Expensive things that changed your life
August 31, 2011 12:56 AM   Subscribe

What are examples of products/services where buying an extremely expensive version has a significant payoff (brought you happiness, lasted forever, changed your life, improved your health, etc)? Personal examples or generalizations welcome (Illustrative examples: $1000 lamp, $500 massage, etc)
posted by pacifica to Work & Money (87 answers total) 129 users marked this as a favorite
Buying a Macbook rather than a cheaper PC laptop has brought me a lot of joy. Buying a high-end Martin guitar rather than something less expensive was a good choice. Paying movers has always been worth it for me.
posted by mermaidcafe at 12:58 AM on August 31, 2011 [17 favorites]

If you are already in good condition cycling a lot (600+ km monthly) at high speeds, buying a really good road bike will be a big improvement. There is a huge difference between a $600 road bicycle and the best spec you can get for around $2500 to $3000. Something with a quality full carbon frame, 1500 gram wheelset, SRAM Rival group etc will feel amazingly fast.
posted by thewalrus at 1:10 AM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

A good quality mattress and pillow.
posted by holterbarbour at 1:12 AM on August 31, 2011 [21 favorites]

High thread-count bed linen.
posted by Diag at 1:15 AM on August 31, 2011 [11 favorites]

A top-of-the-line video card for my PC.
posted by neushoorn at 1:18 AM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I bought a Le Creuset set ten years ago at college and still use them every day. I had to ship those suckers across an ocean when I moved, but they are totally worth it.
posted by ukdanae at 1:21 AM on August 31, 2011

A Miele washing machine.
RM Williams boots.
Business shirts.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:24 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, decent business shirts, if you're a bloke. The cheap ones from Lowes I used to wear when I was at uni are almost a different garment to shirts that fit you properly.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 1:27 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of the few pricey-on-the-surface products I'd say actually changed my life is high quality in-ear (sealing) earphones.
posted by kalapierson at 1:34 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bespoke suits are much, much nicer than off the rack, unless you have some freakish off-the-rack-type body. Same goes for dress shirts.

Quality cured meats. The difference between the (admittedly tasty) coppa I got from Costco versus the artisinal coppa I paid nearly $15/100grams for was night and day. The charcuterie, for example, at the Purple Pig in Chicago? Worth every damn penny. Make sure you get the milk braised pork shoulder. The dish comes with a spoon. A spoon.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:35 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

A good kitchen knife. Only one, less than $200... and then you're happy forever.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 1:51 AM on August 31, 2011 [9 favorites]

My tonsillectomy was expensive given that I had to quit my job in order to have it, but damn, am I healthier because of it on all fronts.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:54 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Investing hundreds of dollars more for Apple devices has saved me about that many hours of maintenance on my basic computing needs.

European cars feel better but may not be worth it if you don't spend a lot of time in the car.

I seriously thing the more you invest in a bed, the more you get out of it. I'm thinking of one of those memory mattresses next if I ever find a deal.

A burger from a independent restaurant is WAY better than anything from mcdonalds.




High end underwear.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:57 AM on August 31, 2011

My experience is at odds with a couple of things here.

I have a basic MacBook. I have a cheapish laptop running Windows 7. I have no preference, although I probably get more use from the Windows laptop.

I have a really expensive kitchen knife (which I didn't buy). I also have a cheap one (1/10 the price). I prefer the cheap one.

I think sometimes price just happens to correlate with satisfaction, but that may depend on the specific properties of the item and your own taste as much as anything else.

Having said all that, my iPad vs. my friend's sub-$100 direct-from-Hong-Kong Android brick? No competition whatsoever.

And if you're decorating your house, don't buy the the cheap emulsion, and invest in a good-quality basecoat.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:04 AM on August 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

And Siberian goose down pillows (at least 90% down). Fantastic. People complain sometimes that they don't give a lot of support - a firmer pillow underneath fixes that.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:09 AM on August 31, 2011

good running shoes for long-distance running (makes a huge impact in terms of preventing injuries and overall comfort)
posted by coffee_monster at 2:13 AM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not into fashion but I do have two pairs of very good shoes that cost about £300 a pair. A few years in and they look even better than new and just get better all the time. I splashed on a very good leather belt when I was a student (birthday money, I think) and I've worn it about half the week for the last 22 years. Got it on today. I agree that macs repay the price premium by not crashing all the time and wasting working hours.


Kitchen mixer
Down duvet and pillows
Paintbrushes when decorating
Phone (got an iPhone, beats android hands down)

On the other hand, I don't think you can beat the yellow sort of BIC biro.
posted by dowcrag at 2:14 AM on August 31, 2011

I think there's expensive and then "extremely expensive" for most of these suggestions, and often the "extremely expensive" is not better.

For example most people probably value their $600 iPhone more than a $10 Nokia, but wouldn't be happier with a $6,000 Vertu.

Equally, many people might like a $100 Global knife more than a $10 knife, but they aren't going to cut significantly better with a $10,000 carbon steel hand forged blade.

I don't think I own anything in that "super-luxury" category, but I do like the memory foam topper on my IKEA bed, a really good Sage reel for my cheap-ass fly rod, and 1-day Acuvue Moist lenses for my over-worked eyes.
posted by roofus at 2:17 AM on August 31, 2011 [7 favorites]

Insanely fun sportscar instead of a normal car. (though this only works if you don't need the back seats. Likewise I doubt it would add as much if I only drove in rush hour. So it depends on your situation)

On the topic of cars though, spending more to get top-of-the-line safety is probably both the cheapest and most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones that there is.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:34 AM on August 31, 2011

can opener. a premium can opener is worth its weight in gold.
posted by wayward vagabond at 2:38 AM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

When I was a waitress, high quality shoes made a huge difference.
posted by gt2 at 2:42 AM on August 31, 2011

Bosch appliances.
Outdoor wear - base layers, mid layers, waterproofs.

Top tip: Look in ski shops when the sale is on at the end of the season. Find the very expensive (but now discounted) ski gear. Somewhere in there will be a jacket and a pair of black or tweedy looking pants that look just like smart street clothes. Not only are these the best ski gear you can find, but you can wear the things every day it rains or snows in winter and nobody will notice that your jacket and trousers are warm and waterproof! Chuck a technical base layer under there and you will be the cosiest person outdoors in the winter.
posted by emilyw at 2:49 AM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

Try these threads for more answers.
posted by lollusc at 3:08 AM on August 31, 2011 [8 favorites]

Oh, and this one.
posted by lollusc at 3:11 AM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

The Core Dilemma is ascertaining the difference between expensive because it's a name and expensive because it's better.
Rigid (aluminum) and Knipex wrenches are better and more expensive but using them I never think about them slipping and bashing my knuckles.
Also, All-Clad stainless frying pans. Like the Le Creuset stuff, freaking brilliant.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:13 AM on August 31, 2011

Harvard tends to pay off even for those who pay the sticker price. Yale Law is worth it if you're brilliant and want to be in academia (well, at least historically.)

Getting the pricey hotels for Comic-Con is worth it if the price isn't physically painful to bear; same with All Clad, Le Creuset, and so on. I heart my KitchenAid stand mixer forever and ever (it helps that I got it as a housewarming gift, but I was going to buy it myself eventually.)

Most people seem to not regret forking out the cash for Dyson vacuums, and I know few unhappy BMW/Audi/Mercedes owners (well, except when it snows a lot.)

Brand-name batteries (AA/AAA) are always worth the extra cost to me. Same, in many cases, of premium-priced prescription drugs (I tend to be sensitive to side effects, unfortunately.)

My mother lives for high-quality leather bags and hand-crafted wood furniture.

Insurance is another area I think paying at least a moderately higher price reaps rewards.
posted by SMPA at 3:35 AM on August 31, 2011

Rancilio espresso maker and coffee grinder.
Steinway grand piano.
Rolex self-winding watch.
posted by Wet Spot at 3:59 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good quality mattress. Every morning I wake refreshed!
posted by dave99 at 4:23 AM on August 31, 2011

Global knives, ultrasone 2500 headphones, microdot 3 headphone amp, rotring core fountain pen (cheap by fountain pen standards but much more expensive than a bic), moleskine notepads, big thick wood cutting block, somewhat expensive kyusu pots from yuuki-cha.com (e.g. here), high quality teas that are about $20-$40 / 100gr at select online vendors; Yuma coffee vacuum pot.

None of these are all that terribly expensive, but can be 10-20 times more expensive than bottom of the barrel bargain options.
posted by rainy at 4:28 AM on August 31, 2011

Musical instrument, if you can play one well.
posted by avysk at 4:31 AM on August 31, 2011

Wallets and socket wrench sets.
posted by klarck at 4:32 AM on August 31, 2011

The biggest difference anyone can make in their life is buying a high quality mattress. It's something you don't realize until you get one.
posted by chartreuse at 4:34 AM on August 31, 2011

Office chair
Coffee grinder
posted by backwards guitar at 4:55 AM on August 31, 2011

$1900 guitar. Sounds great, looks great, I play it a lot more and I'm 3x better 4 years later. I was suddenly serious.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:18 AM on August 31, 2011

Also, in 1997 I paid $191 for a pair of Vasque Sundowner boots that were made in Italy. They gave up the ghost in 2010. Before that I'd been buying boots every year.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:22 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cashmere sweaters. I've had mine for nearly ten years and they've kept me warm even when the temp outside was near zero. Before that I used to buy regular cotton ones and had to keep replacing them. Unless I lose or gain a significant amount of weight, I never have to worry about buying sweaters when winter rolls around.
posted by Anima Mundi at 5:33 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

My Cintiq tablet. (a monitor that lets you draw with a stylus directly on the screen.)

It cost $750 used, but it wasn't worth buying this sort of thing at all if it couldn't give me print-quality lines with a minimum of stress. A knockoff just wouldn't have cut it, and a year later, despite being worse off financially, I don't regret the purchase for a second.

Ditto the Macs I do my work on.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:34 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

a high-end DSLR.
posted by mcbeth at 5:36 AM on August 31, 2011

Frye boots, and MBT shoes. Both have held up extremely well, and look good no matter how much I abuse them.

Sonicare toothbrush. I would pay twice the price for it, although I would still get the cheapest model. And the replacement heads are stupid expensive. Along with that, Aquafresh Extreme Clean toothpaste.

San Pellegrino water, and Pure Rain water, on occasion. Both taste so much better than tap water, my Brita pitcher, and other bottled water.

CheesyGirl goat cheese. Fage Greek yogurt. Paying full fare to fly Southwest Airlines, instead of a bargain on another airline through one of the discount travel sites.

The 38th floor penthouse at the MGM Grand Signature hotel in Las Vegas. Although the mandatory valet parking and its accompanying tipping made me cranky.

My iPhone. Sometimes I want to throw it against the wall, but being able to fix glitches by plugging it into my computer, rather than having to go to the phone service provider's store and dealing with whichever uninterested kid is working there this month, is worth the extra money for the phone.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:42 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

A well made leather all-purpose shoulder bag

An iPod to manage my calendar and life rather than my original longstanding cheap bastard method of carrying around a weathered dayplanner

Leather Danskos. I started wearing them for work years back and ended up buying a pair for wearing when not working because they were so kind to my feet and back that I didn't even bother to wear other shoes. My work shoes are going on five years and they still look great.
posted by takoukla at 5:54 AM on August 31, 2011

Upgrading to business class for transcontinental flights.
posted by Runes at 6:02 AM on August 31, 2011 [7 favorites]

Chacos sandals, airport extreme router, zassenhaus coffee grinder. Not life changing, but pleasant amneties.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:14 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

pacifica: (building on roofus' comment) will you please clarify a little what you mean by 'extremely expensive' versus plain old expensive?

I mean, a new low-end BMW is extremely expensive compared to a used Camry, but it's not expensive compared to a Bugatti or Maybach or something. A $500 or $1000 wristwatch seems pretty expensive next to a $30 Timex, but there are plenty of watches in the six-figure range.
posted by box at 6:20 AM on August 31, 2011

Park Bike pro-level tools. There is a reason every shop's wall is covered in blue handles.

More specifically: the PW-4. An amazing tool, worth every penny for getting off the most recalcitrant of pedals.
posted by rockindata at 6:24 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

My general rule of thumb is that if it's getting used regularly and has moving parts, it makes sense to get something well engineered. Quiet, reliable electric motors cost quite a bit more than cheap ones. Hardened metal gears cost more than stamped ones cost more than nylon ones. Same goes for anything with a switch, zipper, velcro or other fiddly piece of hardware.

Lots of companies make a serious "pro" model and a junky "consumer" model and the only outward difference is the price tag so identification comes down to carefully reading reviews for specific models. I'm looking at you, KitchenAid.

Apple products don't really cost that much more these days, but the quality of their laptops is just fantastic. The unibody Macbook Pros are works of art. As someone with manufacturing experience, I spend a lot of time just admiring the fact that such beautiful machine work is being done on consumer electronics. All the details are right, and anything you actually touch is *perfect*. Their big, accurate trackpads alone are worth the extra $500 over a similarly spec'd PC.

Any hand or power tool you use a lot should be good quality. The difference between a cheap screwdriver and one from Snap-on is something you'll feel every time you use it. The difference is even more stark when it's got moving parts, as in a torque wrench or ratchet. Same with a cordless drill from Bosch vs. Ryobi.

Speaking of Bosch, man, they make a *sweet* dishwasher.

Stuff that moves air is hard to engineer right, and cheap equipment usually involves loud, unreliable motors/compressors and badly designed fans, so I shell out more money for ceiling fans, Vornado air circulators, vacuum cleaners, air compressors, bathroom vent fans, window AC units, etc.

Good outerwear and underwear. If it touches me, I want it to be soft and wick moisture. If it touches the elements, I want it to be durable and repairable. Shoes, jackets, gloves, hats, etc.

Quality lenses for cameras. There are very few worthwhile pieces of glass available for less than $400-500 and it's worthwhile for a pro or serious amateur to spend $1000+ on the more exotic ones.

Benjamin Moore interior paint. It might cost twice as much as something from Lowes, but it's worth every penny. Half as many coats required, more durable, better finish quality, more likely to be mixed by someone who can match the correct color, etc. Making good paints involves some pretty serious chemistry.

Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries are lovely.
posted by pjaust at 6:34 AM on August 31, 2011 [11 favorites]

Good quality cooking utensils, pots, knives etc as well as ingredients makes cooking more fun and easier for me so I want to keep cooking and eat at home, so its also healthier.

Seconding Sanyo Eneloop batteries

eReaders. I knocked ereaders for ages because I'd only ever seen Kindles, but now I have my Nook touch I read a LOT more and on much wider topics.

Good quality leather handbags. I hate cheap handbags, I don't go crazy top of the line but will spend a few hundred on a nice classic style leather handbag because I know it will last me years and get better looking with wear.

I want a Dyson vacuum cleaner and am saving for one after my mother got one. Those things are amazing.

Real Doc Martins shoes. Those babies last forever as long as you throw a bit of polish on them from time to time and are so comfortable.
posted by wwax at 6:46 AM on August 31, 2011

Coach bag and wallet - the leather ones, not the fabric frou-frou patterny ones

Olay anti-wrinkle cream. Seriously.

Seconding the good kitchen knives. We just bought a Wustoff and it is so nice.
posted by Leezie at 6:53 AM on August 31, 2011

Good gaffer's tape - beats "duck" any time
Tripod for video camera
Tower/Studio Monitor speakers

Wonder what I do for a living.... ;)
posted by Khazk at 7:11 AM on August 31, 2011

A good haircut. My life is improved every time I don't have to bring a hat with me to cover up a $12 monstrosity.

Non-bargain clogs.

Tools. Any kind of tools. A good soldering iron, for instance, is worlds away from a cheap Radio Shack model. And well-made tools are much safer, on the whole, than poorly-made ones.

Cashmere sweaters. These are so much warmer and softer than synthetics.
posted by corey flood at 7:16 AM on August 31, 2011

I wasn't wearing a comfortable one until I went to a non-Walmart store, got fitted, really talked with the lady helping me, and ignored the price tag.

Boot socks
whether you use them for military OR high heeled wear. Make sure they breathe.

Real wooden hair combs
Not really that expensive (I bought mine off Etsy), but a wonder for hair. Quite a lack of static, and I know they won't break. I start with a wide-toothed and finish with a fine-toothed. I bought some slightly higher in price due to the art on the handle and I feel luxurious EVERY morning.
posted by DisreputableDog at 7:24 AM on August 31, 2011

Figures -- finally a question is asked where Zambrano's input would have been nice.

Multiple monitors. It always sounded like a stupid luxury to me until I tried it. Not having to interrupt your train of thought to alt-tab from window to window works wonders for your ability to address a problem efficiently. (Empirically proven, too -- people with two monitors get things done something like 1.2 times quicker than people with only one.)
posted by foursentences at 7:42 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good jackets. You wear them almost every day.

This is more of a service than a physical thing, but a good, honest mechanic who uses quality parts is absolutely worth spending a bit extra.

My iPod speaker. It's small and fills the whole room with sound, and has an FM radio.
posted by breakin' the law at 7:52 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nice handbag by a quality designer, mac computers (all of my pc computers have broken so easily!), good shoes (Frye boots), nicer houseplants (heyyy bromeliad!), nice clothes that I actually want to wear, good makeup, good mask for scuba/snorkel, smartphone, GOOD QUALITY FOOD (this means bread, vegetables, fruit, treats, meats), soap and shampoo that I enjoy using, getting nice gifts for my dear friends, getting the maximum amount of insurance on electronics.

Things that have never improved my life: going out to eat all of the time, going out to bars frequently, being frugal when it comes to those I love, spending lots of money on things I only use a few times.
posted by 200burritos at 8:02 AM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Expensive bread, from the bakery. Even for your PBJs. It tastes way better, it makes you feel way better. It doesn't sound expensive, but that extra $1.25 a week over the course of a lifetime adds up.
posted by AmandaA at 8:15 AM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

Sewing machine - especially if you use heavier weight fabrics.

Totally agreeing on cashmere sweaters - man, do they feel good. But they don't have to be expensive. Last year I got them for $60 on sale at nordstrom in amazing colors.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 8:23 AM on August 31, 2011

This has a definite men's slant, but a really good pair of shoes. It's been said on the green before, but it goes something like this: a $100 pair of shoes will last you only so long. A $200 pair of shoes will last twice as long as a $100 pair of shoes. A $300 pair of shoes will last you a lifetime.

I bought two pairs of used expensive shoes recently, a pair of Allen Edmonds and a pair of Ferragamos. Both pairs needed a quick polish and now look brand new. In a year or two when the soles finally go to hell I can have them reconditioned for around $90/pair and have them continue to look awesome for 10-20 years.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:29 AM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

My Blendtec blender was $400 and worth every penny.
posted by cosmic osmo at 8:39 AM on August 31, 2011

Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries are lovely.

I agree. They seem to last double the time other rechargeables last. Also investing in a good quality charger was worth the £25 for me.

Domestic appliances: German only, preferably Miele. Beautifully made, quiet, and work brilliantly compared to other makes.

Headphones: Bose for flying and working, Sennheiser buds for walking.

High-end VAIO laptops. I'm not keen on Macs as the casing feels too 'sharp' for my liking.

And also agreeing with matress and bed linen. I spent a fortune on these, but the payback is more than justified.

Moleskine notebooks are great to write in.

Sandisk only for all my pen drives.

Good quality vitamins seem to work better than cheap ones in my experience.
posted by stenoboy at 9:14 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I switched to good chisels my productivity using them went up by several times. My old Stanley ones wouldn't hold a keen edge under normal use (cheap steel and/or cheap hardening) so I spent far too much time either honing or brute-forcing them through wood. The ease of using the new chisels means I no longer put off doing work that requires them. The several hundred dollars in incremental cost is dwarfed by their increased value.
posted by introp at 9:15 AM on August 31, 2011

High end stereo system (Magnepan 3.6R speakers) w/all music digitized on a computer server.

Mac Pro and Macbook Pro.

Good quality mattress.

Longchamp wallet.

Good haircuts.

New car (Ford Fusion Hybrid).
posted by mikeand1 at 9:20 AM on August 31, 2011

Good boots. My Blundstones are still going, more than 5 years later.

Superfeet shoe insoles. I walk a lot, and these have been a lifesaver. But make sure you get ones that properly fit your feet!
posted by spinifex23 at 9:39 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lasik. Expensive, but every time I wake up and remember that I don't have to worry about my vision at all, I'm paying off a piece of that cost.
posted by poq at 10:06 AM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Furniture. If you buy real wood chairs that are actually made by humans, you'll never have one of the legs buckle when you scoot back away from the table. Or! If you do? It can actually be FIXED.
posted by KathrynT at 10:15 AM on August 31, 2011

Seconding (thirding?) a Sonicare toothbrush, cashmere sweaters, and really well-made shoes.
posted by Specklet at 10:20 AM on August 31, 2011

Seconding Lasik (corrective laser eye surgery). Sure it was over 4k but I look at it as an investment that will pay for itself in about 15 years of time and optical lens purchases, while of course, enjoying my regained vision for the rest of my life.
posted by artificialard at 10:29 AM on August 31, 2011

The best way to think about this is people and their stuff. Doesn't matter what the hobby or activity is, people (especially men) just like to overthink their gear.

The hard truth is you can't buy your game or life experience off the shelf. Sure, there's a level of complete garbage that will absolutely frustrate and hold you back and keep you from doing what you should be doing (see: low end windows machines). But once you pay enough for competent gear that "just works" and doesn't get in your way, the rest is on you.

I've personally gone through this with tennis rackets, tennis strings, tennis stringing machines, bikes, bike parts, skis, electronic equipment, etc. etc. etc. - just about anything you can consume can be thought of in this way. At some point it's no longer the fault of the gear. At some point the gear will be capable of things far beyond what you can do with it.

Want real luxury? Sacrifice not just the expenditure for top quality instruction, but the time (and therefore income) you could have earned by working on honing your skills, instead.

Your question, when asked a different way, is really "what should people spend more money on?" The answers are well covered: shoes, haircuts, knives, etc. There's tons of stuff out there that's compromised beyond basic competence to meet a price point. Spend for quality, not for bling. The hard part is knowing where that point is for any given market segment. Simply saying "spend as much you can on x" as a rule of thumb doesn't really get you what you want. Sometimes the price point you want is higher than you'd expect (see: bikes, knives). Sometimes it's way less (see similar AskMe question about cheap luxuries).
posted by NoRelationToLea at 11:19 AM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

Kitchen Aid ProLine coffee grinder (I make french press, not espresso).

The cheaper burr grinders are all garbage in one way or the other - hard to clean, plastic smell, prone to breakage or jams, heating up and affecting your coffee. The ProLine is built like a tank and does everything perfectly. (But again, it will not do a really fine espresso grind).
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:30 AM on August 31, 2011

MacBook Pro: I can't stand the feeling of other laptops now. Especially plastic ones with loose, clunky hinges.

The lens implant for cataract surgery (insurance doesn't cover that part, but the difference in vision is incredible).

Kitchen Aid stand mixer: I use it all the time, for everything from mashed potatoes to cake batter to bread dough.
posted by cp311 at 12:07 PM on August 31, 2011

In the category of everyday-use items: a good wallet. My dad gave me a Burberry wallet for a graduation gift, and six years of daily use later it could use a good cleaning, but the stitching is still 100% intact, the leather binding is all still black and shiny, and the interior leather card pockets are still nice and tight. And I am hard on wallets. This wallet has fallen out of pockets while I was running to class, skidded across the asphalt, and only needed to be dusted off and the scuffs rubbed out with a bit of spit...good as new! Before this wallet I had to buy a new one about every year - if they hadn't fallen apart after a year, they looked like they were about to. I bought my now-husband a Gucci wallet five years ago, and it has held up similarly. The leather is still black and shiny, and has kept it's shape beautifully.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:24 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lasik. Best and scariest thing I've ever done. (At the time I paid $1000/eye)
posted by blue_beetle at 1:58 PM on August 31, 2011

Church's shoes - last years
A burberry raincoast - had it 5 years and it still looks like new
Anything you eat or drink.
posted by fatmouse at 3:40 PM on August 31, 2011

Eyeglass lenses and frames. Makes me actually want to wear them because I look nice and I can see very very clearly.
posted by mcbeth at 4:26 PM on August 31, 2011

I used to own an expensive BMW, and my cheap(er) VW Golf tdi has made me infinitely happier than the Bimmer ever did. All that thing did was require expensive maintenance on its expensive tires and expensive electronics system. Something that's a pain in the ass quickly loses its luster.

That being said, I have never regretted spending top dollar on:

- my tempurpedic mattress and matching pillows. It's an amazing feeling to wake up with no sore spots or aches, every. single. day.

- Shun chefs knife. That thing can slice through a watermelon without batting an eye. Or, sometimes, my fingers. :)

- top of the line hair cut, every 3 months. I've never regretted a $60+ haircut, but I've often regretted a $40 one.

- really good make-up. It doesn't clog your pores, goes on smoothly and doesn't look like you're wearing make-up. I'm a big fan of Laura Mercier products.

- really good bras/undergarments. Switching from Victoria's Secret crap to Natori has been an amazing eye-opening experience for me. Added bonus: no more neck and shoulder aches.

- Le Crueset products will never let you down.
posted by corn_bread at 5:11 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Custom orthotics (mine were about $500/foot) versus Spenco (or, God forbid, a cheaper brand) arch support inserts.
posted by jgirl at 5:49 PM on August 31, 2011

If you have a hobby that is skill-based, shelling out for workshops and lessons can really create a lot of satisfaction. Personal, one-on-one instruction from a rockstar teacher is likely to be worth it. (Not a literal rockstar, unless your hobby is playing rock music. but you get the idea).

See also this on experiences being more satisfying than possessions (well, duh). I'm not disagreeing with the answers here, btw--I think many of them are getting at ways to improve everyday experiences.
posted by aka burlap at 6:45 PM on August 31, 2011

(In addition to many, many of the above - Mac, Lasik, good shoes...) Quality makeup brushes and really great foundation. Jane Iredale mineral makeup or By Terry liquid is worth every penny. So are MAC makeup brushes.

Dresses and jackets for work are also a splurge I love - I buy classic styles that will last a number of years.

Paying a little extra for a "cats only" vet for my kitty.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:59 PM on August 31, 2011

Quality instruction, whatever this means for you. For some people it's taking a month-long class, for others, it's buying the best books on a subject, never mind the $75 price tag. Once you're past the most basic level of things, YouTube is no longer an adequate teacher.

Quality linens, *assuming* that you do not have especially dry feet. If you do have dry feet, buy really wonderful blankets and cheap-as-chips sheets--high-thread-count sheets are a higher thread count because they use finer threads in the fabric, which feels amazing. The downside, though, is that if you have especially coarse skin on your feet, your heels will shred the hell out of these gorgeous, silky, hundred-dollar sheets within a month.

Regardless of the niceness of your feet, I feel strongly that an eiderdown/down blanket, one made with 100% natural down, is a bargain at twice the price. Often you can find these marked down come about March.

Quality products for your home. If you're a neat freak, suck it up and buy that $500 vacuum. If you love baking, get the fancy KitchenAid and the double oven you've been coveting. If you hate being cold, invest in fantastic insulation and a high-powered heating system; if you hate being hot, do the same in reverse. I know people who've done all of these things and feel that their lives are dramatically improved; should I ever have spare money, this will be the first thing I'll be doing.
posted by MeghanC at 10:19 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oster Fast Feed hair clippers do the job better than the others.

Rancillio Rocky coffee grinders are heavy because they're made with REAL metal parts.

Titanium mountain bikes and titanium-railed bike seats. Park bike tools.

Blendtec blender.

Evoluent ergonomic computer mouse (no more carpal tunnel syndrome).
posted by rumbles at 11:11 PM on August 31, 2011

Smartwool socks
posted by ghharr at 5:57 AM on September 1, 2011

SMPA: "and I know few unhappy BMW/Audi/Mercedes owners (well, except when it snows a lot.)"

Revise that to "except for when they get the bill from the mechanic."

Lovely cars, they are. Reliable...not quite so much, and quite costly to maintain.

If you want a car that's upscale and will last forever, you buy an Acura or Lexus.

On the other hand, newer AWD BMW/Audi/Mercedes cars are all fantastic in the snow. I own a 12-year-old Audi A4 Quattro that I bought specifically because it performs ridiculously well in the snow.

Still, it's not the most reliable thing in the world. On average, an important part falls off of it about once a year, and my A/C doesn't work because a $300 fan belt needs to be replaced, which I refuse to pay for out of principle.

That said, I do like the car quite a bit, and will probably buy another once something really big falls off of it. Stockholm syndrome, I guess...
posted by schmod at 8:33 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mmmm, expensive stuff. I'll vote for good physiotherapy and sports instruction.

Get good instruction so you don't hurt yourself, but go to physio when something starts hurting, and do the prescribed exercises until it is better. $65/session is cheap compared to a knee that keeps degenerating for the last 20 years of your life due to a weak leg muscle. I've seen so many people drop out of physio due to the cost saying "Oh I'll just do the [superpainful] exercises/stretches at home". Unless you have the will of an ubermensch, no you won't. Physiotherapy may hurt like hell, that's why you pay someone else to make sure you do it.
posted by benzenedream at 10:31 AM on September 1, 2011

A few years ago I was offered a steal of an opportunity for a Lew Stone pool cue from the man himself.

It's one of the best purchases I've ever made.
posted by SlyBevel at 7:15 PM on September 1, 2011

Bose noise-cancelling headphones, particularly if you work in a cubicle or near server racks. As my friend put it, "It's the best money spent for my sanity since moving out of my parents' house."
posted by Maarika at 12:53 PM on September 2, 2011

Calvin Klein sheets. God how I love them. Not the cheaper "home" line ones, the 230 (220?) thread count ones. (thread count is a racket, I'm just mentioning these, which may seem low for luxury sheets, so you get the right ones.) Macys often has good sales.
They are soft and crisp at once, and I am thankful for them every single day. When I am forced to use my other, perfectly decent, bedding sets, it's - ahem - night and day.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:52 AM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with mcbeth on eyeglass lenses and frames. I wear them every day, and having glasses I really like (and are really well made) makes a big difference. And I'm totally in agreement with everyone who mentioned the MacBook and iPhone.

Also, I've never regretted the money I spent on a couple things for my home office: a really good shredder (well worth the $200) and a Fujitsu ScanSnap.
posted by jeri at 12:43 PM on September 3, 2011

What's interesting with the growing list of items on this thread is the glaring omission of so many "luxury" items:

Real Estate, Artwork, Furniture, Cars (contested), Food, Wine, Vacation.

Rolex got a single mention, but not much enthusiasm!
posted by cacofonie at 8:22 PM on September 3, 2011

I was lying in bed when it hit me: our bedroom set! We bought our lovely Mission-style bed from the Roguewood Furniture Company, but there are also custom manufacturers putting out some amazing pieces. You can get quality used pieces from fancier makers like Stickley for relatively reasonable prices. That should give you a clue as to why this furniture will change your life: it lasts forever. The key thing to look for is "quarter-sawn" wood, which is much more expensive and much more durable, especially in very hard woods like oak. We got cherry, which will dent a little more easily, but it's gorgeous and practically glows with warmth. The other thing to look for is that the pieces should not wobble at all, because the joints are dovetailed or mortised and tenoned. If you can flex the frame with your hands, it's junk.

99% of furniture is literally designed to break. I mean that quite seriously, the connections between the pieces of wood are flimsy, significant sections are made of particle board, and the veneer is applied in such a way as to come off even if you're gentle. Go into any furniture store, look around and you'll likely see nothing but future garbage (literally). Whereas you can literally stand in the drawers of Real Furniture. Try it. You might think US$5K is a preposterous amount to pay for a bedroom set, but per year it's actually cheaper (see above, lasts forever). Our set is at least five years old and looks as good as the day we bought it, with no maintenance other that dusting. Our bedroom is a sanctuary now.
posted by wnissen at 3:39 AM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

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