What products are worth investing in?
March 13, 2011 8:57 AM   Subscribe

What are some products that are widely accepted as "the best of their kind"?

I've always been a thrifty shopper, buying the cheapest option of almost everything. I'm realizing now that (in many cases) this has left me with a lot of threadbare, broken crap.

I'm starting to purchase my "adult" housewares and wardrobe, and want to invest in things that are much better quality than their cheaper competitors. I'm going to be needing a work wardrobe and basic apartment furnishings.

Examples of what I'm looking for would be Le Creuset cookware or Smartwool socks.

posted by karminai to Shopping (70 answers total) 219 users marked this as a favorite
Many answers will be found in these threads:


posted by jgirl at 9:10 AM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

There's that whole by appointment to the Queen thing.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:10 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bugattis, etc. For cars.
posted by dfriedman at 9:15 AM on March 13, 2011

Sorry, I'm not clear on whether you're asking what the best product is for everyday purchases or just best in every category. If it's the former my answer above likely is not helpful!
posted by dfriedman at 9:16 AM on March 13, 2011

Gibson and Fender electric guitars
Nikon, Cannon and Leica cameras
Windsor and Newton oil paints
Steinway pianos
posted by kimdog at 9:19 AM on March 13, 2011

There will be disagreement on most everything you get here, I suspect but:
Weber grills
Wusthof knives
All-Clad stainless pans
Kitchen Aid mixer
posted by Stewriffic at 9:21 AM on March 13, 2011

Furniture? Don't buy anything made out of particle board and you'll be fine-- solid wood, glass, metal.
posted by supercres at 9:23 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Boston Whaler Boats
Macintosh Computers
posted by tomswift at 9:25 AM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Dyson vacuum cleaners. I just got one after YEARS of balking at the price. Having used it for a week, I'd gladly have paid double.
posted by Capt.DooDooFace at 9:33 AM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

Tempur memory foam mattress
Wolford bodystockings and hosiery
posted by coraline at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2011

Gränsfors Bruks axes
posted by leigh1 at 9:46 AM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

The Kuhn Rikon Epicurean Garlic Press is the Bentley of garlic presses, and it's totally worth it.
posted by liet at 9:48 AM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Miele home appliances.
posted by iviken at 9:52 AM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Vitamix or Blendtec blenders.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:06 AM on March 13, 2011

Second kitchenaid stand mixers. Got mine when I got married in 1993 and it's as good as new (can't say the same for that marriage).

Microplane graters.

I'd suggest checking out Cooks Illustrated online for their equipment ratings. They haven't necessarily found the most expensive knives, for instance, to be the best.
posted by purenitrous at 10:13 AM on March 13, 2011

Well, right off the bat I disagree that Le Creuset are the best of the best. I'm a former chef and I'm pretty hard on my tools. I have a Lodge enameled cast iron dutch oven that cost a fraction of what a Le Creuset costs and it's been one of the best performers in my kitchen for several years now.

I have found Cooks Illustrated recommended items to be really good, as purenitrous says.
posted by cooker girl at 10:24 AM on March 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

Windsor and Newton oil paints

Their quality, and the times, have changed. Williamsburg oil paints are handmade, absolutely stunning, of the highest quality, and their pigments are exceptionally dense. They may change your world if you've never tried them.
posted by wombat stork at 10:29 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Natural-fiber clothing (cotton, wool, cashmere) is better than synthetic fibers.

Leather shoes and bags last much better than fake-leather ones - I hear that full-grain leather is best though I don't have personal experience with it.

I agree with Kitchen-Aid stand mixers.

Mac instead of PC.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:31 AM on March 13, 2011

For the price and for what it's supposed to do, the Pilot Precise V5 pen is as good as a pen can be.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:32 AM on March 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

Don't bother with consumer-grade speaker systems - get a set of powered studio monitors. The sound quality and relative simplicity vs. most home audio set-ups are way worth the cost, IMO.
posted by caminovereda at 10:37 AM on March 13, 2011 [12 favorites]

Maglite flashlights.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:38 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been using a Levenger Accordion Wallet since December 2008 and it has yet to disappoint me. I'm a serial receipt hoarder, and occasionally overstuff my wallet to the max with receipts (not to mention all my credit/ID/etc cards). The stitching remains tight, the zippers never snag, and the exterior does not look faded. Highly recommended.
posted by invisible ink at 10:49 AM on March 13, 2011

Also, as per what cooker girl says above, Le Creuset is over-hyped as kitchen gear. I own and use some newer Lodge cast iron, but for quality and durability you can't beat Griswold cast iron. The 12" fry pan I used to make my breakfast is at least 70 years old and is still going strong.
posted by caminovereda at 10:50 AM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

You mentioned smartwool, and socks are definitely the one thing I'll spend more on. I'm slowly phasing out all of my cheaper socks and building up my collection of socks from Smartwool, Wigwam, and the like.

Basically, if it's something I use every day, I want the best. Mac, iPhone, sunglasses (although I have a tendency to damage these)
posted by backwards guitar at 11:00 AM on March 13, 2011

The 1006.
The Eames Lounge Chair.
posted by Paragon at 11:05 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

The ipod. I am totally not a Mac person, but the ipod does what it does best.
I would disagree about Tempur foam mattresses. I have an offbrand foam mattress that I like better than the Tempur I laid on.
Kitchen Aid mixer.
posted by freshwater at 11:07 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

You would like the Unicorn pepper grinder.
posted by waitangi at 11:08 AM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, almost forgot. There are also a lot of suggestions in this thread on what's worth buying cheap vs. higher quality.

Craftsman tools also get mentioned pretty often in this vein. But if you have the time for the work wardrobe, but limited funds, I'd really recommend visits to your local Goodwill, especially one that gets frequent donations from upper middle class neighborhoods. Not only are they insanely cheap ($5 a piece, usually), but because they're already second-hand, you're self-selecting for the more durable and long-lasting clothing. And you can use the savings on tailoring.
posted by deludingmyself at 11:25 AM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Kitchenaid mixer.
Seconding clothes made of natural fibres

And i actually disagree with the ipod being obviously the "best". I got a samsung mp3 player when my old ipod died and I'm not going back any time soon.
posted by stillnocturnal at 11:37 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Swiss-made IQAir air filter.
posted by coffeefilter at 11:41 AM on March 13, 2011

Hobart makes the best mixers. I have one that I found used in my small city in Canada that cost only $100 more than a good Kitchenaid new so I'm sure anyone can find one. They last forever. Bread dough is no problem if for some reason you don't want to knead it by hand. New, they are too pricey for what you'd actually need at home.

Bamix immersion blender. That is all.

As a piano player for a few decades, Yamahas hold their value well and sound good. It's like the late 90's Civics. If you want the best of the best, trade your home for a Bosendorfer Imperial. 97 keys. That low C will make you weak in the knees.

For guitars smaller companies like Robin are far better. You can spend 1200-1400 new or used and get a guitar that will crush bigger name ones that cost twice as much. For amps, old Fender tubes from the 70's-80's are amazing sounding.

Asus laptops.

Coffee: Get the V3 Rancilio Silvia with PID and a burr grinder. Ebay is the best source. $1200 is too much to spend? How much does the average Starbucks consumer spend in a year? Everything else will now taste like crap with good beans.

Not sure of a brand because people are always divided in Japanese vs. European but a good chef's knife is probably the best investment you'll make in the kitchen. Spend the most on this. Also a good Chinese cleaver. You don't need a knife set at first (Or ever for most people) and you don't need to spend much money on a paring knife. Like under $10. Oh, learn how to sharpen your knives. Buy some cheaper knives and get a feel for it.

A cheap, wood handled carbon steel wok (Under $24) and cheap Lodge cast iron pans/pots are the best bang for the buck out of any pot or pan you'll buy. Don't buy Chinese made cast iron pans, they have hotspots among other features of a poorly made item.
posted by penguinkeys at 11:57 AM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Lodge cast-iron skillets (and an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven). Affordable and so durable your grandchildren will be using them. Plus they're easy to clean, and anyone who says differently is doing it wrong.

Seconding the VitaMix blender and the Kitchen-Aid stand mixer.

I would add the Oxo Good Grips line of kitchen gadgetry to this list -- I have a vegetable peeler and a can opener that are both ergonomically pleasing and ruggedly durable.

And Maine coon cats. Because they are the bestest cats.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:11 PM on March 13, 2011 [5 favorites]

Herm�s bags
Brioni suits
Louboutin shoes (for women anyway)
Chateau d'Yquem wine
Kobe beef
H�stens beds
posted by Anima Mundi at 12:19 PM on March 13, 2011

...and that's supposed to say Hermès and Hästens. WTF PSP
posted by Anima Mundi at 12:37 PM on March 13, 2011

London Fog Maincoats, purchased (carefully) off eBay. If Big Ben features prominently on the label, it's either made in USA or Canada, and that's what you want.
posted by BostonTerrier at 1:03 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

You want a Zojirushi rice cooker.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:32 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wacom tablets.
posted by glass origami robot at 1:57 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Excellent examples are to be found in the cheap but bombproof thread.
posted by cog_nate at 2:32 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Herman Miller chairs, especially the Aeron.
posted by xtine at 2:41 PM on March 13, 2011

They are not shiny or cool, but I've had the same corelle dishware (plain white mixed with some that are also all white but have a sort of scalloped pattern around the edges) for a decade, I plan to see if I can wear them out ;)
posted by lemniskate at 2:50 PM on March 13, 2011

If you are artistically inclined, I second the Wacom tablets (the Cintiq is incomparable).

Also, if you want to draw on-the-go, this portable electric pencil sharpener was the best $10 investment I ever made. It's served me 7 years without incident, and is still going strong.
posted by sprezzy at 2:58 PM on March 13, 2011

Silhouette eyewear is some of the finest out there; lightest, most indestructible, sleekest profiles of any frames.
Oliver People's are trendy and just as expensive, and yes, also well made, but Silhouettes check the boxes for stylish and bombproof.
posted by slow graffiti at 3:24 PM on March 13, 2011

Leatherman multitools, especially the full steel models like the Wave and the Micra.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:31 PM on March 13, 2011

Also, regarding coffee- I could write a novella about high end coffee equipment (and feel free to MeMail me if you actually want that novella) but you really want to worry about your grinder first and foremost. At minimum a Rancilio Rocky grinder is where it's at if you're serious about your coffee, because consistent particle size creates a better brew. You could get fancier but it's diminishing returns for the home barista once you start talking Mazzer commercial grade grinders.
Technivorm makes the best drip machines, Bodum the best french press, and I second the Rancilio Silvia for espresso.
posted by slow graffiti at 3:32 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Brooks bicycle saddles
posted by Windigo at 3:42 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Redwing boots

eneloop rechargeable batteries
posted by any major dude at 3:48 PM on March 13, 2011

Redwing boots

Have to disagree. Redwings are disposable. Get White's if you're interested in the best.
posted by arnicae at 5:05 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Brooks saddles can last forever but you had better know what you're getting into. Expect to cut and lace an older, broken-in one if you actually want to be comfortable.

Good copper pans, especially if lined with stainless, can and will last forever and ever. There just isn't much on or in them that can be destroyed. Nonstick is for eggs and not much else. If you have an induction stove or wash pans in the dishwasher, All-Clad is nice (and you can take advantage of their lifetime warranty when you finally destroy one -- if you scrub and dishwasher a frying pan enough times, it will crack from the thermal cycling of the aluminum core). The trouble with All-Clad is that it costs about as much as heavy copper, and doesn't perform quite as well. But you *can* throw the pans in the dishwasher if that's your thing.

A good steel bicycle frame (I happen to like the geometry of my Surly cyclocross frame) can last a very, very long time. Which means that you had better choose wisely or you will end up with an ill-fitting bicycle that lasts a very, very long time. When your car breaks down, or if you commute every day while the weather is nice, an ill-fitting bike is not cool. It's a good idea to support your local shop or buy a rig on Craigslist so that you get it fitted right.

A nice hammer (Estwing makes particularly good ones) is worth the price if you don't use a nail gun, and pound a lot of nails. Loose (or worse, detached) heads are not a happy thing.

Craigslist is the place to go if you want to line up good tools without paying through the nose. Same goes for furniture, now that I think about it. Our beautiful granite kitchen table was a couple hundred bucks on Craigslist. Comparable retail is in the low thousands.

A major problem with well-constructed furniture and other worthwhile durable goods is that they tend to be heavy as fuck. If you or a friend of yours owns a pickup truck, life becomes much easier, and bargains are a lot less of a commitment (i.e. U-haul) to track down. Plus you can go on field trips to places near wherever the seller lives. This is actually kind of fun.

Auctions and Craigslist are the way to go for most heirloom-type items. The cost to reproduce a new one is astronomical, and the world already has a lot of beautiful artisanship floating around for anyone with good enough taste to look around. Landfills aren't getting any emptier.
posted by apathy at 5:39 PM on March 13, 2011

Disagree with Kitchen Aid mixers. The freaking' $50-a-pop attachments are crap. The juicer can't be used without juice running down your arm and the veggie slicer won't slice through a cucumber. And frankly I don't think they mix that well.

For furniture, look for dovetails where the drawers are joined together.

Frye boots. L. L. Bean just about anything. Fieldcrest towels are way more absorbent, luxurious and hold up better after washing. I've had good luck with Fossil purses. And I have been thrilled with my MBT shoes. Not only because I can now just about crack walnuts with my butt cheeks, but also because after a year of wearing them every day, they still look brand new. I am notoriously very hard on shoes.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:59 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Barbour Jackets.

I realized today that my North Face daypack looks basically like it did 10+ years ago when it was new. I'm not the biggest fan of all their products, but that purchase was easily worth the price premium.

For all intents and purposes, the Unibody Apple Laptops have the consistently best build quality of any mass-market portable computer.

Victorinox luggage seems mostly indestructible.

I've never been dissatisfied with an LL Bean purchase.

My Eureka Backcountry 2 tent always struck me as being an absolutely brilliantly-designed product.

I have part of a set of Farberware "Classic" pots and pans that I inherited from my grandmother, because none of her kids wanted them. They're not All-Clad (so, strictly speaking, not the "best"), but are about 40 years old, and are indistinguishable from the brand-new ones sitting on the shelf in the department store (actually, the new ones allegedly don't have the same durability -- caveat emptor). Can't argue with that kind of durability. Also, an entire set costs less than a single All Clad pot.

Over in the world of audio and stage lighting (where I used to work): Klark Teknik EQs, DBX Compressors, and Shure vocal mics (not the best, but damn good and ubiquitous). Other gear is more controversial as to the "best." In the lighting world, ETC's Source Four line is *completely* ubiquitous by virtue of being that much better than anything else ever produced. Mojo stage barriers, Nivoflex staging, and Zarges ladders were all preferred whenever available (Why are lambda-shaped ladders never seen in the US? They are vastly superior). I'm sure there's other gear that's ubiquitous-by-virtue-of-awesomeness, but can't think of it off of the top of my head. Of course, none of this is relevant to you....
posted by schmod at 8:18 PM on March 13, 2011

Oh. Hunter Wellies. (BEFORE they were a fashion item, they were (and still are) the best damn rubber boots that you can buy)

For snow boots, I've always been partial to Sorel.
posted by schmod at 8:21 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ankarsrum Assistent mixer.

For everyday, inexpensive glassware: Duralex Picardie glasses.
posted by iviken at 2:07 AM on March 14, 2011

>Don't bother with consumer-grade speaker systems - get a set of powered studio monitors. The sound quality and relative simplicity vs. most home audio set-ups are way worth the cost, IMO.

M-Audio is not the best at ANYTHING. Cheap, though.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:59 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sound Devices portable location records.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:06 AM on March 14, 2011

I second recommendations by America's Test Kitchen for kitchen recommendations. Here's an Amazon page that lists some of them (I thought there was a better list, but I can't seem to find it right now. I like their recommendations because they do so much equipment testing.
posted by la petite marie at 4:53 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Heinz Ketchup
posted by blue_beetle at 5:33 AM on March 14, 2011

There's that whole by appointment to the Queen thing.

That just means it's supplied to the Royal household, and Brenda probably has different tastes in marmalade to me so it's probably pretty meaningless.
posted by mippy at 8:09 AM on March 14, 2011

Price and quality don't correlate 100%; often the highest priced brands, you wind up paying for the name and not the quality. Mephisto shoes are great, but for $300, you could have two or three pairs of great shoes without that brand name on 'em.

Kitchen Aid mixers, Cuisinart food processors and blenders, Eureka tents, Nordstrom's generic store brand dress clothes (SmartCare?), Oxo kitchen doo-dads, Bosch power tools, and most things with the "Made in USA" logo on them have served me well. Hondas, Toyotas and Subarus are pricey, even used, but last quite well. A fresh razor has me looking a hell of a lot better than trying to get extra miles on the old one, but even el-cheapo disposables work fine if you replace them regularly.

Wusthof knives are better than a $10 knife, but not a good spend of money; for the same cost, you'll find better quality. The same holds for Bose speakers; they're enormously overpriced, based strictly on quality and durability. For the woman recommending Frye Boots, I can assure you the men's versions are simply awful; avoid.

I'll land again on the Nordstrom's generic dress clothes. The chino pants especially, which they'll tailor in length to you for no extra charge, don't need to be ironed ever, and have some kind of coating that stains just don't stick to. The pants are $50ish.
posted by talldean at 8:18 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Herm�s bags
Louboutin shoes (for women anyway)

Hermes bags I can see - they are made in the old way with hand-stitching and are very very well-crafted - but Louboutin are more known as a fashion thing than a craftsmanship thing, surely? (Although I am prejudiced against any show that doesn't come in a 9.) They're an investment if you like designer shoes and want somethign gorgeous to wear on special occasions, not if you want durable shoes to last for years and years. Though they will be probably better made than their high-street equivalent I'm sure.

Expensive isn#'t always equivalent to well-made - I had a lovely pair of Camper shoes that were about $150 full price, and they died on me in weeks.

I would recommend getting a feather duvet and pillows, particularly all-season ones. I sprung for one a couple of years ago when I needed to replace an old £10 one and the difference is amazing.

Also, merino jumpers. Don't itch, wash well, less expensive than cashmere.

If you are a woman, a decent bra - not necessarily expensive, but one that fits properly. I personally like Freya. Also, properly cup-sized swimsuits make SUCH a difference.
posted by mippy at 8:18 AM on March 14, 2011

Marpac white noise machines.

Seconding Maine coon cats as they are the bestest cats.
posted by seventyfour at 8:47 AM on March 14, 2011

Don't Kitchen Aid mixers now have plastic parts in the gearbox? *sigh*

Filson clothes are awesome. Duluth Pack Company bags (I am told). Akubra felt hats. Benchmade knives.

Good stuff doesn't have to be indestructable if the vendor is willing to stand behind it -- e.g., L.L. Bean, who often sells other people's goods but patiently takes the blame when the third party's stuff croaks.

I have heard it said that "You always pay for what you get, but you don't always get what you pay for."
posted by wenestvedt at 9:10 AM on March 14, 2011

I like metal kitchen tools better than plastic, and have found some very nice ones at Goodwill, along with quite nice sets of dishes, glassware, etc., at Goodwill's generally affordable pricing. Cast iron does not need a name brand to work well. Mine mostly came from Mom, but I got a fantastic, huge cast iron skillet at Goodwill not long ago. I really like my Revere copper-bottom pots, and they've held up well. They turn up on Craigslist pretty often.

Rugs should be wool.

Women's clothing will be out of fashion long before it wears out.
posted by theora55 at 9:13 AM on March 14, 2011

Don't Kitchen Aid mixers now have plastic parts in the gearbox? *sigh*

Yes. Because stripping a nylon gearbox is a much simpler/cheaper repair than burning out a motor. Apparently they had some issues with the first few production runs of nylon gearboxes (and were repairing the ones that failed for free on a case-by-case basis), but seem to have worked out the kinks.

Case in point: I know a few people with old Kitchen Aids who have burned out their motors. Usually it's cheaper to toss the entire unit and replace it than it is to repair the motor.

Kitchen Aid's also gotten a fair bit of competition lately. Some people prefer the (IMO, very weird) Electrolux mixers, while others claim that Breville's stand mixer is a considerable step up from Kitchen Aid's products.
posted by schmod at 9:26 AM on March 14, 2011

Women's clothing will be out of fashion long before it wears out.

This is why you should buy things that suit you and that you will like, rather than copying trends. Not to say knowing about them is a bad thing - and I find those prescriptive lists of 'classics everyone should wear' generally a bit rubbish - but something you love and feel great in will last until it no longer fits you. If you want something very 'fashion', and you're not going to wear it after that passes, then get it cheap.
posted by mippy at 10:04 AM on March 14, 2011

I'm sure i read this in another thread but buy quality in shoes, task chairs, and mattresses.

You will almost always be using one of the 3 and your body will thank you.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 12:20 PM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this is still the case, but a couple of years ago, the Grado SR60/80 and Sennheiser HD-280 PRO headphones were considered among the best in the sub-$100 range.

The Technics SL-1200 (don't remember which MK, exactly — MK2, I think) is considered one of the best turntables, at least until you get to the crazy-expensive audiophile stuff. It's popular with both listeners and DJs, and people still use units from the 80s with no problems.

In my experience, Apple laptops have the best build quality. I've had personal experience with Dell, Asus, and Acer laptops.

Moleskine make really great notebooks.

Griswold cast-iron skillets are beloved by professional cooks, but they're not being made anymore. I've heard that only those produced in a certain date range (1940s?) are worth seeking out, but I'm not certain how true that is.

For mechanical pencils, Dave's Mechanical Pencils has a couple of top lists.
posted by archagon at 10:04 AM on March 15, 2011

Somewhat related quick tip: let internet reviews do most of the work for you- search for almost any product at Amazon.com (biggest collection of reviews currently on the internet) and sort by bestselling. Almost all the time, but especially for housewares, general items and books, the cheapest 4 or 5 star item (with at least 10+ reviews) will be the best value. I do these review checks, skim the top reviews for common complaints and durability before I buy almost anything, and most all of my stuff I've bought as a result is still going strong.

I know people don't really think of amazon when shopping for a new toaster or whatever, but they beat regular store, non-sale prices handsdown. For example, they sell the popular Cusinart Stainless steel cookware set (433+ 4.5 star reviews) for $116 when in stores it's normal to see it in stores for almost $220 or more.

I wouldn't always suggest buying at amazon (not always the cheapest), but I do check the reviews all the time. In general the competition is much more intense online, and right now, amazon is at the top. Buy.com is also a good place to shop for books (but not for electronics, they have a bad return policy)
posted by tachikoma_robot at 3:45 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Absolutely nothing from above, unless you actually need it.

Over the years I've been fortunate enough to acquire what is thought to be deemed 'quality'. But this is no guarantee of investment satisfaction.

I mean, designer brand does not mean better brand, supposedly well made products will break, one persons treasure is another persons trash and a clutter of expensive stuff brings no more satisfaction than having a bunch of cheap stuff.

Just off the top of my head:

All Apple computers eventually fail too (at least half a dozen of mine in the last 15 years), my kitchen stool or swiss ball gets preference over my dusty Herman Miller chair, all my european cars have been a money sinkhole, my cheap well sharpened 5 dollar knife cuts near just as well as my Wusthof or forged Japanese knives , my 15 year old bargain shop grater has outlasted 4 Microplanes, my $5 ceramic teapot makes just as nice tea as my Tetsubin, my $10 pair of reader glasses have lasted longer than 3 designer frames, I prefer a plain pillow over my Tempur pillow, etc etc

Some of my happy investments?
I'm also for relatively cheap enamelled and plain cast iron pots and pans (not Le Creuset) , Chef grade steel fry pans and wok, Magimix blender, Dyson Vac , RM Williams jeans, a custom made lounge, Makita powertools (there are finer tools but is it worth the cost?) and my ipad and macs (yes I'm still a sucker or what may be better termed, a Mac Nugget :P ).

All said, I agree there are certainly valid reasons to seek out quality. But its no reason not to remain highly frugal.
Only invest in what you truly need or absolutely desire and only after careful consideration. It seems this is what you want to do, but for most of us, I think this is easier said than done.
posted by boogiefunk at 12:20 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

CoolTools is a pretty good database of these kinds of things.

But in my personal life, I've found the following items to be extremely worthy investments:

Lodge cast-iron cookware (I have a skillet, three dutch ovens and a small BBQ...so great)

Calphalon or All-Clad for other cookware...get the tri-ply or three ply or whatever. Nonstick or steel, either brand is super nice (I have some from each). These will become everyday tools that just work. I'll also second Cook's Illustrated for great reviews of cooking tools.

Seagull acoustic guitars if you want a reasonably priced guitar that is also well made (in Canada!). Martin may be the de facto "best ever" but I've had my Seagull S6 for years and have never felt the need to upgrade. It's a wonderful tool.

I may be an Apple/Mac fan, but computers are NOT investments. Most electronic devices are also not investments, unless they do something really special and do it really well and aren't affected by ever new technologies (i.e. anything with a CPU is probably out).

So in that light, GoodCans.com is a great place to tell you the best headphone for your money (I use the Koss poraPros at work and the Sennheiser HD280s at home and they're both really nice).

After having gone through half a dozen audio interfaces, I've found Apogee Duet (mac only) to be indispensible for small home studio work. Plus it doubles as a high end headphone amp!

Although I rock an old Schwinn Continental, my boss swears by his Rivendell Atlantis. Considering the miles he puts on each year I trust his judgment on that (and I'm saving my pennies for one).

A lot of this comes down to personal taste, but the general guidelines seem to be:

Handmade is Better
Steel is Real
Leather Lasts Longer
Buy Local

And if you're in the US, this list is pretty great for the "buy local" concept.
posted by jnrussell at 1:49 PM on March 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

High-fashion apparel is so trendy that spending really serious money, i.e., Hermes bags, is better left to people with gobs of cash. Pretty good clothing for women - Talbots, LL Bean, Lands End, Banana Republic. Buy outfits one at a time. Goodwill is a fabulous resource for gorgeous scarves. Coach bags are fairly affordable and last a long time. Personally, I avoid the overuse of logos.

Buy authentic stuff. If shoes look like they're leather, they should be leather.

For kitchen goods, Goodwill and yard sales are hard to beat. I've seen sets of quite nice china for hardly any money, and good pots & pans. I love my Revere pots (not so much the frying pans). Crystal tends to break, so you're less likely to find it. I've gotten good cast iron pans at Goodwill. Non-stick pans will always have to be replaced, no matter what the label says. It's nice to have 1 non-stick pan for omelets, but not critical.

Buy a really good paring knife, all purpose knife (5" or so) and carver. Knives that are not stainless take a better edge. Learn to sharpen a knife and get a sharpener.

You'll end up needing a mixer, blender, food processor, but start out with a nice bowl and a whisk.

You can buy the prettiest kitchen tools that are well-recommended, or buy a potato masher at Goodwill and save up for Wolff stove. Or blow the money on great ingredients, which, to my mind, are far more important than kitchen gear.

Go visit the best furniture store in town. Then go visit Target. Notice the way drawers work, the way things are put together, the solidity and the nice fabrics. There's plenty worth having at Ikea, but little that your kids will take to their 1st apartment.

Tsotchkes are nearly always a poor investment. You don't really need to accessorize your home if you have artwork that you love, and buy one or two things when you travel. Acquire household goods slowly and thoughtfully.
posted by theora55 at 1:13 PM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

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