Saving Money with My Time Machine

I’m pumped! I just saved 70 bucks on a pair of running shoes by “settling” for a slightly older generation and an odd color combo.

I ran my first (and so far, only) marathon back in February 2011. The day before the race, I decided I needed a new pair of shoes, so I hit up the nearest RunTex, a running store that’s known for their knowledgeable staff. I used to have fairly bad knee pain due to my flat arches until I told my doctor about it several years ago, and he told me to start using a high-cushion running shoe. Ever since then, the knee pain has stayed away. I told the salesman at RunTex about my condition and he equipped me with a pair of Asics Gel Nimbus shoes. Trusting his expertise, I bought them on the spot. I can’t recall how much I paid for them, but I think it was around $130 or $140.

The next day, with only three or four training runs under my belt (but lots of cycling), I ran the marathon in 3:38.  The shoes were awesome! I didn’t experience any blistering or knee pain, and that’s held true for the past year and a half. Recently, however, it’s become clear that the my (sometimes-overly) frugal self has used the shoes well past their useful lives (well over the recommended 300-500-mile maximum), and my left knee is beginning to give me some pain as the cushioning in the shoes starts to break down, a red alert that it’s time to replace them.

Today, without really giving it a lot of thought, I drove to RunTex and told the salesman, Jonny, that I wanted to trade in my Asics for another pair of Gel Nimbus. I know that $130 is a lot for a pair of running shoes, but I’m not going to be cheap and settle for a pair of shoes that won’t support me as well as the Asics and will only lead to increased knee pain and potential long-term damage. (Remember the difference between being frugal and being cheap!) Jonny told me that he was sorry, but he didn’t have the Asics in stock and was expecting a delivery in a couple of weeks.

I was frustrated because I wouldn’t be able to run until I replaced the shoes, but on my drive home, it dawned on me that I could just buy the shoes online and they’d definitely arrive sooner than two weeks. I called Run Tex and asked for the price: $152 after tax. I hit up Google Shopping with this ceiling price in mind and searched for Asics Gel Nimbus Men’s. The search results brought up Asics Gel Nimbus 14, Asics Gel Nimbus 13, and Asics Gel Nimbus 12 and 11. I assumed the suffixes stood for shoe sizes,  but after clicking around, I realized that each suffix came in various shoe sizes. I was confused, so I decided to actually read up on the shoe and found out that the 11, 12, 13, and 14 indicated the generation of the shoe. I looked at my shoe and saw Gel Nimbus 12 embossed on the side. RunTex was selling the Gel Nimbus 14, a shoe that was two generations newer than mine and boasted better technology, according to the marketing material.

The 14 was going for $140 before tax, and the 12 and 13 were going for much less. I thought about it for a minute and decided that since the 12 had been a solid pair of shoes for a year and half, then a new 12 would be a solid pair of shoes, too, so I decided to buy the cheapest pair of Gel Nimbus that I could find, regardless of generation. After about 30 minutes of clicking around, I found a 13–only one generation older–for $80. Shipping was free and the store didn’t charge tax, so I saved $72!

They might not be as awesome as the neon green/yellow 14 that I could have bought online for $140+tax/shipping, but the black/neon green combo isn’t terrible, either.

$80 Asics Gel Nimbus 13
$152 Asics Gel Nimbus 14

Looking back, I’m thanking my lucky stars RunTex didn’t have the Gel Nimbus in stock. Today, I received yet another lesson in frugality, but thankfully, I didn’t have to learn this one the hard way. The 14 supposedly has better technology, but if the 12 kept the knee pain away for a year and a half, which is above and beyond the call of duty for any shoe, then isn’t that good enough? By “settling” for a shoe that had served me well in the past instead of getting the latest and greatest, I saved over $70.

Sometimes, or oftentimes, it doesn’t make sense to buy the latest and greatest. I need to start thinking about that concept a little more now that I have the discretionary budget to buy things beyond just the bare essentials.

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44 Comments

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44 responses to “Saving Money with My Time Machine

  1. andrea

    Hey Joe-
    I’ll one up you…I get my sneakers for free by working as a coach at my local running store. I take a group of 1/2 marathon trainees out on group runs twice a week for free shoes and other merchandise.

    I can’t believe your marathon time with only a few trainig runs. I’m so jealous. My PR is a 5:06.

  2. Ptarmigan

    Just a heads up, some of those older generations have been sitting on the shelf for quite a long time. As a result, the materials have stiffened and they may not fit as well. Especially with the big stores like Amazon, they will get a huge order and then just let them sit until they sell. I just bought 3 pairs through Amazon and while 2 of them were great, the third, which was the exact same size, model and generation, is almost too small. A friend who works in a running store explained the practice to me and suggested I actually hit up their sale shoes as they don’t keep order so many and therefore don’t keep them on the shelves as long. I think I will just go back 1 or 2 generations instead of 3-4 and pay just a little more as a compromise.

    • Awesome heads up! Makes me glad I went back only one generation. Thanks!

      • Ptarmigan

        Glad I could help.

        • Muriel

          It’s good to know that there are these deals online for such a great and inexpensive sport/hobby. I’ve bought the new and older models of my running shoes from amazon, the runner’s warehouse and ebay for half the in-store and retail price. Keep in mind that while I’ve only come across one defective pair of shoes from these sites, there usually is an online return policy. It’s worth trying a run in them on a TM and returning them if need be. Now, if only I could find some local, race entry fees for less than retail price online…

  3. Sweta

    Great job buying your running shows frugally! I know lots of people who look for shoes at Runtex and then buy online to save money. I actually like the ones you bought better. Maybe I’ll see you at TL someday wearing them.

    In other news, I capitalized on CL today and sold my old printer to some Engineering grad student at UT for $25.

  4. gabi

    If you spent $130-$140 and for the replacement, $80 would you say you would of saved $72 dollars if it had been the other way around, say if you would of bought the $80 pair first and for some reason you would of then bought the replacement for $130-$140? Overall you spent between $210-$220. But I see the benefits of running, health, release of stress, overall well being, etc.

  5. Priya

    Are you planning on addressing the elephant in the room soon?

  6. Priya

    Dating show post-mortem.

    • What do you want to know? I have a fairly lengthy list of topics that I’ll discuss in due time, but I don’t think it’s exhaustive. NB: I make no advanced promises that I’ll be able to address everything you want to know due to April’s and my right to privacy.

      • Priya

        Why did you agree to be on the show? You seem like the kind of guy who has no problem getting girls. I mean the only diff in dating pre/during NMHD is cheaper dates. You could still find girls who were interested. Possible blog promotion opportunity?

        Were you actually sad at the outcome? I mean I didn’t see much of a connection b/w you guys, maybe that’s because of editing. Or were you more sad that happened on tv?

        Do you think April has helped you become less serious? You said this is something you’re working on. Why did she keep saying you’re so regimented, do you think this is true?

        P.S. Blue is def your color (is that why you went to UMich?) You looked really handsome in that shirt you wore in the luxury vacay scene. You looked better in that shirt than the black one. Just a fashion tip for you. Also, you have amazing hair! Okay I’ll stop flirting now, you’re out of my league anyways…..:(

  7. Sweta

    I think she might mean the dating show. Take your time. I feel like the past few months have taken a toll on your mental health :( Hopefully I’m over thinking though.

    Just wanted to say I read the newest article about you and whether people should pay off their student loans quickly. Good article w/ solid advice.

    • Looks like you were spot-on. You’re so in-touch with my readership :)

      • Sweta

        Haha, well I have been around these parts since day 1. :) Originally you said you’d do a reflective post so I think we’re waiting for that and what you’ve learned from the experience. Also, I’m curious if you and April talked about your blog/what she thought since she also has loans. She painted you as this really rigid, regimented guy. Do you think that’s a fair assessment? I respect yalls privacy so you don’t have to answer those questions if you don’t want to.

  8. Mo

    Great tip! I’m wondering how one would know a shoe fits right if they don’t have access to an older model though. Do they typically have good return policies when ordering online? I need a new pair of shoes myself.

  9. Amy Lou

    When I’m looking for just about anything, I figure out the exact brand and make/model of whatever it is I want, and then I google it.The websites that have the item on sale are the ones that are at the top of the search list. I usually find that buying last year’s color ends up saving me a ton.

  10. As someone who runs up to 80 miles a week for the last 12 years (hitting 100 in peak training), finding cheap shoes is always a priority. I’ve been sponsored with trail shoes (I mainly race trail ultras) for 10 of those, so those are covered. I had been a “tester” for Running World magazine for about 5 years in-between and had some friends working at Nike when lived in OR (with not many miles on roads back then whatever I get my hands-feet on worked just fine). Now that I am in Austin and roads are my new friends (or enemy, depending on my mood) due to lack of mountains, I turn to online selling stores. Many would say you need to support local businesses, and I understand the idea – but after all, Luke’s Locker and Dick’s Sporting Goods are chain suppliers and not local per se. And I do need to think about my finances first before those local businesses. Not to mention shoes age and amount of miles is a tail we’re promoted to believe – wear it on until you feel you need to change ‘em!

    • OMG. I just put 2 and 2 together. You’re Larry’s wife from Dell! Did he recommend this blog to you, or…? I don’t think I ever told him about it…You’re a legend around the halls of that place; he’s always bragging about your running exploits ;)

      Re your note, yes, I felt bad about not buying my shoes from Runtex, but you’re right, personal finances come first.

      • Yes, I am, thank you very much:) Does he also brag/complain about my frugal living ideas? Because before he met me, he thought he was pretty damn mindful (and he is). I kind of spoil his self-view on that, hailing from Soviets.
        He pointed on the first article that showed up, I read it and liked it, and dug into blogging world (I’ve got one since like 2005?) and found and ever since read what you got to say. It’s rare to see an American born and raised and with a hefty salary who thinks before doing despite even the fact that “I can afford it easily”, and “I deserve it because I worked hard for it”. Way to go.
        Come run San Antonio marathon, it’s a PR course. Throw a few long runs and you’re good to go!

        • I actually didn’t know that Russians were frugal. It’s beginning to look like everybody’s frugal *except* Americans. I might check out that SA marathon. Thanks for the tip. Good luck to you in your racing!

          • We had to be – no credit existed, and salary was just enough to meet ends no matter where you work and what education you have (a mid-30’s doctor or teacher made as much as factory worker or bus driver or nurse. Not many people owned cars as you’d have to save up to get it. A pair of shoes was made last 3 years – and since we walk, not drive, that’s many heels replaced:) I loved it. I still do. Every item has a memory attached of how you chose priority to get it.

            • This comment reminds me of matatiga who told us about her life in Malaysia in the “Clear as Glass” post from a few days ago. I love these comments that provide all the first-world readers and me with a completely different perspective of “How the World Works” and what it means to be truly frugal. Thank you for sharing. Please let me know if you’d ever like to write a guest post about your experience.

  11. Sweta

    I came up with some ideas for future blog posts:

    More posts like this one that showcase your ongoing frugality and the ones like “6 figure isn’t sh*t and the financial logic post. Also interested in seeing if your frugality has rubbed off on your friends any like the guy who was going to buy the 911 but you talked him out of it. Did he ever buy it?

    What are your plans in regards to early retirement? Kind of an updated flowchart post. It’s funny because when you first read 3M you said that he seemed like a “nutjob” but now you are like Austin’s very own version of his blog….lol

    You’ve mentioned wanting to take a year off to travel. Are you still planning this? I think you should visit India. Seeing how the REALLY poor live will make you appreciate everything you have even more. Let me know if you want suggestions about places to visit. I think you’d def like Bangalore (call centers, lots of bars, very Western) and Goa (amazing beaches where you can go parasailing for $9). But for your sake and the sake of your wallet don’t go there alone. :)

    I know you’re busy so no hurry at all. Just wanted to make a few suggestions, ignore them all if you wish.

  12. We’ll be happily waiting for your posts. :)

  13. Say nothing about saving the $72. You saved yourself some laughter of people who saw you working out. Those Gen 14s are awful looking. Do they think runners a bumblebees about to take flight or something?

  14. Flat feet and knee pain, eh? If you haven’t already, you should consider barefoot/minimalist running instead of relying on orthotics/cushioning. It might take a year for your arches to develop and the knee pain to go away, but I think it’s worth it.

  15. Mich

    As someone who lives in Canada, I am amazed by the good deals on running shoes you can find online through American websites. I run about 30-40 mi/week, and have completed 16 marathons in the last 10+ years, so I go through a lot of shoes. My system is to order 2 pair of shoes at a time, usually on Amazon, and have them shipped my in-laws in Minneapolis. When the in-laws visit us in Toronto or we visit them, I get my shoes. Most of the last 10 or so years, I have been wearing Saucony Hurricanes, that retail for $170, and I can consistently buy them on the web for about $80.

    By the way Joe, your marathon time is fantastic. Are you training for another one?

  16. Finance Viking

    I’ve bought Asics at Kohl’s for $45. They don’t always have a great selection, but do sometimes carry solid running shoes. Good work though on the Gel Nimbus 13.

  17. Today I got a letter in the mail from Citibank, who holds the majority of my loans (as opposed to the government). 4 of my 5 loans had been sold to Discover. It reminded me of the mess I encountered after graduation where I got letters every few weeks from a different bank. I finally chased down where all my loans were and consolidated a chunk of them just for my sanity. Now that I’m 6 months in and 5k down on my principal, I have to set up another account with new automatic payments usernames/passwords/security questions to remember, all hopefully without missing a payment. All this will happen in a “few weeks” but there was no date on the letter. Luckily the customer service rep in India was super helpful with my questions (not). I feel like the same big banks play hot potato with customers who have no say once they graduate. Sometimes I’ve thought of being more of an activist. It’s common for tuition to hike 5%+ for each year of college, and the best financial aid package you’ll ever get is your freshman year. Interest rates can top 10%.

    As much as I love hearing about your new shoes, we are part of a much larger systematic problem. The Sunday times this weekend had an article about defaulted loans on the front page. I was hoping that post-debt payoff you might take this blog in that direction. Yes we should all be responsible and accountable for our finances, but its a David and Goliath story, and too many Davids are struggling to stay afloat.

  18. Do be aware that shoe companies change their shoes across generations so it’s always a good idea to review any changes to fit before purchasing (particularly without trying on). I always try to buy from http://www.runningwarehouse.com because they do EXCELLENT reviews, have good prices and a 90 day guarantee- if the shoes don’t work for you, you can return them and try another style.

  19. Anna

    Hi Joe,
    Great blog! It’s always great to learn new tips on how to stay on track financially. My parents came to the US from Greece in the mid-50’s with little more than the clothes on their back. Yes I know it sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. They worked hard and instilled their hard work and little debt ethic in me and my siblings. Aside from my mortgage, I’m happy to say I’m debt free and I’m building my retirement fund (although it’s hard to know how much is enough–perhaps a blog topic you could address?).

    Question: Now that you have paid off your College debt and have built a financial cushion what are your philanthropic plans? You have been blessed by a good job with a good income and there are so many who are less fortunate than you are and great causes and nonprofits who would benefit.

    Also, I know you rowed in College so I thought you’d appreciate this article from a coxswain who says “Rowing is the best decision you will ever make.” This excerpt from the article reminded me of your focus and determination: “In life, that ability to stay fixated on a long-term goal is often the difference between failure and success. No wonder rowers make an average income of more than 60% above the national average, according to a 2008 study by Boathouse Finder. ”
    Considering there are several Harvard/Ivy league grads and highly successful individuals in our boathouse I would say that that statement is fairly accurate, your thoughts…

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-yao/rowing-or-the-greatest-de_b_1875862.html

    PS, if you’re ever in Cleveland come down for a row. The turns on the Charles are nothing compared to the Cuyahoga!

  20. Maggie L. Shaw

    I actually prefer the Nimbus 13 to the 14, as I think it has more cushioning and stability. Found this out when searching for a pair of mud-run sneakers on Amazon. I’m willing to invest in good running sneaks, since I have a heavy foot strike, but didn’t want to spend a lot on a shoe that would likely get ruined after four or five races. It never occurred to me that the earlier version of the Nimbus (the only shoe I can run in) would still be available until a friend purchased a pair of the 13 after I bought my 14. So I searched on Amazon, and there it was. Saved about $60.

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