Polish Those Shoes!

by Ryan Guina

polished shoesWhat does polishing shoes have to do with personal finance? A lot more than you might think at first. Polishing your shoes saves you money, and can have a positive effect on your career.

Polishing shoes saves you money: How? By protecting and extending the life of your shoes. Shoe polish is usually a wax or oil based product and a regular coat of polish will provide some waterproofing protection and keep dirt, oils, stains, and other substances from getting ingrained into the leather in your shoes. These foreign substances will more quickly degrade the leather quality, and ultimately ruin the shoes.

Polish helps prevent scuffs and scrapes from ruining the leather, and can also have a moisturizing effect on the leather which also helps extend the life of your shoes. Untreated or unpolished leather shoes easily get scuffed, scraped, and will eventually dry out and crack.

I have a nice pair of black leather shoes I have worn about 3 times a week for the last 4 years and with the exception of the soles, they still look new. I have a pair of brown shoes that I have owned for 1 year with similar wear, and I have had the same results. With proper care, I fully expect these shoes to give me several more years of wear.

Good for your career: Would you wear a dirty, wrinkled shirt to the office? No way! So why would you do that with your shoes? Polished shoes say something about a man or woman, and studies have shown that dress and appearance has a major factor in perceived ability in the workplace. Dress and appearance is a major factor in a first impression, and that first impression is often the lasting impression. Polishing your shoes is a must when preparing for an interview!

What you need to polish your shoes: At the minimum, you need a jar of polish (or bottle of cream or oil) and a rag. I personally prefer to use a shoe polish kit that includes a jar of polish, a dauber (applicator), and a shoe brush. A decent show polishing kit is inexpensive – usually only around $7-10. I use one shoe brush for all my shoes, but I use a different dauber for applying black polish and neutral polish, which I use on my brown leather shoes. You can find polishes in all ranges of qualities and prices, but I use Kiwi shoe polish, which is a good quality polish at an inexpensive price. It’s also very easy to find.

How to do polish your shoes: First you want to lay down a layer of newspaper or a plastic garbage bag to prevent polish from getting on your work surface. Next, clean the shoes by brushing away any dust, dirt, oils, or any other foreign substances. If your shoes are very dirty, clean them with a moist rag and allow them to dry before applying any polish. After this, you are ready to get started.

Apply a small amount of polish in a circular motion. Pay special attention to cracks and scuffs, and be sure to cover the entire shoe. Allow the polish to dry for a few minutes before buffing the shoe. At this point, your shoe will have a very dull appearance. This is normal.

Next, grab your shoe brush or a rag, and use quick light strokes to buff the polish. If you use a rag, be sure to use a thin, soft cloth and add a few drops of water, which will help in the buffing process. Another trick I learned in the military was using wet cotton balls to get a mirror-like shine. Personally, I think the shoe brush is the quickest, easiest, and most effective method for getting a shine worthy of your church or workplace. A mirror-like polish is not necessary.

How often should you polish your shoes?: You should polish your shoes as needed, which is usually about once a month with regular wear. In between wearings, you should wipe off accumulated dust and dirt to keep them looking clean and new. You can also buff them with your shoe brush or rag to bring back the shine.

The benefits are many, the cost is little. So polish your shoes! πŸ™‚

photo credit: pdsimao.

Published or updated December 9, 2010.
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1 Steve

I totally agree with you about polishing your shoes especially if you work in a professional environment.

I’ve tried doing it myself and have never been able to master it. For those people not willing to do it themselves like me it is still a worthy idea to have a shoe shiner do it for you.

Most places it runs $2-$3. So with tip it shouldn’t cost you more than $5 and if you have a nice pair of shoes it is still cheaper than buying a new pair.

2 Frank

This might come across as an unrelated question (it is!) Ryan, but do you know much about the Navy Reserve? I’m a recent graduate from school who’s now employed in the financial services industry, but I’m working to have enough invested and saved to cover my living expenses. I’ve always been interested in the military but I’m not sure my skill-set would carryover. I’d be interested in joining the navy reserve for the benefits and extra spending money once I reach this point, but I’m unsure as to how much they are paid or how likely it is to be deployed. Any ideas?

If not, no worries, just figured I’d ask.

3 Ryan


A quick stop at the boot shine stand is a good way to get a nice shine, and you should definitely tip. I prefer doing it myself because the cost is a lot less, but if I am on a business trip, or need it, I won’t hesitate to pay someone. Appearance does mean a lot! πŸ™‚


I will answer your question in a direct e-mail, and eventually will get around to posting a series on the benefits of joining the US Military Reserves.

Thanks for the comments, guys. πŸ™‚

4 FinanceIsPersonal.com

I purchased a $10.00 pair of Wal*Mart dress shoes a few years ago, and since I only wear them on occasion and polish them whenever they look dull, they still work a-okay. Polishing dress shoes on a regular basis is a must!

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