This column introduces a new series in Contrarian Saver: unexpected bargains. Each column will focus on an item or expense that seems incredibly wasteful, indulgent, or unnecessary, but upon closer examination turns out to be quite the bargain. This may be due to quality, longevity, long term relevance or any number of other reasons.
Conversely, I will also write about money burns: items or expenses that are the equivalent of physically burning your money.
The inaugural Unexpected Bargain column focuses on a longtime favorite of mine: Prada Shoes.
Have you even been to a Prada store? They have a lovely one here in LA, conveniently located on Rodeo. For those not living Prada adjacent, you might want to check out their website. The have nice shoes there. In many styles, from casual to formal business. They are made in Italy, with the finest of materials. They also range in price from about $570 – $1000+.
So why, might you ask, would a saver, even a contrarian one, spend nearly four figures for a pair of shoes – when a fashion forward slip-on could be procured at H & M for as little as $30?
I introduce two exhibits to illustrate the answer:
One is a casual sneaker/Saturday night out pair that cost me $400 back in 1999, about $600 in today’s dollars.
The other is a pair of loafers that set me back about $500 in 2005, during a trip to Rome (I took advantage of the duty free status and exchange rate) – also about $600 today.
I just retired the 1999 model and still trounce around in that 2005 loafer. And they still both look great. If you look at the “cost of ownership”, it plays out as follows:
Casual sneaker: $30/year
Loafer: Approx. $40 year (and I’m still wearing it)
I would argue that an H & M shoe, though ostensibly a “bargain”, is actually the more expensive choice. Most of their office-appropriate shoes run $60-$80, and I would venture that they need to be replaced more than annually – hence a cost of ownership nearly double that of my Italian Stallions.
And, if you’re not the type to wear out a shoe for 15-20 years, you can still own Prada at a reasonable cost of ownership. The consignment market for designer footware is red hot these days. You can always sell your used Pradas after a few years to a Real Real type retailer, or even buy a gently used pair for less than half the price (kind of like buying a certified pre-owned Mercedes at 30-50% off the price of a new one)
So the next time you see me sauntering down Rodeo, fresh from the Prada store with an $800 pair of loafers in my hand, I expect a comment like “wow. Is money that tight these days?”. I will then look down at your super indulgent H & M $60 track shoes and comment impressively, “man, you must be rolling in it”!
By the way, I am not paid by or compensated by Prada in any way, shape or form (although, if you’re listening Prada, I would gladly prostitute myself for a pair of those brushed leather derby shoes).
Have you found an “unexpected bargain” you’d like to recommend? Tell me about it below!