What medium-sized indulgence could around $1000 buy?
May 7, 2014 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I'm not looking for investment advice or money-savings advice. Pretty much the opposite. I'm looking for ideas of things that I could do with around $1000 - it could be a weekend trip, a premium consumer product, or something that will benefit me for a long time. Snowflake details inside, but really anything that comes to mind would be great!

So, some snowflake details to try to help with follow up questions -

-I've been meeting all of my financial goals. I've saved my emergency savings, started my 401K with my employer, and started paying down my student loans. I've been doing so good at meeting my goals, I have a bit left over, every month!
-I live in an apartment.
-I live in the Midwest United States.
-I already have a nice (or at least as nice as I want, I think) car/computer/bike/tv/sound system
-I don't have much artwork or interior design (it would be mostly temporary because of the nature of apartment living)
-I commute to work every day for around 80 minutes.
-I do a lot of low-cost hobbies like video games, geocaching, morel hunting (usually unsuccessfully), hiking, camping, biking, sleeping, watching netflix, reading (on my second-gen kindle), listening to pandora/itunes radio, volunteer, exercise
-I eat out around half the time and cook the other half.
-I have a girlfriend and I frequently (probably too much!) give her gifts of flowers, perfume, dinners or movies out.

I don't usually travel, go to concerts, go on road trips, build things with my hands, decorate my cubicle, go to casinos, have pets, grow plants, spend a lot on clothes (too complicated!), or go out on boats very often.

If nothing has come to mind yet, here are some specific questions that might help stimulate an answer :)

-What should I spend $1000 on that would improve my life?
-What did you spend $1000 that was definitely "worth it" that you didn't need to spend the money on?
-If you had $1000, what would you spend it on?
posted by bbqturtle to Grab Bag (85 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Really nice bedding - sheets/duvet/pillows. You can take it with you when you move and you'll use it and love it every day. Probably not enough in your target amount to upgrade your mattress, but that's a great move too.
posted by handful of rain at 10:06 AM on May 7, 2014 [13 favorites]

A leather jacket.
posted by Dragonness at 10:09 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Cooking classes, to increase your repertoire of dishes, knife speed, and confidence in the kitchen. Hearkening back to one of your previous questions, this will save you time.
posted by Liesl at 10:10 AM on May 7, 2014 [6 favorites]

An excellent mattress was my first thought but I agree with the above comment that 1k would likely not be enough. Very excellent pillows and bedding would also be a great choice too. Also some super nice (maybe cashmere) socks always make the winter better, I have spent a startling amount of money on socks this past winter.
posted by elizardbits at 10:10 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

A musical instrument and lessons.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 10:13 AM on May 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Multiple sessions with a trainer or masseuse.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:14 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd take a class or a trip. Both of these things give you skills and memories which will benefit you in the future.

Check out the local community center or community college. Maybe pottery, gardening, painting, glass fusing, musical instruments, home improvement, cooking etc. Classes like those in my area tend to be around $500-$800, plus a good chunk leftover for supplies to continue with in the future.
posted by fontophilic at 10:16 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Take some sort of trip, definitely. See if you can find a reasonably cheap flight somewhere, stay in a cheapish hotel, and just walk around, go to museums, whatever. I think Istanbul would be great for this -- it's exciting, there's tons of awesome stuff to see, much of it inexpensive, and food and things are relatively cheap (I think; it's been a while). More domestically (and thus signficantly cheaper) if you've never been to the American Southwest do that; my husband and I are both from the East Coast and we went to Santa Fe a few years ago and it was super awesome, plus we got to see pueblos and things. Also Southwest flies there so that will save you a lot of money on airfare and give you more options for your stay. If you want more excitement/terror/unpredictability, take a week off and look for last minute deals ANYWHERE so you can just grab a bag and go have a relatively unplanned adventure.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:17 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you like cooking, you could easily rip through a grand buying high quality knives and pans.
posted by thelonius at 10:17 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would probably go on a road trip. A good road trip will last longer in your soul than most things you can buy. $1000 will get you to Southern Utah and back to the Midwest, camping along the way and not eating in fancy places. Drive out through Colorado down into the Canyonlands, hike all over, camp in out-of-the-way places, get away from humans for a while. $1000 would about cover your gas and food for a couple week trip.

Barring that, if you do a lot of camping, some good camping gear (hammocks, nice tent, good sleeping bag) will do you wonders.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:17 AM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Browse kickstarter and divvy up the $1K, unless something really touches you and you want to make that big splash.
posted by Sophont at 10:18 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would buy some original art and have it framed really nicely. If that's not your thing, my runner up would definitely be travel.
posted by quince at 10:19 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

If your camping and hiking involves backpacking, ulltralight gear could eat up that $1000 pretty fast.

If you can get the time off, go visit someone you like who you haven't seen in a long time.

Think of something that's broken and annoys you, but isn't really essential to fix or that you think you should get around to fixing on your own. Pay someone to just take care of it.

Throw a great party for your friends.
posted by juliapangolin at 10:19 AM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Generally, it doesn't matter that you're in an apartment, you can still furnish it like an actual adult and not like a college student. Put things on your walls. Yes, you'll have different walls eventually, but chances are good that whatever you get now will still work on your next apartment's walls, too. Get living room furniture with upholstery that matches. Get decent linens. (Besides bedding, also towels.) Don't wait to do this stuff until you have a house, you'll feel better in your space for having it look like you really live there.
posted by Sequence at 10:19 AM on May 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh, as far as furniture goes, clearly that can run way more than $1k, but if you've got excess money coming in on an ongoing basis, this turns into an ongoing project, not a one-time purchase.
posted by Sequence at 10:20 AM on May 7, 2014

Help out an organization that protects chimpanzees or hippos or other large mammal. They usually have some kind of "adoption" process.
posted by perhapses at 10:20 AM on May 7, 2014

A Schott Leather jacket. It will make you look cool, it is dramatically expensive, but NOT overpriced. It will last you forever. The GP style jackets are neither punk rock nor motorcycle specific, and have a timeless look.

Go to art galleries and find a piece of art you love.

Buy a fountain pen and learn to write with it.

Buy something that will bring you joy every time it arouses your senses, and will last you a very very long time.
posted by bensherman at 10:23 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am old enough to recall the frivolously expensive purchases of my youth. The ones that I would make again:'

1. Nice knives; I still have knives I bought at 19/20 with birthday money.

2. Nice pots and pans - I've had many of my pans for fifteen years now and it's gotten way, way harder to find good ones in thrift stores (I have some I bought new and a few fortunate finds). I like the top of the line Calphalon, Le Creuset, Kitchenaid. Consult Cooks' Illustrated pan comparisons for recommendations.

3. Washable feather blanket; good quality feather pillows. (Technically as a vegan I can't buy such things any more; I'm still cruising on the ones from years ago.) High quality flannel blankets.

4. High quality scarves. It's easy to lose hats and gloves, and I rarely spend money on them. Bags and other accessories fall out of fashion. But a couple of really nice scarves? You're set for years!

5. Books. I've regretted very few book purchases and it's enormously useful to have them in paper so that they are not restricted in terms of having access to electricity, DRM, possible corporate foolishness, etc.

6. Paintings and a tiny sculpture. I have a couple of paintings by local artists that I really like. It's easy to take paintings with when you move unless they're absolutely enormous. I also have a tiny bronze that I bought in my early twenties and I really like it.

7. Folding stacking bookshelves in good wood.

Things I have regretted: unusually expensive clothes (get tired of them, gain or lose weight, they deteriorate); fancy small appliances (break); cashmere socks (cashmere is fragile and deteriorates if machine washed; it's a drag to hand-wash and hang-dry your socks).

One thing: you could buy a nice armchair with that money. That's something you'd have to move and it's a real commitment. But I have three family chairs from when average chairs were well-made, and they're really nice. I'll probably never be able to afford a nice chair again and I always hope that nothing ever happens to the ones I've got.
posted by Frowner at 10:23 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Throw a great party for your friends.

This is a neat idea too and would give you the chance to share an awesome experience with the people about whom you car and to share the money while still getting something out of it. Figure out something you wouldn't normally do like renting a party space or a boat to take a tour down the river, rent a bowling alley and have everyone wear black tie or dress for a masquerade ball, have someone do fancy catering at your apartment and have like a gourmet pajama party, something like that.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:23 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

You could get a really nice globe with a floor stand for that kind of money.
posted by duffell at 10:26 AM on May 7, 2014

I met a guy who listed his top 5 experiences,
Machu Pichu, Burning Man, kayaking the Grand Canyon, BASE jumping, the Landmark Forum
posted by otherchaz at 10:27 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

A weekend trip with your girlfriend to someplace interesting or a year's membership to a climbing gym (assuming this exists in your area).
posted by Cuke at 10:28 AM on May 7, 2014

Save more money and buy an expensive mattress. I just got one this year and I love it so much I would have paid twice what I did for it. It's the best thing I have ever spent money on. Besides my cats.
posted by something something at 10:28 AM on May 7, 2014

I would significantly upgrade my wardrobe and turn it into a uniform. I know what brands and sizes I like already and would like to just get rid of everything that isn't that and replace it all. I would love to throw away all of my socks and underwear and buy a bunch of the one kind I know I love and never worry about losing a sock again. Teeshirts I'd like to do the same thing with - just get rid of all the ill fitting ones and replace with a brand you know you like. That would greatly enhance my quality of life, anyhow! And it isn't complicated - it makes dressing every day so so easy to have a uniform.

If you don't own a washer/dryer that would also be a good investment. Going to the laundromat is a pain.

Really good shoes. That makes a difference in life.

A treadmill or other piece of exercise equipment.

Some great cookware. Le creuset is my favorite. Get two or three of their nice cast iron pieces. They cook well and last many lifetimes.

Start donating money regularly to a charity that matters to you. Regularly. Just fold it in to your saving for retirement and paying off your student loans.

On that note, pay off your student loans faster if you can.

Enjoy your success!
posted by sockermom at 10:29 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

-clothing: a couple of well-made classic pieces that will last you years.

-cooking: a quality knife makes a huge difference. I LOVE my Le Cruset hard-anodized fry pan, but high end kitchenware is the kind of thing I tend to think is only worth buying if you know you're really going to use it.

-travel: $1k might not buy you the trip of your dreams, but it's a great start.

If it was me, I would just save the money until something I really wanted came up. Since it seems like you've only been living on your own a few years, having a cushion beyond an emergency fund can be great. Most of my indulgent purchases in the past few years have been replacing the a few of the lower quality things I bought when I got my first apartment, things like a chef's knife, cookware, bedding, a mattress, closet/storage organization.
posted by inertia at 10:29 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

A couple of really nice fountain pens and expensive blank books would be what I would do.
posted by jbickers at 10:29 AM on May 7, 2014

A few skydiving lessons.
posted by desjardins at 10:29 AM on May 7, 2014

Rather than giving you specific ideas, I'll give you my thought process.

Here are my rules for "how money can make me happy."
  1. Spend money on experiences, not stuff.
  2. Spend money on experiences I like and that interest me, not ones that are "good for me."
  3. Spend money on things that will help me to remember the fun experiences I'm having.
So let me give you an example.

I love to collect rum, and I enjoy making classic tiki cocktails. Last year, after a generous bonus from my employer, I decided to take a weeklong road trip out to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In each city, I visited some of the best tiki bars in the country. I also visited some great shops and liquor stores where I could pick up cool souvenirs (interesting kinds of rum, new barware, new syrups and bitters).

The trip was a blast. I pursued something I was interested in, I had a great time, and I still look back on it fondly. I learned new things, took lots of great pictures, and brought home some new stuff to try.

So I would look at your own list of interests or things you've "never done," and think about what would really be fun. Look for an experience you would enjoy, and find things you can buy that help to make that experience fun (or help you to remember that experience).

Just as a start, maybe a weekend trip to a large neighboring city, where you could go to 2-3 top notch restaurants in a style you enjoy (Italian, Greek, French, Japanese, etc.)?
posted by Old Man McKay at 10:31 AM on May 7, 2014 [12 favorites]

I have a lot of artist friends but I can't always afford their work, so I would use some of the money for that.

Then I would book an appointment for a professional mani-pedi and massage. Massages are wonderful.

Then I would buy an expensive (for me) bottle of alcohol.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:32 AM on May 7, 2014

Agreeing that travel is a wonderful way to spend some extra disposable cash because you not only get the fun of the trip, but you get wonderful memories as well. You don't have to take a big trip to another country--you can pack a lot of fun into a long weekend.

Also furniture that you really like--our next furniture acquisition is likely to be a really supremely comfy armchair for reading/watching TV.

I asked this question a while back and got some great suggestions and ended up spending the money on the piece of art I had been thinking about. I really, really love it and have no regrets.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 10:36 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Some replies - I really love everyones ideas, but there are some questions here so I'll try to answer a few:

Bedding: This is a great idea! I usually use the tee-shirt sheets from target and replace them when they wear out. I've never found any nice sheets that seem better, but I'm open to ideas!

Jacket: I don't really want to spend it on just a thing. I mean, I do, but I'm just not sure I could pull off a leather jacket.

Classes: These are a good idea but I think my girlfriend is surprising me with these soon. I also took a photography class 4 years ago at the local arts center and it was enjoyable, but my interest tapered off quickly after the class ended. Ditto with my Chinese calligraphy class.

Mattress: I just bought a super nice memory foam mattress for around $600 that I am still happy with off of amazon. It got really big out of the box, really fast :)

Trip: The hard part about trips is that I would need to take time off work, and so far I only get 2 weeks a year, which I usually take around holidays in order to see family/friends.

Trainer/Masseuse - I've never done this before, I would love tips/suggestions/correct price points/ what to expect :)

Kitchen Equipment - I have okay enough pots and pans and knives to cook everything I really want to. I think it's possible (and about the same difficulty) to cook with crappy pans as it is >$2000 pans.

Kickstarter - I'm kind of looking for a way to do something OTHER than just give my money to strangers. Even if they seem like up-and-coming strangers.

Original art - I would love suggestions on how to find/value/prices for framing/sizes/fitting art to rooms. This sounds interesting but the information on the internet seems sparse.

Camping - I usually car camp. Backpacking seems like fun, but not much more fun than camping on saturday and going running on sunday.

Visiting friends - my friends are mostly local, helps that I've always lived in my city.

Broken things - I tend to fix these.

Party - my friends seem busy, and though they would like this, they don't really drink, so I don't know exactly what the money would go toward. Love the idea though!

Furniture - It's really hard for me to invest in furniture because it's hard for me to gauge value/fit in a room besides measuring the stuff so it will literally fit, and picking up the corner of the couch to see if it twists. I would love advice or links to this as well. I've considered hiring a designer but I don't know that process either.

Charity - I don't dislike this idea. I'm just scared of overhead/the whole goat problem/organizations that don't really help the animals. Also, besides fuzzy feelings I wouldn't really get any experiences/long term gains from this.

Globe - I don't think I'd enjoy this. I'm not very traveled.

I love the variety of ideas and experiences! Please keep them coming!
posted by bbqturtle at 10:38 AM on May 7, 2014

I'd do a luxurious long weekend. Husbunny and I upgraded our cruise one year to the Owners Suite, and the experience was exponentially better than any cruise we've been on previously.

Huge room, three litres of bottled spirits, a bottle of champaign, a butler. We were invited to dinner with the Captain, a private tour of the bridge of the ship, and a private pool only for the hoitiest-toitiest guests. Yes. I like being privilaged, even temporarily.

Go to the fanciest, shmanciest place you can think of an easy drive of where you are, check in and go first class for the entire weekend. Breakfast in bed, high tea in the afternoon. A facial. Whatever floats your boat.

You'll remember it fondly for a very long time. The only thing I'd caution is don't give your girlfriend the impression that this is a precursor to a proposal, because that could be bad.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:46 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Even you're even the least bit lax when it comes to cleaning and organization, get maid service. You don't realize how much cleaning weighs on you until you don't really have to do it anymore. A thousand would probably buy a year's worth of biweekly deep cleaning sessions for an average size apartment in the Midwest. Maybe you could bump it to weekly for a little more.
posted by Willie0248 at 10:47 AM on May 7, 2014 [10 favorites]

$1000 is around the lower bound for buying a motorcycle in working condition.
posted by 256 at 10:47 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

re: trainer or masseuse - both of mine cost about $100 per 1hr session so you could presumably get a 10 pack of sessions (or even more as you live somewhere more reasonably priced than nyc) at a local gym or spa
posted by elizardbits at 10:48 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't favorite good knives hard enough. You think they don't make a big difference until you've had one or two and then you realize how much better your life is for having them. This baby is a perfect first step into the world of cooking joy.
posted by janey47 at 10:49 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

(To my mind, nice pans and knives make a difference in cooking for two reasons. The first is easier to compensate for - heat distribution. A well-made heavy pan distributes and holds heat much better than a cheap one, so it's easier to cook things evenly without burning. The second is simply not having to replace them. I really like knowing that I can use my cookware pretty hard, wash it and repeat for decades and...it's just fine. I'd say that I cook much more now than I did when I was younger and having the pans has enabled that, since I know that I can do complicated things without burning/sticking problems.)
posted by Frowner at 10:51 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, my, uh, "friend" and I once booked a room in a fancy hotel for one night, a couple miles from our apartments. We had so much fun and, two years later, it's still a memory we look back on fondly.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:53 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would spend it on travel, even if you can't take time off of work. You probably have cool things within driving distance of you, and friends to experience them with. Rent a house near the cool place (or a houseboat on a lake, a cabin in the mountains, etc.) through AirBnB and round up a half dozen of your friends for a weekend. Skip out of work at 3 or 4 or Friday, pack lots of booze and good food, and go have a blast. I'm currently planning a similar trip for August, and the cost all-in will be maybe $100 apiece. So you can do this TEN TIMES. And each time it gives you something to look forward to between now and whenever it's scheduled.

You will not regret money spent on traveling with friends.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:55 AM on May 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do you have a good suit? A good tux?
posted by General Malaise at 10:55 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't buy something for the sake of buying something. Don't LOOK for something to spend that money on. The money won't rot or disappear if you don't spend it now. Put the money in the bank and wait until something totally fabulous, exciting, and awesome comes up that you really want and then spend the money on that. And I promise you, something will come up that you will know immediately "THIS is what I want to spend that money on!".

You never know, you may find out that your favourite band ever that broke up a decade ago is doing a ONE NIGHT ONLY reunion performance.

Seriously. Wait until the thing that is worth the money comes along. You'll know it when you see it.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:56 AM on May 7, 2014 [23 favorites]

I like PuppetMcSockerson's answer -- if you have to specifically look for something to drop the cash on, it's probably not time to do it.
posted by Gymnopedist at 11:01 AM on May 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you were a woman, I'd suggest monthly skincare at a medical spa (like microderm abrasion, or a glycolic peel). If you have any skin problems, look into it!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:03 AM on May 7, 2014

Charity - I don't dislike this idea. I'm just scared of overhead/the whole goat problem/organizations that don't really help the animals.

This is the reason sites like Charity Navigator exist. They even have specific animal categories.
posted by saeculorum at 11:05 AM on May 7, 2014

Research has shown that for the most part experiences provide more long term happiness than buying things does. I think there are a number of exceptions to that thought. Couple of ideas:

A 3 day workshop in the area of your choice/interest.
If you want to buy something, you could get a rather nice smaller oriental carpet that would give you a lifetime of enjoyment if you are into such things.

have fun! what a nice problem
posted by jcworth at 11:06 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

RE: motorcycle - love this kind of idea :)
RE - Trainer. I'm going to do this. Well, at least one time and see how it goes. Thanks!
Re - keeping/investing it, I probably will, but I love to know options. Maybe I'll do a little of this or a little of that, but I want to invest in experiences unlike my parents who just kept it all in an account all the time.
RE: sensational night with girlfriend - we don't need to spend money to have a great time :) but we already go out to nice dinners too often haha :)
RE: Good suit - No, I don't have a good suit. However, I have only had 1 occasion in the last year where I needed a good suit and I wore my crappy suit and still looked well-dressed.
RE: Just don't spend it - Like I said, I probably won't, but I'd like nice new options that weren't previously open to me, and to see insights of impulse or indulgent spending that other people have been thinking about/did :)
posted by bbqturtle at 11:06 AM on May 7, 2014

I have always wanted to pick up the check of everyone in the same diner, and I estimate $1k is about how much it would take on a slow day.

If you want some art, $1k is one to three medium-sized pieces, framed. My suggestions for art are to wait until you see something you love. Don't frame something because you have to fill space, frame something you actually like looking at. You could go to arts and crafts fairs, look online at artists you like, or get a nice print from the museum gift shop of something you liked. Or you could get a professional family photo and frame that. Up to you! I'm a framer and the only people I judge are the people who hate their art and are framing it because of some status thing.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:12 AM on May 7, 2014

"Charity - I don't dislike this idea. I'm just scared of overhead/the whole goat problem/organizations that don't really help the animals. Also, besides fuzzy feelings I wouldn't really get any experiences/long term gains from this."

If you are simply concerned about making sure that the money is well-used, see Givewell for well-vetted charities.

And certainly there's no need to give up all indulgences, but it sounds like you can afford to both give money to charity and enjoy yourself, as most of us can.

And if you want to combine the two, look for local charity auctions, which often include art and local entertainment and restaurants, for example.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:17 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I want a kayak, but I live in a warmer climate than you. If you enjoy camping see if any state parks near you rent kayaks. Try it, you might like it.
posted by mareli at 11:18 AM on May 7, 2014

You can turn a 12' x 12' room into a roughly 3' deep ball pit for about $800. I spec'd it out a while back. This is the most cost-effective source I found for balls.
posted by phunniemee at 11:18 AM on May 7, 2014 [11 favorites]

Just yesterday i spent $1000 on a motorcycle.

Also, you could buy a drone/quadcopter for that, and I think those are really cool.

If I didn't already have a more expensive sailboat, I'd find an old small one for $1000 and get that.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:19 AM on May 7, 2014

You said you "don't usually...have pets", but does that mean you wouldn't want a pet? $1000 is a good chunk of change with which to get a puppy (from a shelter!) and all the vaccinations/spading/neutering/food/gear/training (for you and the puppy!) that go along with owning one.

And IMHO, it would improve your life immeasurably. Unconditional love is hard to come by these days! But beware, a puppy is a lot of work. You could always go for an already trained older dog, too.
posted by Grither at 11:20 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am not being a smartass here, but just throwing this idea out there as a possibility as a contrast to the various consumables ideas: give a large chunk of it, or even all of it, to a charity that you know will do a lot of good with it. CharityNavigator can help you double-check that it's not going to all go to the CEO's salary.

I can't say for sure that I'd do that very thing if I were in your shoes, but for example, my local food bank advertises that they make four meals out of every dollar. So the thought of providing 4,000 meals — that could make me feel pretty good in and of itself.

I'm not saying it's what you gotta do, I'm just saying it's an option you could toss in the mix.
posted by WCityMike at 11:22 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Would you want a camera?

I own a DSLR but had a problem with carrying it on hikes and camping trips because of the bulk and complexity. For $800 you can get a Canon G1X, like I just did- It's an amazingly high-quality camera that is intuitive to operate and fits in a (large) pocket.

Photography has really brought me a lot of pleasure- of course there's a lot to learn but you can produce good pictures the very first day if you point the camera at a pretty view. And later you can hang up prints! And cliched as it is, carrying a camera really changed my way of looking at things. It's also great for feeling like you're "doing something" wherever you are, rather than just awkwardly wandering around.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:22 AM on May 7, 2014

I have a bad record with mini quadcopter and breaking/crashing, etc.

I still haven't found one that really isn't effected by the wind, even though they say the algorithm is built-in.

Maybe all of mine have been too light-weight, but I've pretty much given up on RC because of how consistently gusty it is around me.
posted by bbqturtle at 11:22 AM on May 7, 2014

For what it's worth (and this might not be up your alley), I would probably take the $1,000 and put it all in on getting SCUBA certified and any equipment I could after that -- I think at the university I attend you can get open water PADI certified through a guy affiliated with the SCUBA club for about $300, and you can rent any equipment you don't own. That instantly opens you up to a lot of new experiences, which folks on here have pointed out make you happy in the long term better than stuff. However, I live in Florida, so good diving is never far away -- I'm not sure what it's like in your corner of the Midwest.

If not that, I would personally probably spend it on homebrewing stuff. You could make some seriously good beer for a fraction of $1000, and it's a very fun hobby if you like that sort of thing. Nice intersection of art + science. That's just me personally, though; the hobby may not tick the same boxes for you.
posted by Gymnopedist at 11:22 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some other objects I've bought that give me pleasure because of how cool they are on a daily basis:

- A high-quality messenger bag.
- Designer sunglasses, customized for my prescription and to my preferences as far as lens color, mirroring, etc.
- A Casio Pathfinder watch for hiking with compass, altimeter, etc.
- A customized coffee table I'm having handmade by someone on Etsy (don't have it yet but I'm assuming I'll love it)
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:26 AM on May 7, 2014

As far as experiences, I'm signed up for a (beginning) adventure in the Sierras with Andrew Skurka this fall. He's renowned within the outdoor community and offers everything from backpacking basics to crazy bushwacking rafting trips in Alaska!
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:27 AM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also came in to say really kickass party.

It doesn't have to be a drinking thing - you could take a group out to a really nice restaurant, or you could buy a few box seats to a summer concert series with your local philharmonic (or whatever music suits your tastes), or a few tickets to a great sporting event.

I've been learning lately as I've been de-cluttering my house that memories last a lot longer than stuff.
posted by vignettist at 11:38 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you like sports, a pair of front row tickets to your favorite team is an awesome experience. We got some really cheap on stubhub for a pre-season game where tons of season ticket holders had abandoned their tickets that day - it was so much fun to sit right down near the action rather than up in the stands or watch on TV.

We decided that it was not something that we could do on a regular basis, but if the chance ever came up again, we would do it.
posted by CathyG at 11:42 AM on May 7, 2014

If you don't already play, I would take tennis or golf lessons. Both are "lifetime sports" and will help you stay active throughout your life. Both also lead to some nice travel destinations and good friendships.

It's sort of a dorky suggestion, but if I had it to do over I'd have learned to really play golf when I was much younger.
posted by 26.2 at 11:55 AM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Spend ~$100 on some really good cast iron pans. I just got a couple of Lodge ones, and I love them.

Spend $20 on some really good bacon, and go to town seasoning those suckers. Then throw a Bacon Party!

Spend the remaining $880 on weekend trips to different cities in the Midwest - Madison, WI in the summer, Chicago, Minneapolis, Toronto (may be a stretch, but I don't know where you are), etc. Splurge on a nice hotel room or bed and breakfast for each.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:57 AM on May 7, 2014

[Comment removed; bbqturtle, if you want to post a separate question some time about charitable giving, that's fine, but it's not really kosher to piggyback an entirely separate question into the middle of this one.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:02 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

What should I spend $1000 on that would improve my life?

That depends on what aspects of your life you feel need improving. From what you've written, you have all the first- and second-tier needs and many basic wants covered. You have a mix of active and sedentary hobbies, and a group of busy friends (busy is good; it means they have lives and are interesting) and a girlfriend.

Think back to any time when you've thought or said some variation of "If only I had ___, I could do ___". Think back to the hobbies you had as a teen and young adult. Maybe now is a good time to pick one of them back up. You could take art or improv classes, join a community chorus or orchestra, take lessons on an instrument similar to one you played in your youth (so that it's familiar, but not boring), join an adult sports league or take up an endurance sport like trail running or mountain biking (this, because you mentioned hiking and camping).

You also mentioned geocaching. Have you tried Letterboxing? It's like geocaching, but a bit less techy. I like that it brings me to interesting places, and love that it makes seemingly-ordinary places more interesting by revealing the adventures that have taken place there.

You mentioned eating out. How about trying a service like Blue Apron? They deliver recipes and boxes of fresh, pre-measured ingredients to you at intervals. Their lesat-expensive plan is about $60.00 a week (three meals for two people). There's no contract, and you can skip a week if you want to. This buys you food, convenience, something to do, and time doing all of this with your girlfriend (if she's up for it). I haven't tried the service; it was a little steeply-priced, but I liked the idea.

-What did you spend $1000 that was definitely "worth it" that you didn't need to spend the money on?

Experiences, e.g., trips with my husband, and races that required travel.

-If you had $1000, what would you spend it on?

1) A tandem bike. I'm a runner who's visually impaired, my husband is a competitive cyclist (sighted). We'd love to tour the state and country on a tandem. I'd also love to start doing triathlons (I realize that those are two different bikes, but you have to start somewhere :) ). We've been saving, and are monitoring Craigslist.

2) An object-oriented-programming boot camp. I've been studying C# on my own for several months (and OOP in general for a few more). I don't work in tech. I don't have to learn it, but it's interesting and fun. A structured setting would help me take what I've learned to the next level. It doesn't matter to me whether or not I ever work as a programmer; there's a thrill inherent in building the mental structures that are needed to house and manipulate new kinds of information. Bonus: it's helping me get better at defining problems and selecting and implementing the best solutions. Boot camps are expensive, but local college classes are more reasonable, so that's in my future.

Good luck to you! If you can't think of anything now, tuck the money away and think of it like a gift certificate. Something will come to you.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 12:13 PM on May 7, 2014

Bedding: This is a great idea! I usually use the tee-shirt sheets from target and replace them when they wear out. I've never found any nice sheets that seem better, but I'm open to ideas!

Linen sheets. (Previously.)
posted by editorgrrl at 12:17 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Linen sheets. (Previously.)

The last comment on there seems to recommend I don't get the sheets. I don't like very wrinkly covers, and I am on a wash-the-sheets-once-a-month routine.
posted by bbqturtle at 12:21 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have these linen sheets from Pottery Barn, and wash them every ten days or so. I slept 10.5 hours the first night.
posted by editorgrrl at 12:26 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it were me: A good quality telescope + finder+ good eyepieces.
posted by Poldo at 12:27 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

If I had $1,000, I would hire someone to clean my apartment so I don't have to do it. Even if it couldn't be every week, I would LOVE it.

I have an Audible subscription, which would be great for your 80 minute commute. I get many more books read and am thoroughly entertained anytime I'm in my car. I haven't listened to the radio in a couple of years simply because I always have a book to listen to.
posted by stampsgal at 12:49 PM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you like Target t-shirt sheets, you're going to LOVE Garnet Hill jersey knit sheets, which have been recommended on the green previously, as have GH linen and flannel sheets. I can personally recommend the jersey knit as insanely comfortable and long-wearing, and a huge step up from cheaper brands in quality. I believe they still unconditionally guarantee your satisfaction for the life of the product, but you'd need to confirm that.
posted by ClaireBear at 1:07 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about the longest-term thing you could buy: a tattoo? $1000 would be enough for some nice work.

For art, just go to some local art galleries and/or shows. See what kinds of things you like. Developing a taste, knowing what you like, is the first step.

It sounds silly but a set of good-quality dining room chairs is something that makes me happy every day. Furniture in general, if it's good quality, is not a bad investment.

If I had the money I'd probably buy a hand-made spinning wheel or a good weaving loom. That's about the breaking point on a lot of decent quality hobby tools or equipment. Flying lessons are somewhere in that range if I remember correctly from my flying friend. Even if you don't generally travel far, it's a nice view, and a faster way to get to cities in the region if you have a local flying club that shares planes.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:07 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

For $1000 you could buy both of you guys burning man tickets on STEP, a cheap ass walmart tent, some crappy canned food, a bunch of jugs of water, and a couple other small things you'd need.

You'll have probably $400ish left over. Buy a Sony NEX on keh photo for $99-130(check the wiki page, get the newest entry level model available at the time for cheap on their site. Probably a 3n or f3), then buy a really cheap sony 16-50 lens on amazon marketplace for another $120-130. This collapses VERY small when off and will pop into a jacket pocket.

Spend the rest on gas money for someone else whose driving there.

Every single person I know who goes says it's worth blowing your vacation days on. I finally said fuck it this year and did well... Basically exactly what I just described with my $1000.

Have a blast, take tons of pictures, laugh about it later and remember it forever. Everyone I know who goes has a bunch of photos where I'm like "what's even going on there?" And they try and explain it and just give up, but it's meaningful to them.(or it looks like a totally normal photo, but has a huge story attached to it).

At this stage in my life I'm more into spending my money on experiences, and spending a smaller amount of money on something which will help me enjoy that experience that I'll also use other times.

I've asked myself this exact question before, and one time I answered it with "an awesome used tv, speakers, and used higher end home theater stuff" and while I enjoy it, I kinda wish I had kept my just-ok tv and gone somewhere.

If all your day to day use stuff is totally fine, like your not limping along a 5 year old beat up laptop or something that you actually use enough to care, then go out and do something rather than buying things.

The motorcycle idea would be my one exception to that, but I'd caution introspection and observance of local conditions there. I made an ask thread, took the MSF course from some awesome guys who showed me a lot of extra stuff, priced out used bikes and gear... And said fuck it. Why? Because I spent a lot of time cycling, driving, and walking around my city and neighborhood and observing how useless people were at driving and how likely it felt that someone would just kill me. Don't get me wrong, it's fun as hell, but my partners concern having seen the same things and my "I'm too young to die!" Thoughts kinda cancelled it out.
posted by emptythought at 1:24 PM on May 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

A nice cappuccino/espresso machine if you like fancy coffees. Don't skimp on price. You get what you pay for. I've have very good luck with models from Breville.
posted by Roger Dodger at 2:22 PM on May 7, 2014

You don't say where you are located in the Midwest, but if you are interested in art, check out the art shows in your area. For instance, Madison has a huge one in July, and Chicago has many in the summer.

You could combine an art show day trip with your girlfriend and have a nice lunch or dinner. Art is in the eye of the beholder: maybe visit a local museum or see if your area has Friday night art walks, so you can get a feel for what you like. One nice original focal piece for your living room would be fun.

It can be a painting, a cool metal sculpture, a pottery piece, whatever you like. And it doesn't have to cost $1,000.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:40 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

-I live in an apartment.
-I commute to work every day for around 80 minutes.

If you could find an apartment nearer work that's about the same rent as you're paying now, you could put the 1k towards a deposit and make your day to day life smoother. That's also what I'd do for myself. Otherwise, a couple of 3-4-day trips - one city break with a concert in there somewhere, and one involving outdoor stuff. Or else music gear.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:49 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would buy a good kayak, assuming I lived near a river or lake.
posted by megatherium at 7:02 PM on May 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

RE: Good suit - No, I don't have a good suit. However, I have only had 1 occasion in the last year where I needed a good suit and I wore my crappy suit and still looked well-dressed.

There is a very real difference between an okay suit and a quality suit that has been properly tailored. Its not that you won't look good in something off the rack, but the improved fabric and fit read as more polished, professional and dashing.

I'd travel. $1000.00 can take you so many places, even if its just a long weekend away. I like theatre so I'd find tim and place where I could see two or three plays in one shot (Like a Saturday, Sunday Matinee, Sunday night) set up and get amazing seats.
posted by GilvearSt at 7:34 PM on May 7, 2014

What I would do with $1000 is find one or two things in my apartment that I use every day (for example, a pot or pan, a lamp, maybe a chair, or a jacket, or a belt, or something) but that are cheap 'n' nasty versions of those things. Donate/sell those things and buy the awesome versions, the versions that will last you forever. Then, no matter what happens, you've got that one thing you can always rely on.

That or a trip somewhere. Whatever you do, don't buy more stuff.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:44 PM on May 7, 2014

Use the money to create memories. A long weekend in New York, Chicago, Boston, Seattle or San Francisco. Or a long weekend to national parks - Yosemite, Yellowstone, or the parks in Southwest Utah.

All of the stuff is forgettable.

I haven't read the whole thread, but on preview but I agree with @cotton dress sock. Spending the money on a closer apartment would significantly improve your day to day life.
posted by cnc at 7:47 PM on May 7, 2014

Whenever I have extra cash, I pay utility bills a few months in advance. There is something lovely about being excused from the monthly chore of paying a bill.

You could buy those crazy expensive hiking boots that you have been looking at for the past few years.

You could go to Groupon and buy the first 3 things that look interesting to you.

You could rent a sports car for a week or two.

You could finally download all those albums that you have been wanting but were too frugal to get.

You could buy a really nice camera to take pictures of your lovely girlfriend with. Camera technology has steadily been improving and you are most likely due for an upgrade.
posted by myselfasme at 9:01 PM on May 7, 2014

You live in the midWest with a long commute, so snow tires & seat warmer?

You live in the midWest with a bike, so winter bike or spin class when it's cold?

You have a second gen Kindle, so great upgrade to the Paperwhite?

You have a long commute, so upgraded to BlueTooth radio?
posted by agog at 9:42 PM on May 7, 2014

Also, please don't dismiss charities off-hand. There are many good ones out there. I prefer small organizations where I know the staff and have some first-hand sense of how they spend their money. Supporting this type of organization can be really rewarding because a monthly ongoing donation can make a real difference for them.
posted by agog at 9:45 PM on May 7, 2014

If you want to spend it on things, quality hand tools will allow you to build things that make life better.

I'd go to the Lee Valley website and get a low angle jack plane, DMT sharpening stones, 1/2" & 1/4" chisels, small plow plane, rip carcass saw and a router plane.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:56 PM on May 7, 2014

Haha, Bonobothegreat, I don't know how to use any of those! Well, I know how to use them individually but not collectively :)
posted by bbqturtle at 5:48 AM on May 8, 2014

When I came into a significant amount of cash (cash I worked REALLY hard to earn), I dropped a nice chunk of it on an Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. This is one of the most famous pieces of modernist furniture and looks great in pretty much any home. Pricey, but I sit in it EVERY DAMN DAY, just thinking how much I love it.
posted by whitewall at 6:06 AM on May 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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