I Hate Buying Stuff

I recently bought myself a new pair of winter boots.

That in itself is not blogworthy. I agree. Booorrriiinnngggg.

It has taken me 2 years to purchase these boots and frankly, it depressed me.

I bought my last pair 18 to 20 years ago before we moved here. They were a fairly good hiking boot. I wore them when I went to town so they didn’t get used all that often.

About 5 years ago they started showing signs of wear. At one point the rubber heel part of the sole came unglued on a boot. I got out the epoxy and really put the glue to it, which bought me another season. Then the other one went, and so more epoxy.

Finally last year, well into the winter of 2013/14 I decided I needed a new pair. There’s only so much epoxy can do. So I had my strategy. I decided to wait until the Boxing Day sales. Unlike the U.S. where retailers go crazy before Christmas … at a time where everyone HAS to buy stuff, Canadian retailers used to wait until the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, to have their big sales … when people don’t WANT to buy stuff. It just makes way more sense.

Last winter we had that polar vortex that brought day after day of cold and snow and so Michelle and I weren’t able to get to the city for the sales and when I finally got to the shops I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. $100 for new boots. Yuck. That sounds better than $169.95 without the sale, but it still seemed like a lot of money for a bunch of oil products formed into things you wear on your feet. So one thing lead to another and the new boots never got bought … and out came the epoxy again.

This winter the epoxy strategy was no longer working. The boots were springing holes where no epoxy could reach, and I’ve tried sewing up the leather on these things, but without an industrial sewing machine, I just ended up jabbing needles very deep into my hands. The leather was separating from the rubber so there wasn’t much support. Having my socks get soaked every time I went out in snow just wasn’t much fun. All of my big winter work boots have holes, but I put plastic bags over the liners which at least buys me a few dry days, especially if it’s cold because the snow doesn’t leak in that fast.

And so recently I found myself at Mark’s Work Warehouse. There were sales. My first choice was a pair of $90 boots on sale for $60. They had kind of a ‘camouflage’ thing happening which wasn’t too bad, but I figured that since I use these as my “going to the city boots” the camouflage was a bit weird. Plus they didn’t seem that well made.

The pair I bought was $90, er … $89.99 (because when I see $89.99 I don’t just round up?) They were regularly priced at $120, sorry, $119.99. They seem well made. They are brown and non-descript. They are fairly high so will provide some ankle support, important for old people like me. Heck, this may be the last pair of hiking/winter boots I ever have to buy.

new boots

As a bonus since Canadian Tire owns Mark’s Work Warehouse and I used my Canadian Tire credit card, the cashier said I’m going to get points! Yee ha, further rewarded for my consumption! The cashier couldn’t actually show me these points on my receipt; she said they’d show up on my statement. Michelle said she doesn’t remember them ever showing up on a statement. I’ll just hope they magically appear cause that’s why I buy stuff, to get points.

Yet somehow I’m left feeling empty about the whole buying new stuff experience. I used to find it joyful. Then I just tolerated it. Now I hate it. How long before this thing I’ve bought ends up in a landfill? What was it made of? What did the factory smell like where it was made? Would I work in a factory that smelled like that?

My boots were made in Cambodia. I don’t know much about Cambodia. I believe they were secretly bombed during the Vietnam War, but I’m not sure why. I believe the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot killed more than a million of its citizens. The humanity.

But now they make winter boots for Canadians. How much of the $90 that I paid for these boots went to the people who made them? I’m sure they probably prefer working in a boot factory to trying to avoid being targeted by their government, but frankly I’m skeptical about it.

So many questions. So many ethical dilemmas.

I’ve been saving my old tires when I get new ones on the car. And I have some bike inner tubes that are fairly flexible. And I’ve got some hunks of leather I salvaged from somewhere. If I cut the sole out of a car tire, then wired the leather and bike inner tube rubber on to the outside, then drilled holes for the laces … I could do this. Sure they’d be ugly. Sure they’d leak. Sure they’d look like something from a Hollywood wardrobe department for a post-apocalyptic movie, but that would be cool. But if it meant I never had to go into a retail store and spend $100 I don’t want to spend I’m thinking it might be worth it.

Note to self: Search You Tube for videos for how to make boots out of scrap materials.

Second note to self: Come up with catchy post-apocalyptic name for these boots made from scrap, “Mad Max Mudboots!” Get them into the hands of some trendy kids, start a buzz on social media about how cool they are … hashtag#bootssocoolyouwanttoeatsoylentgreen … build a huge factory mass producing them, retire rich.

Third note to self: Just go and cut some firewood and shut your darn brain off for an hour.

12 Responses to “I Hate Buying Stuff”

  • Shelley:

    I’m still wearing a pair of rubber boots (the original kind-black with orange) I purchased in 1980. They are not so waterproof any more but work fine to tend the chickens and other chores. Besides they look cool with the tops rolled down. I’ve tried shopping for a new pair but can’t seem to bring myself to spending the money.

  • Cam,

    90$ is a good price. Think about it. How many hours would it take to hand make a pair of boots. 8 14? Even at a low shop rate of $40/hr your looking at 300 – 400 for a pair of boots.
    40 per hour is not that much but may be doable. Remember the shoe maker needs to pay out for equipment costs, rent / mortgage , Taxes , WSIB (if he employees anybody, professional fees such as accounting, utilities).

    I know you were able to get a couple of extra years out of your boots with the epoxy repairs but how long did they really hold up and how may times did you need to get your feet wet. Was it worth it?

    I just went through the same thing. Had my pair of steel toes shoes that I wear every day , just got them to smell the way I like and the sole is worn out. 6 months of wet feet and finally I get a new pair. It was really nice not getting wet feet the first time I walked in a puddle. I had to spend the money anyway and I was more comfortable. Dumb of me to wait for so long.

  • Melanie Ann MacKenzie:

    I would really like to know where these Army/Navy surplus stores are. Are there any near Ottawa?

  • I think it’s awesome that you made a pair of boots last that long! (Also loved Ben Hewitt’s book)

  • Gerrit:

    Great questions Cam. As a veteran with lots of boot experience, I suggest you try the Army/Navy surplus stores for boots and all sorts of other handy things. A good site for finding DIY tricks is Instructables. For a $25 annual fee, I download all sorts of clever ideas with great photo and video instructions. David pointed out Ben’s blog and I also recommend him to everyone. Very sensible fellow.

    BTW, you and Michelle could also pose questions to your readership about stuff you’re wondering about. Lots of collected experience here. Next time you’re wondering about boots or whatnot, post the question 🙂

  • Hi Susan! As you probably know from reading this blog, Cam and I are big thriftstore shoppers. We’ve been looking for boots for Cam for many years now and have never found a good pair. It would always be our first choice to purchase secondhand!

  • Susanne:

    Well I think you guys are all going backwards!!! The second hand store always has boots of some sort or another. If you want ugly they got it! tennis shoes looking they got it! So really $100? One could buy a pair for every year at that rate!

  • Robin Bailey:

    Cam, I fully understand your hatred about buying things. I bought a new pair of winter boots this year too. (The exact same ones you bought!) My last pair I bought in 2000 and paid $20.00 for. Who knows if I will get 15 years out of these new ones!

  • Donna Coleman:

    Neighbourhood Sharing had them for $1.50 last week!

  • David Hribar:

    I just finished reading, “Saved – How I Quit Worrying About Money and Became the Richest Guy in the World”, by Ben Hewitt, where he talks about the, “Conscious Economy”. Your writting brought forth the same arguements with regards to consumption and the true cost to the enviornment and people that the price for the goods frequently does not get reflected. Your spot on and thanks!

  • Norma:

    Here’s some info on Cambodia Sweatshops -‘Sweatshop Deadly Fashion’ Sees Young Bloggers Travel To Cambodia To Experience Clothes Factories First Hand
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/01/26/sweatshop-deadly-fashion_n_6545674.html

  • If they last 9 years that’s $10 a year. Less if they last longer then you can make a planter out of them. LOL!

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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