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Why it pays to spend more

Posted: Wednesday, May. 16, 2012

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Rachel Sutherland

Rachel Sutherland has been a professional journalist for 14 years, most recently as the Style Editor for the Charlotte Observer. Her writing and styling work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country. She is often a featured guest on syndicated radio programs The Matt & Ramona Show and The Satisfied Life. Find her at or email her:

Math is not my strong suit. Unless you are talking about shopping math, or justification for buying quality versus quantity. Then I can hook you up.

I was reminded of the importance of doing shopping math before you buy when I recently sprung my favorite sandals from shoe jail on the fourth floor at Belk SouthPark. The kind folks there don’t hold my items against their will — it’s the only place I trust to fix/restore my precious kicks and leather goods.

Anyway, here’s the story of my sandals. I don’t wear flats often (read: EVER). But I was in need of some comfortable stylish flat sandals two summers ago. While working part-time at Saks Off Fifth, I lamented buying these beauties for weeks — pre sale (and employee discount) price had them at around $100. I wasn’t sure I liked them enough to pull the trigger, but they were leather and were unique.

Long story short, I bought them. And literally every summer since, I’ve been so so thankful that I did. They recently took their third trip to shoe jail, where they received spa treatments so restorative, they looked brand new upon pick up. Never mind that they were fitted with their third set of new soles, or that the toe straps had been shortened (after being stretched out from two full summers of near-daily wear).

Here’s where the math comes in, and the importance of quality materials: those awesome leather sandals cost roughly $60 when I bought them back in 2010. Resoling in 2011 ran about $10. This year’s rehab was a bit more extensive, but so worth it, and clocked in at $25.

So, my perfect pair of sandals has cost me about $95 total. That’s about $31 per summer, and I don’t have to spend any time trying to find the perfect shoe — I’ve already got it in hand.

That’s not too bad, when you consider the alternative: buying a new pair of flat sandals every summer. Low end that would run $25 per summer ($75), and they certainly wouldn’t be leather. Nicer shoes (not even high end)? A minimum of $40-$50 per pair ($150).

I’m still working on applying “buying better, buying less” to my entire wardrobe, and I’ve pretty much got it down with shoes and bags.

So what’s your take? Do you agree? No? Think it’s convenient retail rationalization?

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