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If The Shoe Fits!

24 Jul

Who hasn’t considered getting their kid, niece or nephew a pair of Nike booties? I mean come on, who can resist a baby sporting some Air Jordans? Even the initial shock of the $44 price tag is often no match for the numbing effects of baby toxins that typically take over our sense of reason as newbies. But hear me now, be careful not to let them get too comfortable with a brand name. It’ll cost you dearly in 8-10 years if you’re not careful.

Case in point. With school fast approaching I took the three rug rats out for shoe shopping. As a household that continues to adjust to a single income, like most homes we’re obviously on a budget. So I put a spending limit of $15 – $20 each on a new pair of sneakers and even then I thought I was being generous. I wasn’t completely oblivious to the cost of shoes these days, but decided to establish a goal and stick to it and see how the kids would do.

My biggest concern was with our oldest who had grown accustomed to wearing brand name shoes. She had recently begun wearing Toms and Nikes and the influence of her school chums was also beginning to kick in. I had some hope as I’d noticed her gravitating to the budget friendly aisles of JC Penny and Sears in recent months. But as suspected, her expectation was that she would walk away with a new pair of what she referred to as “good” shoes. Much to her dismay she soon discovered this was going to be more of a hurdle than she may have anticipated.

Our adventure began at Academy Sports where I’ve routinely found a great range of choices and price points on just about anything I was shopping for. And sure enough, along with the higher end shoes they had available, there were a few pair under twenty bucks. My middle child, who has learned the art of the bargain bin from her mother, found a pair she LOVED. Price: $14.99. One down. Meanwhile, the other two, who I’ll admit tend to take after me when it comes to this sort of thing, kept gravitating toward the $30-$60 sections. After a couple of unsuccessful negotiations I determined it was time to check out and go to plan “B.”

When we walked into Shoe Carnival I was honestly surprised to find that the vast majority of their kid sneakers were $45-$55 a pair with some reaching close to $70.00. I mean really? For something they’ll maybe wear for six months? Wasn’t happening. Offers were made to “pay half,” and “never ask for another thing for a year,” but despite the whining, complaining and eventual hateful, anger phase we headed for the door.

Then, just as we were preparing to leave, my middle child (who if you’ll recall found a pair at plan “A”) shouts, “Hey dad I found these shoes that fit perfectly and they’re only ten dollars!!” DONE! I said. “NO FAIR,” exclaimed my youngest. “She’s got two pair and we don’t have ANY!!!” We then discovered they were an additional 50% off bringing their total to $5.45 with tax, prompting me to point out that she had found TWO pair of shoes for the budget I’d established for ONE! A revelation that left the other two steaming, and ready to put “goody two shoes” up for adoption.

Next stop was Journeys which actually wasn’t too bad. We found a number of Vans & Converse on sale for $19.99 – $24.99, but nothing that the kids liked (shocker). There were more for $35-$45, but obviously over budget and undesired by the crew and so, we moved on.

A recent trip to J.C. Penny had garnished several shirts and shorts for a third of the norm. But there we hit another wall as the oldest continued to hold out for Nike and the cheapest pair they had was $50.00. The whining and complaining began to build in intensity as I became the parent who wasn’t willing to buy his kids “quality” shoes. But I would not bow to these valiant attempts to manipulate my good senses. This inner strength was being reenforced by my middle child, who continued to find bargain upon bargain at every location which only infuriated the others all the more. And so we continued to plan “E.”

We next stopped at Target. As if on cue, my middle child once again found several prizes. “3.99 DAD! Can you believe it?!” There were additional Keds styled shoes for under $14.00, but they had no “SWOOSH” and therefore were unacceptable to “some.”

It was at this point that my youngest apparently got the message. Recognizing that his basket was annoyingly empty he found a pair of sneakers for $19.99. Upper range of our budget, but within it none the less. At first I thought he may have been picking something just to get something. But his enthusiastic “I FOUND SOME!!!” demonstrated a genuine excitement at his discovery. Two down!

And there, surrounded by a darkened, shadowed aura, stood the oldest. Alone and holding out for her Nike standard. DAADDDDD!!! It’s not FAIR!!! A quick discussion about the dangers of paying for a name went in one ear and out the other. She was respectfully determined which I actually admired. Seeing I was holding firm, she asked if we go to the Nike outlet “just to see.” Concerned that we would encounter the same issue of finding something on sale, but still for $29.99, I reluctantly agreed with the understanding that our budget was still $15 – $20.

Now, I have to admit. If I was loaded with cash, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t splurge and get my kids whatever they wanted. It’s easy to preach when you have no choice. And the reality is, as anyone who has gone through a divorce knows, unless you’re ex is a pro basketball player paying you 20K a month in child support, the first couple of years are tough, especially when everything is “times 3.” Little did we know, we were ALL about to I learn that working within a tighter budget isn’t necessarily equivalent to sacrificing on any level.

We walked into the Nike outlet and started looking around and as expected, even the sale items for kids were upward of $35-$45. There were some that were in the $30 range and even a few around $25, but nothing she liked. That’s when I heard my oldest daughter scream, “DAADDD!!!” I turned around and there they were, the least expensive pair of shoes in the entire warehouse. My stubborn, bullheaded, beautiful, determined daughter had found the ONLY pair of shoes in the store for under $15.00. A beautiful white pair of women’s running shoes on clearance for $14.97.

She grabbed what she thought were the smallest pair, a size 5 but even they were too big. And then, with a heavenly glow shining from behind them, hidden at the top of the shelves I noticed a 3 1/2. She tried them on and announced, “They’re just a tad big dad, but I LOVE them!” I was floored, elated, amazed and a little dizzy. The other two were equally shocked and quickly began rummaging for their own treasures. “SEEEEEEEE I TOLD you!” she said to me grinning from ear to ear with pride.” And so she did. 3 Down!

It was at that moment that I decided to put my money where my mouth is. As an avid runner I’d grown accustomed to paying upward of $100 for a good pair of running shoes. But if I was going to ask my kids to budget, it only seemed fair that I join in. I’d needed a new pair for some time, so it seemed like a good opportunity to display some solidarity. And so the four of us began foraging through the various racks when low and behold, one of the kids found a great pair for under $30.00. “They’re not within the budget” I said. “DAD, come on, they’re awesome and their grown up size.” Four down!

And so dads (and moms), there’s hope. It may mean searching, and hunting and ok, maybe carrying an unhappy kid out of a store or two but you CAN find bargains and it can actually be fun. Throw in lunch at the food court (which cost more than the shoes) and you have an amazing day with the family along with some valuable lessons on the side, not to mention a cool new pair of shoes.

As we got in the car, all were beaming and bragging about how we walked away with five pair of shoes for under $80.00. And best of all, no one appeared to feel like they’d gotten cheated. No one suggested that they’d compromised. “I LOVE my new shoes,” “These are the coolest!” “I’m going to set a trend!” echoed from the back seat. Even I, the 26.2 mile snob, have to admit that $30 pair is probably one of the most comfortable pair of running shoes I’ve ever owned. Oh, and did I mention; they have a “swoosh?”

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