According to an inflation calculator, my $16 twenty years ago has the buying power of $25.70 today, a difference that my eight-year-old self would have viewed with the same reverence, and my current self would have probably turned into laundry quarters.
Fall of my senior year in college, my best friend Jill and I decided to book a cruise to the Bahamas for spring break. I saved my nannying money for the deposit, and looked forward to our splurge. When spring arrived, we still had yet to plan our transportation from our origin in Richmond, Virginia, to the Carnival port in Miami. What had previously sounded like an excellent road trip full of giggles and bad rest stop snacks had evolved into a financial nightmare. The price of gas had jumped a full dollar per gallon in the last six months, and when we looked into parking we found it would be $20 a day, which was more than our entire “fun” budget for the trip. With just over four weeks to go, we frantically investigated flights and trains, to discover, of course, that this last minute booking would be several hundred dollars. We were college students with part time jobs; we had limited funds and were not going to squander money needlessly on something boring like transportation.
When I accepted a position to teach English in Georgia, my life was ideal on paper. I had friends and a full time job in a city I didn’t mind, with a Chipotle right around the corner from my reasonably priced apartment. Everything was fairly good, but there was no sparkle. I refused to settle. I had a healthy savings account and the teaching position provided room, board, transportation, a monthly stipend, and the opportunity to gain teaching experience to the benefit of my career. I threw caution and reason to the wind and embarked on my adventure, fearless, naïve, and blissfully happy.
Their actual value was probably about right, as they were a generic design made from a synthetic material with unremarkable quality. They lasted much longer than they probably should have, and longer than any pair I’ve had since. I still refuse to pay more than sixty dollars for any pair of shoes (do you know what has been on that sidewalk?!) but these remain the best attire investment I have ever made, and I can confidently say they were worth more to me than every other piece of my wardrobe combined.