When I originally got into the world of high-quality footwear, I went in hard

Within the first six months of getting my first truly great boots—the classic Red Wing 875 moc toe boot—I went and got myself three other pairs of boots. I was nothing short of hooked, uncontrollably geeking out over this world of footwear I had never really paid attention to previously, just brimming over with excitement to learn and experience all of these different leathers, construction types, soles, lasts…all of it. There was so much to explore! 

But of course, to really explore all of these things, it wasn’t enough to read about other people’s footwear on places like Reddit or Facebook. For myself, and for many others, the only way to learn and experience these very tangible products was to buy them—in brick-and-mortar stores, on their websites, on Grailed, eBay, Reddit. Half the fun, for a while, was tracking down deals and/or rare pairs.

Hatchet Supply Brooklyn Boots - Red Wing, Alden, Wolverine

When I got into high-quality footwear, I was doing okay, financially speaking. Not thriving, but I had a decent-paying job and had no trouble keeping a roof over my head. While I stuck to brands that many people deep in this niche would consider somewhat entry-level, like Red Wing and Tecovas, I was nonetheless spending a not-insignificant percentage of my income on shoes and boots.

The pair that made me realize I had crossed a line was nothing crazy—somebody on eBay was selling a pair of discounted Red Wing Weekender Oxfords in Copper Rough and Tough. After I clicked “Buy” on those Red Wings, I recall immediately feeling a deep sense of shame and regret. Had I spent a fortune? No, of course not. But, I had all kinds of bills to pay, and I was extremely diligent about not carrying a balance on my credit card from month to month. Could I really afford—and more importantly, did I really need—another pair of shoes? After thinking about it for a few hours, I canceled my order before the shoes could be shipped out.

Thankfully, that’s as bad as things ever got for me with being irresponsible about my footwear spending habits. But even that moment gave me a glimpse into the perils of this wonderful hobby, and how buying habits can spiral out of control before we even realize it. 

The thing is, not everyone will have the same degree of self-awareness that makes them realize they’re possibly, maybe, setting themselves on the road to financial ruin. Every once in a while—hell, even before each time you decide to pull the trigger on a new pair of shoes—it may be worth it to you to take stock of your spending habits, and to make sure you’re balancing your wants and needs appropriately.

Red Wing Heritage Store, New York City

Here are some indications that your spending habits might be cause for concern:

You buy shoes at a high frequency

Are you snagging a new pair every month or even every week? For most of us, buying shoes that often is a sign that you’re most likely exceeding your actual needs, and quite possibly spending beyond your means.

Your other shoes get neglected or forgotten

We’re not just talking about your old beater pair of Birkenstocks. It’s not a good sign if you’ve got multiple pairs of shoes collecting dust or still sitting unused in their original boxes. (“Don’t worry,” you might say to yourself or those around you. “I’ll wear them…someday!”).

You hide new purchases from friends, family, and loved ones

It’s one thing to joke “oh my spouse is gonna kill me when they find out I purchased XYZ,” but actively trying to hide what’s in your closet is a recipe for disaster/actual murder.

You avoid looking at your finances 

If you’re not looking at your bank account or credit card statements on at least a monthly basis, and just riding along on autopay to settle your bills, that’s a big uh-oh.

You often buy shoes when you’re feeling stressed, intoxicated, or otherwise uninhibited

Occasional retail therapy can be a good and honestly quite helpful tool for dealing with sadness or distress, but it’s best practiced in moderation, not all the time. Similarly, YOLOing on a new pair of shoes while you’re sloshed can admittedly be fun and exciting! But your bank account probably shouldn’t be hurting worse than your head the next day.

You go into debt or take out loans for spending on shoes

Yes, we’ve heard of at least one person who took out a loan to spend on footwear. Huge red flag. While plenty of this advice is best interpreted on a case-by-case basis, we’re drawing a hard line on this one: never do it. 

Carmina NY Shoe Store

So…what can you do about it?

Let’s say you’ve realized something’s wrong—you’re spending too much money, you’re getting too many pairs of shoes, and you feel like you’re having trouble stopping yourself. What can you do? Well, whether you’re actively dealing with a shoe shopping addiction, or you’re just looking to be healthy with your consumption, here are some tips to consider:

Yes, the first step towards addressing these issues is admitting to yourself that you have a problem

But remember to be kind to yourself, too—you’re not a bad person if you’re struggling with this kind of addiction (and it’s important to use that word, as it absolutely can turn into that). It can happen to anyone. Don’t ignore the warning signs, though.

Set a budget, and stick to it

This tip is more like general financial advice—but frankly, it still bears repeating. Apps like Mint or You Need A Budget (YNAB) are pretty easy to use, and can be helpful for people looking to create a budget and monitor their spending habits. Having those numbers and graphs laid out to starkly represent your income and spending is a great way to keep yourself honest and accountable.

Be cautious about using buy-now, pay-later options

Interest-free payment plans from companies like Affirm, Afterpay or Klarna are appealing for allowing you to spread the cost of a purchase out over several weeks. However, missing these payments can cause all kinds of financial pain, from late fees to dings against your credit score. You may be better off simply paying for a purchase in full (provided it’s within your budget).

Spend within your means, whatever that may be for you

Everyone’s financial situation is unique. Want a pair of shell cordovan boots, but can’t set aside more than, say, $100 a month? Make it a goal to save up, even if it takes months, a year, or more to reach your target. Trust us, it will feel that much more fantastic when you finally get that pair you’ve been wanting for a while (delayed gratification, baby!). Again, stick to your budget, and save your money for those pairs you really want.

Don’t feel like you need to “keep up” with anybody

Don’t go chasing Internet “likes.” There will always be more cool new pairs. (Need proof? Just look at how many new makeups fill our Shoes ‘n’ Boots roundups each week).

Don’t buy shoes on sale JUST because they’re on sale

Buy them because you truly want them, because they fulfill a legitimate need (or at least a reasonable desire), and because you can afford them.

Seek footwear with versatility when it makes sense

If you’re looking to cut back on buying new pairs, but are still allowing yourself the occasional purchase, consider a shoe that will fill more than one niche. For example, if you need something that’s going to fit in well in an office job environment but won’t look out of place while you’re out on the town for the evening, a really handsome plain toe blucher will kill two birds with one stone.

Spruce up your current rotation with a resole or rebuild

This allows you to not only freshen up your collection, it also often requires less money than buying a whole new pair of shoes. Plus, it helps keep the shoe repair industry going—a very noble cause, in our opinion. Leather soles not cutting it for you? Send your shoes to a cobbler for something with more tread. Your old faithful pair of boots a little too beat up to keep going? Some makers—many of the PNW brands, for example—will rebuild your boots to a like-new condition.

Know your shoe size

If you find that one of the reasons you’re constantly buying new pairs of shoes is because you feel they don’t quite fit right, you owe it to yourself to confirm your Brannock size to make sure you’re only buying what will fit. (The Stitchdown Premium Discord has a whole channel designated for sizing questions.)

Enjoy the pairs you already own!!

This one’s last because it’s one of the most important. Gather up all your shoes and boots and take a good long look at them. Chances are, they each have their own unique set of characteristics (styles and patterns, wear and tear, etc.), and memories that you associate with them. Acknowledge and cherish that! Then get out there and make some more memories!

Hopefully you find this guide to be helpful. Nerding out on shoes and boots is an imminently enjoyable hobby—trust us, we know. However, it is paramount to make sure you’re living your life in a healthy, sustainable way, and being wise with your money is a massive part of that.

Be well, and take care of those shoes.

Self Edge Shop in NYC— The Flat Head Engineer Boots