My Old, Worn-Out Shoes and Buying Meaningfully

In 2010, I moved into a friend’s townhome close to downtown Salt Lake City. My work was a little over a mile away, but instead of hopping in my car each morning I threw on a good pair of casual shoes and started walking.

I walked to and from my job in the same shoes for about 5 years. EVERY. SINGLE. WORKDAY. As best as I can estimate, I walked around 2,880 miles in that one pair of shoes.

When it came time to part from them, I’ll admit it was a little bitter-sweet, and I briefly considered a bronzing ritual. Despite the holes on the bottoms, the completely flattened insole, and the shoes’ sun-bleached fronts, I felt a strong attachment. Those shoes had become a part of me!

Lest you should think I’m about to go on one of my “everybody needs a budget” tyrades, I’m not using this illustration to discuss how far a dollar can go (though it’s tempting to use this as an example).

I’m bringing up my old shoes because in our financial lives and life in general, our most meaningful investments are over long periods of time.

If you created a list of the most meaningful purchases you’ve made--the ones you look back on with nostalgia and a true fondness--I would wager that most of them are investments that have lasted years.

Your occasional meal at McDonald’s or your weekly Starbucks won’t make the list, neither will the car you leased for a little while and then traded in for another. An amazing vacation that you still flip through old pictures of, a road bike you used to dream about in your sleep and finally purchased, or the home you bought after scrimping and saving. These purchases go beyond the “expense” category and become “investments.” 

On My List


  • Weekly Whopper meal at Burger King (don’t judge me!)
  • My television
  • A trendy piece of clothing I bought 4 years ago which--after quickly losing its style--is now in a thrift store somewhere
  • Most of my electronic devices

For many families, the longest financial investment you can make is toward retirement. With most Americans saving for 30 to 40 years toward another 30 years of comfortable living, I can’t think of a purchase packed with more potential meaning, experiences, and worth.

The next time you do some online shopping, buy the latest version of your favorite mobile device, or think about pitching in an extra $200 to your Roth IRA, consider how your purchases can truly be investments, and thus, how long you’re investing for. You’ll see what a great experience it can actually be to buy meaningfully, even if it’s *just* in a pair of good walking shoes.