The water shoes dilemma: frugality, practicality and the unforeseen.

This is the story of how the unforeseen led to a collision between my practicality and my frugality.

And the need to rebalance those two principles.

Last weekend I drove down to beautiful Virginia for a kayaking day trip with my family. I brought some beat up leather flip-flops thinking I wouldn’t care if they were lost to the river gods. I pictured kicking them off in the boat and dangling my bare feet in the water.

Seriously, what girl didn’t spend 1995 dreaming of being Pocahontas?

Our trip was actually much closer to an “adventure” than I had imagined.

Before setting out they gave us a map and outlined how to navigate the different rapids on the trip. Rapids? What the hell happened to my lazy river day? The tour guides had a wall of water shoes for sale. Between that and the map, I started second guessing myself. Would I be more comfortable in practical shoes? More safe? What if I sliced my feet open on these rocks? I’m standing all day in my new job– I can’t be the ass hole that ends up on FMLA because I wouldn’t cough up $25 for a pair of water shoes.

Needless to say, I spiraled a little bit.

I hate making impulse buys, especially out of fear. I didn’t even like the shoes! I had been considering getting a pair of Teva’s or Chaco’s for exactly this purpose, but I’d been delaying the purchase

I should say, I realize having a whole moment over a $25 pair of shoes is just a smidgen crazy, but it’s the principle of the thing. I can more easily spend $1,000 on something I really love than $10 on something I don’t actually want.

Well, I took a deep breath and decided I’d rather save my money for the shoes I actually want and take my chances with the river. Frugality had won, or maybe stubbornness if we’re being honest. 

Well, the water was high, the rapids were rapid-y, and the riverbed was lined with miserably sharp little rocks. Have you walked on bed of legos lately? Several flipped kayaks, a lost fishing pole, and a lightening storm later– all was reasonably well. I had a good trip, but I would have been much more relaxed had my feet been protected.

I’m sharing this because no system is perfect.

For the most part, I’ve found enormous value in enforcing some delayed gratification in my life. I still use my purchase list regularly. Generally, I don’t mind waiting to buy something. I’m more grateful when I’ve thought long and hard on whether or not I need something. I have less guilt over purchases that have stood up to the 72 hour rule.

Air Vent Cell Phone Mount

That said, having effective gear for any particular activity is a must. It doesn’t have to be new or fancy or expensive, just effective. I’ve learned this lesson more than once: For years I resisted buying a cell phone holder for my car, it seemed like a frivolous expense. Damn if this little $8 air vent cell phone mount hasn’t changed my road-tripping life.

In the same spirit, I’ve now purchased my new-to-me, gently-loved pair of Chaco’s sandals. I paid $62 including shipping for sandals that would have cost $105 new. I know I could have bought a cheaper brand, but I’d heard such good things about Chaco’s for years, I really wanted to try them out. Thank you Poshmark.

New-to-me Chaco Sandals!

Here’s the thing: If I had realized what I was getting into, I would have planned differently. I could have avoided the whole conundrum. But the unforeseen happens all the time.

Lessons learned?

In the end, it was a a relief to know that while I didn’t WANT to spend money on shoes I didn’t like, I easily could have. My finances have long been arranged in such a way that $25 wasn’t going to break the bank. That hasn’t always been the case.

Since this trip, I’ve loosened the reigns slightly this last week and bought a number of items I’ve been wanting for a while. It’s time to tweak the balance between frugality and practicality. Hopefully I can find a good center and stay there for a while.

I’m planning to get in some good hiking on my next round of travel this fall. Want to know who’s finally going to invest in some hiking boots? This girl.

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