Breaking The Compact Left and Right

by Katy on September 25, 2009 · 40 comments

keen_shoesIt’s no secret that I am a dyed in the wool member of the Compact, (Buy nothing new.) I never shop recreationally in shops like Target, Nordstrom and Ikea; and the local Goodwill thrift shops fill my needs.

Well, most of the time.

As a nurse and a woman hurling headlong into my forties, I am a fan of the comfortable shoe. Not the Velcro-closure ones advertised in back of the coupon circulars, but high end brands like Dansko, Keen and Clarks. Add to that my gargantuan size ten feet and finding used shoes that look brand new, (my criteria) is a difficult task.

I like to go for long walks and not having a good pair of walking shoes was getting in the way of my exercise routine. (If you can even call it that.) So I broke down and drove the ol’ Subaru to Nordstrom Rack to just buy some shoes.

The hordes of shoppers intent on finding designer bargains was a bit of a culture shock after two-and-a-half years of steering clear of any store with the name Nord or Strom in the title. But I put on my blinders and headed over to the women’s shoe section and elbowed my way to the the shelves of size-ten shoes. Okay . . . where are all the nice comfortable yet stylish shoes like at the regular Nordstroms? These shelves were thick with Carrie Bradshaw wannabe hooker heels.

Umm . . . that’s not really my style.

I looked again just to be sure I hadn’t missed anything and sure enough, there was not one regular pair of shoes to be found.

Had I made the decision to break the Compact and then driven all this way for nothing?

At this point I started to eye the men’s section, which was gloriously free of strappy high heels. What the heck, what do I have to lose?

I quickly find a pair of men’s Keens that are remarkably similar to the women’s styles that many Portland women wear with pride. I walk these comfort-mobiles around the store asking of complete strangers:

“Do these look like men’s shoes to you?”

The consensus was that they do not shout  out “cross dresser,”  (although people may have been telling me what I wanted to hear in order to shoo away the crazy lady) and I bring my purchase up to the register.

$49.99 later and they’re all mine, all mine. And because it’s the Nordstrom Rack, there’s no packaging, which is some consolation for breaking the compact.

And yes, I did find a bright shiny penny on the floor. Cause that’s how Coin-Girl rolls.

If you followed the Compact, what would your exceptions be? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

P.S. I also bought a set of clear glass Pyrex leftover containers with snap-on lids a few weeks back. I am moving away from storing food in plastic and the big-picture here outweighed my desire to avoid buying new. Plus, Pyrex is made in the U.S. by union workers and in packaged solely in cardboard which is 100% recyclable. Can’t get much better than that!

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Mandy - Birmingham, AL September 26, 2009 at 5:39 am

LOL @ “That’s how Coin Girl rolls!” Pun intended, Katy?

I too picked up two pennies the other day outside my apartment complex. I almost left them there. I have always left pennies on the ground in the hopes that a child picks it up with enthusiasm. But there aren’t many kids in my apartment complex, so I took it upon myself to get enthusiastic about it.


Loretta September 26, 2009 at 5:54 am

Love Keens! I’m lucky enough to have a Keens factory outlet close by in Melb, Australia, and am resisting the temptation to visit.

I’m not officially doing the Compact, but going back through my credit card statements for the past 4 months has shown me that I’ve only bought books (for my children and myself), a wool wrap (for me), 2 long-sleeved rashies for the children (necessary, as 2nd hand ones are all worn through and no protection against our harsh sun), a bike for my daughter’s birthday, one Lego set (birthday present), some quilting material and a dress pattern, new. Everything else has been from the op shop. Thanks for being such an inspiration!


Jinger September 26, 2009 at 6:17 am

I rarely buy anything more than food and basic household supplies, but, like you, I sometimes find that a much needed, long lasting clothing item is better purchased new. And, also, like you, I am intending to but those Pyrex containers when I find a few dollars to spare.


Bellen September 26, 2009 at 6:44 am

I think your exceptions are OK. Shoes are tough – your larger size, my size 5 W are hard to find used.

Pyrex storage containers – for the reasons given – I also think are OK.

Being reasonable in your purchases overall is what it’s all about – don’t beat yourself up over it.


Lisa September 26, 2009 at 8:54 am

High quality walking shoes bought new are a must for me too. I’m legally blind so walking is the rule rather than the exception for me! Though not a compact member, I am a big fan of the “R’s”. I garden, sew, crochet, build,etc…mostly with scavenged materials. Switching from storing in plastic, I’ve found that regular glass jars work well. They take up less space in the fridge or the freezer. Plus after removing the lid, items can be thawed in the microwave safely. Wide mouthed jars are preferable, but any will do…even ones that originally contained other store bought items.


Wendy September 26, 2009 at 9:44 am

I also work on my feet all day (I’m a pet sitter) and no longer can wear the ‘cheapie’ shoes without my feet/legs being in agony. I’ve been on a quest for MONTHS trying to find a pair that are comfortable and have good support. I’ve literally tried on hundreds and hundreds of pairs of shoes. I finally found a pair of Ariats that fit the bill. Yes, they were pricey. Yes, I felt bad for buying something new but my rationale is my feet support me (literally) and I HAVE to wear good shoes. The chances of finding them in Goodwill are slim to none. So, shoes (and undergarments) are about the only thing I’m willing to ‘splurge’ on at this point in life and buy new.


Angela September 26, 2009 at 10:18 am

I’m on the Compact and after only a few months I had put walking shoes and athletic shoes on my “exceptions” list. Your feet are too important to mess with!

Before I joined the Compact, I found a few pairs of excellent shoes at Nordstrom rack at a great price.

I’ve also been thinking about buying some Pyrex because we’re making and eating so many more leftovers and the plastic is old and may not be good for us. Where did you buy the Pyrex? Have you ever found it used?


LisaPie September 26, 2009 at 10:19 am

I have feet that are hard to fit in most brands of shoes. Actually, my foot is almost exactly the shape of the inside of a Birkenstock. Kind of duck-footed shall we say? So, if and when I *ever* find a shoe that fits, is cute and is available in more than one color I buy them. Sometimes that is once in 3 years and sometimes it is twice in one year, you just never know. So shoes are something that are always on my “Okay to break the compact” list.

A few months ago I was at my Goodwill store and found 2 of the cute vintage pressed glass rectangular storage containers that have the glass lids. 99¢ each!! So I snagged both of them.

Consider yourself in good company, compact-bending wise. 🙂


Elizabeth B September 26, 2009 at 11:37 am

I have exactly the opposite of LisaPie’s problem: my feet are narrow, and most stores don’t even carry narrow shoes any more. In fact, my feet are so very narrow that some shoes labeled “narrow” are too wide. I’ve had the amazing luck to find two pairs of dress shoes at secondhand stores in the last few years, but for the most part, I buy new. And I’m a night school teacher, so I’m on my feet for hours a day, plus I have back problems. Love SAS liek whoa.

Clothes, OTOH, I gleefully buy at the Goodwill. 😀


Carla September 26, 2009 at 12:44 pm

If I ever can find a pair of comfortable shoes, well, I don’t claim to not look at the price but they are so rare in my experience that I really need to snap them up.

Fridge storage: consider ordinary, cheap, readily available canning jars. The lids are not plastic, they take on no strange odors and they provide vertical storage on your shelves. Hard to beat in my opinion. Nearly every single thing I need to store can go into one, even oddball items like half an onion or something.


Carla September 26, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Ooops, I see that Lisa already beat me to the canning jar idea. Really, this one is a winner!


Cheryl September 26, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Hi…That is funny because I broke down and bought the same set of pyrex storage containers…Love them! So much more room in the fridge since they stack so nicely…


Louise September 26, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Now that you have found a style of shoe that works, try watching eBay and Craigslist for used versions of it.

The perfect shoe for me is the Merrell jungle moc, size 38. I search for them all the time and when I find gently used ones in a decent color, I buy it whether my current pair is worn out or not. Then I donate or toss my rattiest old pair. (I have 3 pairs in rotation at once.)

The local thrift stores just have too limited a selection, whereas eBay is almost infinite!

Other than buying a red pair which I tired of very quickly, I’ve never had a bad experience this way. The red ones are my “wear in the mucky weather” ones now. As a general rule, don’t buy anything without good, clear photos…


Maniacal Mommy September 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Shoes are tricky. Despite frequent checks at the thrift store, I finally had to purchase brand new loafers, though on sale. Since I tend to wear the shoes for at least six or seven years, I am paying less than a dollar a month to wear the shoes. I am ok with that.


Linda Pearl September 26, 2009 at 4:36 pm

I wear anything from 8.5 to 10, but my feet are narrow enough that I could never wear a man’s shoe. However, I think most sneakers/tennis shoes look like guy shoes unless there is pink on them. My favorite pair of shoes for all occassions was discontinued. A year later, a small, local shoe store dug out several pair in my size and had them on display. Faced with the prospect of having to continue searching for shoes in a few months or a year, I bought all four pair, setting me back over $200. I have two pair in rotation with a pair of a different style for slogging in the wet yard. My dress flats I bought seven years ago are worn seldom and will last, but I can see how I might need to start looking for another pair of those. The Enzo that I like was discontinued. I consider $60 a good price for a shoe that does not hurt my feet since I don’t wear shoes out or shop for sport and cute rather for just decent looks, leather, buckle rather than a lace, and comfort. Ugh, no velcro for me.

I love the glass pyrex but have never found it in a thrift store for much less that new price. Glass canning jars or glass mayonaisse jars have been my choice for storage for over 30 years. Then, mayo and pb started being sold in plastic. Sadly, I still use Tupperware but have bought nothing new in about 12 years. Well, bought the divided plate with removable cold dish.

Clarks, Easy Spirit APT (Mary Jane and discontinued), and Enzo are the only shoes that don’t hurt.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl September 26, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Angela, I found 4 pyrex storage containers (my favorite size too!) at my Goodwill recently. It was the first I’d seen them in about a year of shopping there, though.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl September 26, 2009 at 5:00 pm

I forgot to add that I think Pyrex leftover containers are a fabulous investment, especially if they help to prevent food waste.

I use canning jars sometimes, but they are not nearly as helpful for packing lunch items as Pyrex.


Magdalena September 26, 2009 at 6:01 pm

I often find the shoes (ankle boots, really) that I wear at thrift stores, barely worn. I surmise that women buy them and then feel like Granny Clampett, leaving the US size 7-8 goodies for me!

I got rid of my Pyrex storage dishes when moving three years ago and still dream about them. I was so stupid! But some of the small discount stores here sometimes have them on special. I usually use canning jars. If you use regular jars, make sure that you have removed the cardboard liner some of the lids have.


Diana September 27, 2009 at 1:31 am

Comfortable shoes are one of the most important things you can ever have, especially if you are on your feet much.

I pretty much took shoes for granted until I had some arch trouble a few years ago and quickly learned that if your feet are unhappy, your whole body will be unhappy. There are a whole list of ailments that can go along with unhappy feet such as hip and lower back pain; as well as longer lasting effect to your feet and the rest of your body.

I spend quite a bit of time shopping for just the right shoes at the right price. I do buy shoes used but it’s important that they be very close to new. Wearing someone else’s broke in shoes will bring on all the above symtoms. I also consider how often I will wear that particular shoe. Dress shoes have different criteria than work, walking, or hiking shoes.

There are some things it is best to buy new and some that it is appropriate to spend what you can afford. Shoes are one of them.

As for buying men’s shoes? I’ve done it when I can find my size.. I find I can get a better shoe for the price sometimes.


gerard September 27, 2009 at 4:17 am

I wear a size 15 shoe. I walk to work. I view shoes like auto tires. I don’t buy cheap used tires . When I find a good shoe, I buy it, BUT, I make use of the shoe repair man, who is able to make a quality shoe last forever. The same pair of custom made hiking boots has lasted 25 years. The key is that they are repairable and not constructed with welding or glue, but stitched old-school.


Laura Girsky September 27, 2009 at 4:42 am

I’m a size 11 wide and the shoes have to fit orthotics! I buy Clarks and Born shoes from DSW, but I only need maybe 1 new pair a year. I buy all my sneaks from Joe’s New Balance outlet online. My 3 boys also wear extra wide with orthotics (no arches in our gene pool!) and all their shoes come from Joe’s NB too. I have though bought them “dress” shoes off ebay to wear to synagogue. Shoes are def too important to mess around with. I’m trying to avoid foot surgery as long as I can.


terilyn September 27, 2009 at 6:48 am

I have flippers for feet….. or at least is seems that way. They are a regular length, but wide as wide can be because my ankles and feet swell due to my heart. Even Wide widths in woman’s shoes don’t fit right unless I buy them so long (size 10-12) that they are wide enough. Then I trip over the toes because they are too long. So I buy men’s shoes too. I love the simple Thom McAn Boat Shoes in a size 6mens. They are wide enough to fit my flippers and swollen ankles, yet comfortable.Ugly as dirt, but I just don’t care. Many times I have had to resort to simply wearing men’s moccasin style slippers to fit my flippers because I just can’t find a comfortable shoe. So I understand your dilemma. Comfort is everything in shoes. And comfort is even more important than the “Buy nothing new” compact.

Congratulations on finding some decent shoes. That is a feat in itself sometimes.


tammy September 27, 2009 at 7:23 am

You made a decison for your health and well being and eshewed the frugal train for just a bit.
Kudos to you Kati! Practicing frugality allows us to “treat” ourselves with things that truly matter…like your feet!


WilliamB September 27, 2009 at 8:06 am

Shoes would definitely be on my “can buy new” list. As has been mentioned, too many bad things happen when bad shoes lead to bad feet lead to bad many other body parts. Cheap shoes are (often) no bargain!


Kris-ND September 27, 2009 at 11:37 am

99.9% of the time, we don’t buy used shoes. Outside of undergarments it is one of the few areas that are just a non starter here.

My husband is on his feet all day, and he has diabetes, and feet problems are a constant issue, so we buy shoes that are comfortable for him, and he wears a mens 13, so even if we wanted to, it would be near impossible to find that size shoe in the areas we have thrift store access to.

New Balance are the shoes that he likes the most, so I wait until I find sales, and the last year has produced amazing sales. The last time I bought shoes, I got 2 pair new balance for 70.00 between a sale and a coupon I had. He goes through 4 pair of shoes a year, and both sets I got on sale, so 140.00 in a year for 4 pair of New Balance works for me.


nancy from mass September 28, 2009 at 7:11 am

Due to some foot issues, I can only wear really good (but really expensive) shoes. Born, Clarks, Merrill, etc. 2 years ago I bought a pair of Born clogs from for $20. yes, $20. They are the most comfortable pair of shoes and I wear them quite often. I truly believe that buying good quality shoes that will last and that are good for your feet is worth breaking the compact!


Chicky Mama September 28, 2009 at 9:27 am

I’m a Joe’s New Balance girl as well! I have size 10.5 WW boats, so there is no walking into the Goodwill and finding shoes on the shelf that will fit and fit my needs. Shoes are definitely on my okay list!


Jean September 28, 2009 at 11:30 am

Obviously all of us with “odd” (not 8M) feet agree totally with you, Katy! I would jump at the chance to buy shoes at my local thrift stores, and do look, but have never seen my size there. I was also overjoyed to hear how many people are using canning jars instead of plastic for food storage–I love them, you can store dry foods in the pantry, refrigerated foods, and even freeze in them! And until recently when everyone else got frugal, I could often find them in the thrift stores for 25 cents or less–now they’re at least 50 cents at Goodwill and don’t stay on the shelves for long. I also can, and actually had to buy some new jars this year for the first time in decades! However, I keep hoping that a lot of folks who had never canned before will decide it’s too much work and there will be a huge crop of canning jars donated next year!


Diane September 29, 2009 at 8:31 am

I think I saw a discount coupon in the current Costco circular for a set of Pyrex storage dishes with plastic lids. Struggling with whether I “need” them or not, I hid the circular. I’m sure you can find the details online.


liza October 2, 2009 at 2:50 pm

i have a hard time resisting Smartwool clothing and sox. especially since we have hard winters and wool is one of the few things that makes it bearable. also makes me want to go outside and play. last week i bought two new pairs of wool socks. i resisted a wool underlayer though.


Jennifer October 14, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I purchased these same shoes at an REI used gear sale. Have you been? REI sells items that customers have returned for whatever reason. Shoes are often a very good deal since REI only sells higher end brands like Keen & others. And they really can’t put shoes back on the shelf after they’ve left the store. Mine didn’t look like they’d ever been worn they were just missing in the insoles, which I stole from another pair of my shoes. I can’t remember how much I paid, but I know I’ve never spent more than $20 on shoes there, probably under $10. Try it out.


Katie April 20, 2012 at 7:31 am

Just last night I bought a pair of adorable black Keens at my Value Village. They were just what I have been keeping my eyes peeled for and just my size! They were also just $6.99!!! Happy happy!


Katy April 20, 2012 at 8:33 am

Yay, I love Keens! They’re based out Portland and do a lot for the local community here.

I’m wearing a pair right now! (From a consignment store.)



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