I get your dilemma as I, too, am a huge Frye fan but $398 is a lot to drop on one pair of boots, in one shot. Sure, they'll last a lifetime but if you don't have the cash in the bank, you just don't have the cash.
If you want to spend less than the Fryes but still buy an investment piece, head to Vintage Shoe Company, where they've been handcrafting fine leather footwear in the United States since 1883. That's right, they produce all of their shoes out of a factory in Martinsburg, Pennsylvania. If money weren't a thing, I'd get these in a heartbeat. Works of art, they are. ($295)