost $56,000. I bought it for $20,000 cash with an $11,000 value trade in of my older car. I paid an additional $1,800 for… Read more »

Katelyn
Katelyn
1 year ago
Reply to  Cindi

Just playing devils advocate here, but what happens when those all important safety features malfunction or stop working unexpectedly mid-drive? If you’re gotten reliant on those safety features and they go out suddenly, you might actually be at more risk than someone driving a beater car. It seems reasonable to me that those safety features may give the driver a false sense of security that could increase the likelihood they’ll find themselves in an accident. The reality is you’re risking injury or even death anytime you’re in a car, regardless of what safety features your car has. Additionally, I’ve driven… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  Cindi

“Obviously, neither you nor Kim value your life…” Really? That’s an interesting way to frame your argument because I don’t think it’s obvious, and I think the hyperbole detracts from your point rather than adds to it. EVERYTHING is a trade off of possible outcomes. For example I doubt you drive the safest car out there and upgrade annually. Since “you don’t value your life” is a very unlikely scenario then what it means is you don’t understand the trade off JD is making. Therefore your goal doesn’t seem to be to understand. And since such dismissive terms tend to… Read more »

Tom Murin
Tom Murin
1 year ago

People make decisions for all kinds of reasons. Some make sense – some don’t. We live with the consequences. Hopefully, we don’t do any harm to anyone else in the process. I agree with JD on buying quality. I don’t want to pay extra for style though. I’ve found that Allen Edmunds are the best dress shoes. I don’t like paying $375 for a pair, but they are worth it (to me) and will last a very long time. I’m not getting a hot tub though!

Brett
Brett
1 year ago

Love the article and the tangible example. One thing about the charts I was going to suggest is put similar metrics on the same charts (cumulative spend and cumulative spend per month) as opposed to different metrics on the same chart but both related to the activity. I was trying to get the scale better on the cost per month chart. If you limit the top of the chart to a value of $10 per month, you can see the behavior of both lines a little better. Also, the cost per month of the $10 boots is $10 after month… Read more »

PenninRay
PenninRay
1 year ago

You are in the doctors waiting room he’s helping you lose the weight thats got you at serious risk of a heart attack. The nurse finally calls you in and the doctors busy eating a huge banana split. He sees the look on your face and says “It’s ok I am thin.” J.D. I’m sure you have a sizeable pile and I dont question the benefits of quality in things like cars but that isnt the point. Expensive luggage, Hot tubs and more stuff is exactly the last thing what most of your readers need. Like it or not the… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  PenninRay

I disagree that the discussion isn’t for the people he’s trying to reach. JD has a lot of readers at the beginning of their FI journey, but he has plenty of us in the middle or toward the end. This isn’t a frugality blog as much as it’s a lifestyle blog. That lifestyle is about conscious spending. If you don’t have much money then that conscious spending is about frugality and making the most of the money you have. If you are making good money and setting plenty aside, then the focus is about being frugal instead of cheap (like… Read more »

Barb
Barb
1 year ago
Reply to  S.G.

Hmm. As one of those people kind of on the end (with a fixed income in retirement that is more than just social security but not with an IRA or a 401K), I agree with the first comment in general. While I appreciate his discussion of the hot tub vs car, it would have made more sense had it been presented as a trade off, rather than a buy up and make it last longer. Because for most of his readers I expect (even though they may not all post), buying the expensive pjs that last longer will either mean… Read more »

RayinPenn
RayinPenn
1 year ago
Reply to  S.G.

Hi SG Allow me to share this 64 year olds prospective. I “grew up poorer then a church mouse” always worrying about the next catastrophe (tires for the family car, the fuel oil bill, doctor bills etc). It was stressful and a feeling of not being in control. I wanted to change that. In my thirties I found a wife, frugality and a couple of graduate degrees in business. I was the plumber, carpenter Mr. fixit and investor. She was the painter, sale shopper and coupon clipper extraordinaire. The result was we were FI a long time ago. I am… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  RayinPenn

Good for you. You have obviously worked hard and deserve your peace of mind. I understand where your point came from (I assume you are the original author though the names are a little different), however I don’t believe it addresses my counter point. There are different definitions and goals of FI and fitness, and they result in different behaviors and milestones. Just like someone who’s definition of fitness is running a sub 3 hour marathon differs from someone who can bench press 300# and further differs from someone who IS 300#, FI can ABSOLUTELY mean hot tubs and $80… Read more »

Brenton
Brenton
1 year ago
Reply to  PenninRay

Pretty sure I window shop hot tubs every winter. Luckily for me, I live in a warm climate and while I hem and haw over whether it would actually be worth it, a week goes by and it is 80F outside again and I forget all about hot tubs. I would be much more worried about his vague references to an hour long daily commute. That IS something that is harmful to the environment and completely unnecessary for someone in his position. A year’s worth of gas and vehicle maintenance as well as wasting your time in traffic is far… Read more »

Michael Clark
Michael Clark
1 year ago

I use a similar comparison when I buy cell phones. I need the Internet for my job as an EMT, so it’s an iPhone. I keep it as long as I can to drive the monthly cost down, and have one that is several generations old. I am on the prepaid plan, which is much less expensive than a contract plan. but gives enough data to be good enough. My wife however just wants a cell phone to make calls. Prepaid Tracfone for her, meets her needs. And every three years or so we buy her a new Tracfone for… Read more »

Gwen @ Fiery Millennials
Gwen @ Fiery Millennials
1 year ago

Interesting timing on this post, JD. I just bought a pair of Frye boots. They run $300-400 when bought retail. I bought them for $70 at a second hand shop. I might need to resole the bottoms, but I got a quality pair of boots at a lower price. The second hand market is full of quality goods and I encourage everyone to check out the scene before buying new. (I also got a Converse down full length coat for $13!)

Batty
Batty
1 year ago

When you’re poor, you pay more for most everything. You might not have enough money at one time to get a free checking account at a bank. Or your job may not offer direct deposit, which could also get you a free checking account. So the only option is check cashing shop that charge a high fee – but it’s a fast way to get access to your money so you can buy groceries, gas or bus fare, & pay rent. People don’t realize what an enormous privilege it is to have chunks of money all at once when so… Read more »

T
T
1 year ago

I have found all of this to be interesting. Yes, circumstances are different for everyone and priorities are constantly changing. The one thing I have found that does not change for me is the quality of food that I buy. I will go without that trendy piece of clothing that I don’t really need and buy a better quality food item with the idea that each time I buy food the quality I can buy at the moment will continue to improve. This requires that I continually educate myself about food and food choices and have the discipline to plan… Read more »

Janette
Janette
1 year ago

After living in Asia, I look at things “backwards”. I attempt to purchase locally. I know that my splurges go into my economy helping the “poor” to get a boot up. I buy from local farmers if at all possible. When I hit the jackpot of a super sale (amazing coat sales during Black Friday), I buy several and give them away at the local high school. One thing I try not to do is buy items from China/Vietnam areas. Forget most of the “designer” labels. They are all made in the same polluted places. I have been through those… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
1 year ago

My frugal mantra has long been, “I save where I can so I can spend where I want.” Seems like it’s yours, too. After all, you and Kim drive your cars until the wheels fall off, and as a result can afford things like a hot tub, traveling and owning multiple pets. Money is a tool, one we can use any way we like. My partner drove his Subaru for 18 years, shops at thrift stores, and cooks all meals from scratch based on what’s on sale plus whatever we grow and whatever is given to us by friends who… Read more »

Tom Murin
Tom Murin
1 year ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Where would we be without the internet scold/troll?

L
L
1 year ago

I think when you reach a point in your finances conscious spending is ok. It is ok if you are a minimalist or frugal but everyone does not need to be the same. I think those readers who are at that point all have something that others may see as foolish or wasteful. I buy a lot of clothes (only on sale) but rarely buy shoes. I am willing to pay more for a shoe that I can wear long term and is comfortable (I have problem feet) than many trendy short term shoes. But I get bored with my… Read more »

BeauC
BeauC
1 year ago

It amazes me how hot of a topic this seems to be! What is the point in saving money, achieving your goals just to become a miser? If you enjoy something and can TRULY afford it, why not?! Dave Ramsey points out that if your “toys” only account for a fraction of your Net Worth then it doesn’t matter. If JD’s hot tub crapped out tomorrow he may be bummed but it the great scheme of things it doesn’t matter. His net worth won’t even notice! And if ADULTS are reading this and going out and buying the most expensive… Read more »

olga
olga
1 year ago

Just tuning in to sort of support (which you don’t need): you don’t “owe” anybody to write about certain things (as in “lead by example and be cheap”). You do you. Readers pick what they read, if they keep on following, etc. Life takes care of sorting things out. As far as frugal, as Donna Freedman said, “save you you don’t care for, spend where you do”. My car is 15 years old and help me God to make it 2 more month until I buy a new one (waiting for Christmas sale). I am aware it’s worn out (although… Read more »

Jenny H
Jenny H
1 year ago

As one of the rare people who read both FIRE and fashion blogs, it feels important to point out that expensive does not equate to quality. In recent years, the quality of many expensive goods has gone down alongside everything else. Brands that used to make reliably long-lasting goods sometimes now make duds. Conversely, with careful searching, you can find quality at relatively low price points. But it is frustrating how difficult it has become to locate quality goods in this fast-fashion world. Also, I’ve learned the hard way that quality items can still be ruined in a variety of… Read more »

dh
dh
1 year ago
Reply to  Jenny H

The North Face is a great example of this. They are coasting now on brand recognition instead of quality products. I hope this never happens with Patagonia.

Buzz
Buzz
1 year ago

I think the financial analysis is flawed because it ignores the cost of maintenance. It is NOT cheap to own nice things. An expensive pair of boots is not going to last long unless you take care of them — which would mean regular shining/conditioning of the leather as well as resoling every couple of years (which is expensive — more expensive than a cheap pair of boots). You can buy an expensive watch (like a Rolex) which will last ‘forever’ but you need to service it every 5 years or so which costs $500-$1000. You can just buy a… Read more »

Pete
Pete
1 year ago
Reply to  Buzz

I too have this thought with shoes. I purchased two pairs of Allen Edmonds for $252 and $195 in 2012. Now in 2018 I’m needing the rubber heals to be replaced. I’m not sure if I need the soles replaced or not. If I don’t, the cost of saddle soap at $6, total $12 (one can dried up because I didn’t close it properly and seal in a plastic bag) and whatever the rubber heal replacement at the local cobbler, will probably be not bad. The leather looks really good and seems to be in great shape. Laces have been… Read more »

Steve
Steve
1 year ago

I don’t have any problem with you choosing to buy a hot tub, or otherwise consciously spending. But I completely fail to see what it has to do with the Boots Theory. People who can’t afford hot tubs just don’t get them. They don’t, for instance, pay for gym/spa memberships at a higher average monthly cost just to get access to a hot tub. They make do and do without instead.

Mid America Mom
Mid America Mom
1 year ago

This does not account for the costs associated with the buying. A. I do not buy boots without trying some on. I might have to go to a few stores via my car (or bus/train). I have to spend time (for some this might not be much a consideration depending on what work you do). B. I live in the outskirts of Chicago-land. When I find deals on Craigslist or enticed to go to a store for the great sale.. I also account for the travel. My husband tends to think in terms of “opportunity cost”. I have passed on… Read more »

MattTheRNMentor
MattTheRNMentor
1 year ago

The problem is that price doesn’t indicate quality. It’s easy to slap a high price on a crappy product because the brand can command the price. If there was a curated list of quality brands – I think it would provide great value. Have you come across any list like this?

Elyse
Elyse
1 year ago

I completely agree with this post. We are (finally) comfortable financially. Since we still put away plenty of money each month, I have no guilt spending whatever is left over however I choose. I am naturally frugal but do not hesitate to spend a fair sum for quality. I’m not chasing status items or brand names. If it will make my life easier, if it will bring me continued joy, if I have space for it in our small apartment, and if the amount is not a hardship, then I will buy it with no regrets. My time is also… Read more »

Ron C.
Ron C.
1 year ago

WAIT A MINUTE. You’re spending over THREE HOURS a day, on average, in the hot tub? Or is it “only” 1.6 hours per person per day? My wife is dying for one, yet I can’t stand staying in a bathtub for ten minutes before I start getting uncomfortable…(due to the heat, not the cleanliness 🙂

Anouk
Anouk
1 year ago

Some cars are build better than others and will last longer. Americans are scared of everything. But than everyone can drive a car. In the USA I would be able to get a license easy. In the Netherlands where I live it is much more complicated. That is why I don’t have a drivers license I know my eyes are the problem. If I would go for a older car I would go for a honda or a volvo. Not an American that is for sure. We are going to have an electric hyundai now. I get sit next to… Read more »

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