Which moderately expensive thing has most radically improved your life?
January 11, 2017 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Assuming a cap of about $1000, what object/device/service/experience has made the most profound positive difference in your life?

The stars have aligned and have put me in a place where I could afford to splurge on a moderately extravagant purchase (or purchases) in order to max out my "double your airline miles" credit card promotion, which is about to expire.

I was originally thinking something like a consumer good of some variety (I'm in grad school and work full time and am interested in any "this totally made my life easier" gadgets you may know about), but I am open to any suggestions (travel, custom fit undergarments, smart home technology, starting a new mini-business expenses, giving to a worthy cause, etc.) you may have.


Note: I am not presently carrying a balance on this (or any other) credit card. You would not be enabling any serious credit card debt by giving me ideas to throw my fake dollars at, in case you were worried. :)
posted by helloimjennsco to Shopping (107 answers total) 150 users marked this as a favorite
Cleaning service (prepay for several visits?) and an Instant Pot have changed my life recently. But I'd totally recommend buying a set of good quality towels and sheets, new pillows, well fitting bras (if you wear them), new shoes and a haircut. These small things that we put off replacing really add up in terms of cost AND benefit.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:49 AM on January 11, 2017 [9 favorites]

Roomba ($350ish)
Duplicates of computer chargers, phone chargers, headphones, toiletries to keep in travel bag and never unpack ($150ish total)
I don't have this but I've been coveting a Tumi laptop backpack for everyday carry to work and for travel and if I had one I would always know what to pack in and feel professional and sleek ($345).
posted by rmless at 6:51 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Good ikea mattress and gel pad.

More recently a nice recliner. But I'm old and achy.

As for mini biz ideas, depends on the biz. I just upgraded my laptop battery, rolling bag, and got a portable battery as well as paying Year memberships to programs I'll neeed (GTM, Grammarly, google storage)
posted by tilde at 6:52 AM on January 11, 2017

Things that make a huge difference in my life (not all may be available via your credit card, but I'm listing them all for completeness): housecleaning services, a seriously indulgent throw blanket, the perfect coffee brewing set-up, a warm-weather escape in February, wireless music speakers throughout my house, an excellent set of kitchen knives, and a vitamix.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:52 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

I live in northern Wisconsin and have to leave my car outside all the time. I miss a past vehicle's remote start. Heated seats are awesome too.

Bigger, better monitors.
posted by carmicha at 6:52 AM on January 11, 2017 [7 favorites]

A guitar.
posted by 4ster at 6:54 AM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

I could spend that on shoes and not feel bad about it. They would basically be duplicates of shoes I already own and regularly wear out and replace. And shoes really do last longer if you have enough to rotate and not wear over and over on consecutive days. If it were an upgrade to shoes-- if I didn't already buy expensive ones-- that would indeed improve my life.

A really nice purse/work bag could also eat up a portion of 1k; again it might just be more or less a duplicate for one that is wearing out. or one in a different size or whatever.
posted by BibiRose at 6:54 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

A good mini biz that scales up or down easily and lets you set your own schedule: selling stuff on Amazon, e.g., retail arbitrage.
posted by carmicha at 6:54 AM on January 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

A really comfortable mattress is a big improvement to life.
posted by Cranialtorque at 6:55 AM on January 11, 2017 [24 favorites]

A Bose wireless speaker. We just got one and I can't tell you how much I love this thing.
posted by Ftsqg at 6:55 AM on January 11, 2017 [7 favorites]

For me: high quality trash and recycling bins for my kitchen; a nice wooden cutting board; one really good chef's knife; extra power outlets in my home office; a few really good bath towels and a good bathrobe; a high efficiency hot water heater.
posted by neushoorn at 6:57 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

- A really good mattress with heated mattress pad.
- really good snow tires for my car
- paying more money for a trip I was already taking in order to travel at a time that was more convenient for me but cost more money
posted by jessamyn at 6:57 AM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

Meal subscription service. I have never eaten more veggies in my fat lazy junk food eating life. I eat kale of my own free will now and enjoy it. My husband had learned what a portion size looks like and actually eats less in general.

Object wise. My Dyson and my fancy rice cooker.
posted by wwax at 6:58 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you live in a cold climate, decent outerwear. A good jacket (LL Bean), boots that will last a lifetime (Sorels), good gloves and hats (Outdoor Research) and a dozen Darn Tough socks.

If you have hobbies, buy the thing you've always wanted/needed. I bought a bandsaw last year (using Amazon credit card points) and it was a game changer for my hobby. You may not need a bandsaw, but maybe you've always wanted a new bike or guitar or kayak or sewing machine or skis or samurai sword.

Really good shoes are totally worth paying a lot of money for. So is a nice comfy chair.
posted by bondcliff at 6:58 AM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

Nthing mattress. A Tempur-Pedic mattress is the best thing I have ever spent money on.
posted by something something at 6:59 AM on January 11, 2017

Currently it's a tossup between our treadmill (a not-the-cheapest not-randomly-found-secondhand model; previously on AskMe) and our Dyson cordless vacuum which does the job of both a big vacuum and a handheld and is much easier to maneuver, store, and clean than an upright vac. We were a Roomba household for several years but it never did a great job of getting corners and edges, and so far vacuuming with the Dyson has been easier and more effective than chasing the Roomba down when it's choked on a sock again.

If you have a cat and the space for a giant spaceship litterbox, the Litter Robot is very handy.

Upgrading existing furniture (especially a mattress) or replacing old linens with nice new ones is always useful. A gym membership or classes can also be an excellent investment.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:01 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Agreeing with the Roomba. It has changed my life.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 7:01 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

A decent stereo amp and speakers. This will depend on how much you obsess about music.

(I'd love to be confident enough to buy a fancy rice-cooker. Every one I've bought has been shite, but I don't know what to look for. I think that would beat the stereo).
posted by pompomtom at 7:01 AM on January 11, 2017

Obviously it depends what you do/don't have already. I would say a dishwasher if you don't already have one. Life's too short to spend it doing the washing up. Wish I had space for one in my current place. I miss it, it makes such a big difference.
posted by the long dark teatime of the soul at 7:02 AM on January 11, 2017 [10 favorites]


A Tuft & Needle mattress.

As others have said, a cleaning service.

A really, really great vacuum -- ideally, cordless. We just got a Dyson v6, and it's amazing, even with a housekeeper (we have cats).

Finally, and this one is really left-fieldy to most people, but: when we got married 11 years ago, we ended up with about a $250 "overage" credit at Williams-Sonoma after all the duplicates were returned and we got everything else we wanted, so we "blew" it on a $160 SimpleHuman trash can. Yeah, that sounds ridiculous, and we thought so too, but it looked nice and our kitchen is very open, and we had to spend the money there, so...

Yeah, turns out? The seal on the top of this thing is utterly bananas. You get literally NO kitchen garbage odor, no matter what you throw away. It's insane. You can throw out fish on Friday and leave it until Sunday night, when it's time to take the garbage out. It's really, really amazing. It's one of those things I never would have bought up front, but now if something happened to this one I'd be at W-S in a hot minute to buy a brand new one, at full price if necessary.

(Frankly, I think the only other thing I can say that about is my keyboard, which may also be something that falls into your category.)
posted by uberchet at 7:03 AM on January 11, 2017 [19 favorites]

Would you like to learn how to do something? A cooking class, salsa or ballroom or swing or whatever dance class, get a loom and learn how to weave, learn to scuba dive! If you camp, how about a new sleeping bag or tent. Or become a prepper and stock up for the Apocalypse!

Or maybe you have a special event in the forseeable future: do you need a great new formal outfit, and don't forget the accessories!

Although for practical things, I do like the idea of prepaying for a cleaning service.
posted by easily confused at 7:07 AM on January 11, 2017

Do you have a tablet? I think I was the last person on earth not to have one because I felt I could do everything on my phone or my work laptop, but its portability and that it frees up precious phone memory has made it indispensable, particularly on my long commute by train.
posted by kapers at 7:07 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Since you specifically mentioned giving to a worthy cause: GiveDirectly simply gives money to extremely poor people. It's well-regarded by independent evaluators, plus they have a newsfeed in which recipients report how the money helped them, so you get that (to use charity lingo) warm glow.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:08 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh shit. Sorry, I take back all I said.

the long dark teatime of the soul has it: The dishwasher.
posted by pompomtom at 7:08 AM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

Soda Stream or other carbonated water maker with extra bottles.

Cleaning service.

Replacing that annoying dated thing in your house that bothers you in some vague way (for us, it was a pane of glass in our front door that had a very 80s etched picture of a tulip on it--now it's plain clear glass).
posted by whitewall at 7:12 AM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner got me through grad school. It is insanely expensive, but it is amazing. I read papers! I make notes! I scan them! I trash them! Files go in my laptop/iPad! My bag isn't full of papers anymore! I can find things! My back doesn't hurt anymore! It collates! It's instant! It's wireless!

(I later purchased the iPad Pro/Pencil, so my scanner is getting a little less use these days because I annotate PDFs directly, but I still use my ScanSnap for non-academic papers, bills, receipts, etc etc etc. You might also look at the Surface if you're interested in Apple alternatives, but my understanding is that most of the other tablet/stylus combinations are not great for handwriting.)
posted by angst at 7:15 AM on January 11, 2017 [12 favorites]

Came in to say litter robot, if you have a cat.

Noise cancelling headphones by Bose have improved my life significantly at work.

Giving to charity makes me feel like a good person.
posted by sockermom at 7:17 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


Dyson cordless vacuum.

These are the two purchases I thank God for every day.
posted by Salamander at 7:19 AM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

I was coming to say the InstantPot as well. That would only kill about $100 of it but is worth every penny-has made a huge difference in the quality of our meals and the frequency of eating at home.

The fabulous cotton oercale sheets from LL Bean.
posted by purenitrous at 7:20 AM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Breville convection toaster oven
posted by thelonius at 7:25 AM on January 11, 2017 [8 favorites]

Yes, a dishwasher! If you don't have one and you cook, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Other things I have that are extravagant but make my life better on a regular basis are:

A vitamix (I had one last through 17 years of daily use, I recently traded it in because it was starting to struggle - and the company gave me $100 credit for a new one);

Appropriate outerwear and bad weather shoes for your climate (only recently have I become the owner of both rain and snow boots and I'm much more cheerful in bad weather as a result);and

If you blow dry your hair, one of the new dyson hairdryers. I haven't had mine long, but I really like it so far. It's much lighter and easier to use than my old hairdryer.
posted by snaw at 7:26 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

My fancy tea robot is the best present I've ever got.
posted by Mizu at 7:26 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

I am another fan of the Dyson Cordless vacuum. We are 2 adults and at one time had a cat and 2 dogs, and that replaced our old Dustbuster AND our giant Hoover. It's light and easy to keep clean.
posted by kimberussell at 7:26 AM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

Commuter bike. One in that price range is a joy to use, and biking to work is often the best part of my day. It also eventually earns its keep through savings in gym/transit costs.

For $1000, you can easily get something nice, outfitted with a rack, panniers, lock & lights.
posted by veery at 7:26 AM on January 11, 2017 [11 favorites]

I'd love to be confident enough to buy a fancy rice-cooker. Every one I've bought has been shite, but I don't know what to look for

Zojirushi. 5 Cup, 10 Cup. Those are the low-end of the line, you can pay more but the bells and whistles get pretty esoteric (like induction instead of a contact element). Still, if you buy a Zojirushi you can't go wrong.

That and the Instant Pot revolutionized my life last year.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:28 AM on January 11, 2017 [7 favorites]

An excellent pair of high-quality, US-made boots constructed by unionized craftsfolk.
posted by Excommunicated Cardinal at 7:28 AM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

Nthing the dishwasher if you don't have one.

Also, it's a bit above your $1000 cap (or was when I did it, but pricing may have changed as the technology became more available), but I had my lower leg hair laser-removed and it was hands-down the best extravagant spend I've ever made. So worth it.
posted by Mchelly at 7:41 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lots of good suggestions above.

I splurged on some Icebreaker long underwear last winter, and I love, love, love it. Here is an example. (Note, their stuff often runs small in my experience).

This down comforter is so so nice ... super warm (it says medium, but it is really warm) and light weight feeling.

Also, a good backup system (online or otherwise) for home computer/laptop files.
posted by gudrun at 7:42 AM on January 11, 2017

Good quality furniture. If you have any particle board IKEA knockoff pieces of crap, now is your chance to replace some of it. (Said capricorn, whose dresser drawers are currently held mostly-together by duct tape and who is seriously contemplating the same move.)
posted by capricorn at 7:42 AM on January 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

For a grand, you could probably get a dishwasher and a fancy tea robot (which I have and love).

Just don't put the latter in the former.
posted by pompomtom at 7:43 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

On demand hot water heater, if you own your house. I have had one now for about 15 years. I had one installed in an old house I lived in, mostly to solve a venting problem. The chimney the old water heater vented into was too short, having been cut down in the past for some reason. The vent dripped condensation into the chimney and was causing all kinds of problems. An on demand water heater vents out the wall, problem solved.

But OMG what a great thing, to take a long hot shower. It also cut my gas bill 25%. About 5 years ago we moved to a new-to-me house, and I couldn't take the old tanked hot water system. So I spent the money and replaced it. I have never looked back.
posted by chocolatetiara at 7:44 AM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

On demand heater is cool, and the price may be under $1K at your local store, but beware that installation and plumbing/piping will probably double or triple your final cost. Get an installer to estimate it for you. It's probably not doable under the $1000 cap.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:55 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Toto or similar built-in high tech bidet.
posted by carmicha at 7:55 AM on January 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

Espresso machine (helps if you have a Mr. Motion equivalent hobbyist barista to go with it)

A package of personal training/nutritionist sessions.

I'm in grad school and work full time...

A high quality business suit (with both pant and skirt options) tailored to fit you will easily eat this budget. Add on a good pair of shoes if necessary. You may not need to be able to dress like a grown up all that often, but it's helpful to know that you can when you need to.

A little more practical would be to try to build a good solid capsule wardrobe, maybe starting with quality-not-luxury brands (thinking Eileen Fisher, Ann Taylor) so you can get more pieces in.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:57 AM on January 11, 2017 [10 favorites]

I'll second the on-demand hot water heater.

But the thing I hands-down spend the most on, in terms of single purchases, is airfare. Can you buy a ticket to Bangkok? Or Sofia, Bulgaria? (The next-largest series of purchase I've made over the past couple years have been a big upgrade to my bike, and a lot of touring gear, panniers and raingear and some camping supplies. It's a one-time outlay and you're basically ready to tour internationally in all kinds of conditions from then on. Cycle touring is a lovely way to see a place, and it stretches time out in all kinds of surprising ways. A week-long tour can feel like a month's worth of experiences, especially when you're somewhere really culturally unfamiliar. Sorry to evangelize about cycle touring when you're looking for thing recommendations!)
posted by tapir-whorf at 8:01 AM on January 11, 2017 [9 favorites]

If you have temperature regulation issues (or achiness) a wool mattress pad (and maybe a wool comforter) are awesome. (Also, my cat highly approves of the mattress pad.)

I second spending some of it on clothes for your professional future. (A good classic wool coat would be an excellent investment, if you ever expect to interview anywhere cold.)
posted by modernhypatia at 8:06 AM on January 11, 2017

I'll Nth the dishwasher. My house had an existing, bad dishwasher in it when I moved into it. Never used it. Eventually replaced it with a pretty fancy one. Saves a huge amount of time.

A big monitor. I look forward to upgrading to a 4K monitor at some point.

A good pair of boots. After some trial and error, these are the boots I have settled on.
posted by adamrice at 8:06 AM on January 11, 2017

nthing Roomba (if you set it to run on a schedule and you actually empty it and clean the rollers. also it's a great and incredibly effective alarm clock.)

nthing Tuft and Needle mattress. We have one in our guest room and we sometimes go on "vacation" to that mattress because it's so great. Guests comment on it too.
posted by MonsieurBon at 8:11 AM on January 11, 2017

Season Pass to something. Ski area, amusement park, etc, depending on your interests.
Personal training, as somebody said.
30" Monitor (mine was about a grand, refurbished - my second favorite possession).
Fujitsu Scansnap. My favorite possession.

Expensive software product - like photoshop and some plugins or a painting program maybe if that's your thing.

Upgrade your car radio if you have an old one without bluetooth (not sure budget on this).

Relax-the-back memory foam desk chair (easily obtained on craigslist for about $300 with patience and persistence).

A Good briefcase if you're in a field where you'll need that later.

Are you a female? If so get short, medium and long slips in both black and white.

Have your suit tailored.

If you're a hobbyist of any sort, a pair of CraftOptics telescope magnifying glasses.

A good wireless mouse made a huge difference to me.

A good big TV and netflix subscription.

Scuba diving lessons.

But really yeah, cleaning service. Don't prepay though. Just find a reliable local person - it should cost around $100 per session, depending on location and the size of your place and what you want them to do.

Or, get a pet and put the extra money toward future vet bills!

Or, professional training for your existing pet?

If you have a hobby, $1k will usually cover a juicy long weekend workshop about your hobby or an in-depth introduction to a new one.
posted by bluesky78987 at 8:20 AM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

1) spend $200 on a crappy beginner model instrument, some instrument you've thought it would be fun to learn, and then $800 on months of lessons. Later on if it turns out you've stuck with it, you can get a better instrument. I did this with the banjo and had lots of fun with it (and would say it improved my life.)

2 ) seconding "good quality furniture." 1K will get you a nice piece of vintage furniture if that's your thing, and honestly I still get real pleasure from the nice pieces I bought ten years ago.
posted by Smearcase at 8:54 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

I would get face lasers (facial redness). If that's not your speed:

The Instant Pot is great because you just turn it on, it cooks, and you can come back to it whenever (without it taking all dang day like a slow cooker). No adjusting the heat so things don't boil over, no timers. It had a slight learning curve but it was so worth it.

Wool socks. I'm an REI member and like their house brand, there have been AskMes about best brands, do it. They are warm and stay warm when wet and are non-stinky. Dittos for wool baselayers if that's a thing you're interested in.

Upgrade any tools you use often - wrenches and screwdrivers, yes, but also knitting needles, keyboards, chef's knives...
posted by momus_window at 8:56 AM on January 11, 2017

My first good bike.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:14 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


(Lots of great suggestions above, too.)
posted by matildaben at 9:34 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I might spend it on a bicycle or parts but that's a pretty specific fetish. I'm also a grad student -- I don't need more money but an extra grand would be a nice trip for me and my honey. I love being where I am, but we can't swim comfortably in the ocean. Too cold.
posted by klanawa at 9:46 AM on January 11, 2017

Dishwasher. Rice cooker. A really good mattress and nice sheets.
posted by corvine at 9:49 AM on January 11, 2017

What are your pain points and what can you do to mitigate them?

For me, it was hauling all of my dirty laundry to the laundromat without a car, so I "splurged" on a laundry pickup and delivery service. Life changing. (Also, enough underwear for two weeks and then some, wool socks, multiples pairs of leggings and work tights, multiple plain t-shirts; basically anything that I wear a lot of but didn't want to have a lot of because I didn't want to take it all to the wash.)
posted by pumpkinlatte at 9:56 AM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

I don't know of you wear glasses but I did until I got Lasik - GREATEST thing I ever did for myself! Now going on 20 years of *perfect* vision. Never regretted it, would do it again in a heartbeat.
posted by alchemist at 9:58 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Instant Pot
Hunter rain boots
Chrome citizen messenger bag
Good sunglasses (mine are Oakleys, but I covet Maui Jim glasses)
posted by ainsley at 10:38 AM on January 11, 2017

Finally got an Instant Pot for Christmas. Can confirm it is life changing!
posted by jbenben at 10:47 AM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

The stars have aligned and have put me in a place where I could afford to splurge on a moderately extravagant purchase (or purchases) in order to max out my "double your airline miles" credit card promotion, which is about to expire.

Boring purchases, but I over- and pre-paid some utility and insurance bills in a similar situation, allowing me to spend the money and get the promotion without buying more clutter.

Specifically with auto insurance, if you haven't checked rates recently, you might even save money if you switch companies and pay off the new balance.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:55 AM on January 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

A good bicycle.
posted by slogger at 11:07 AM on January 11, 2017

Fixing (or hiring fixed) things about my house that are constant low-grade irritants or sources of bad feelings. Like, replacing a sink that never fit its space right, or buying a dresser with drawers that slide well instead of constantly getting stuck, or hiring someone to fix a landscaping area that was an ongoing source of shame.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:12 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

I haven't taken a trip costing $1k or more that I've regretted.

In that same vein, consider purchases that effectively buy you new experiences. I'm all for improving your day-to-day experience with high quality versions of the things you use every day (office chair in particular, but also things like shoes, beds, etc.). But consider purchases that expand your world somehow. Instruments, suggested above, are a good example. I would lean towards the outdoors, particularly if there's something you've wanted to get into. With proper gear selection, $1k can get you into backpacking or kayaking or skiing. That's particularly true if you're looking at an activity that doesn't have a per-use cost once you have the gear (bicycling, for example, vs. something that does like bowling).

You're also in a financial position where you're able to spend $1k on a not-quite whim on something near the top of the good 'ol hierarchy of needs. Consider spending $500 on a few hours with a fee-based financial planner to see if your current money management is in line with your future wants/needs. Even if the answer to that question is "yep you're doing everything right," that big-picture peace of mind is worth spending some money on.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:17 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Litter Robot? No. The CatGenie flushes the poop for you, so you don't have to empty a drawer full of cat crap!
posted by ellenaim at 11:24 AM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

posted by gregr at 11:29 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

If your hair is still short like in your profile pic, then this wouldn't be a good fit, but I'm really into my Dyson hair dryer.
posted by radioamy at 11:45 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I came to mention that my touring bicycle is the best ~1k I've ever spent by a large margin, but I'd also like to nth wool undergarments.

A bit left-field, but in the vein of utility pre-payments, do you have any dental work you've been putting off?
posted by yomimono at 11:49 AM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

1) A folding bike (I like Dahon)
2) Pre-paid gas cards for your vehicle
3) A good map for a location for biking / hiking / fishing / swimming / star gazing, etc.
And time to enjoy it.
posted by TrishaU at 11:58 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

You get literally NO kitchen garbage odor, no matter what you throw away

how can you say this without linking to the trash can
posted by poffin boffin at 12:02 PM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

I love my sewing machine.
posted by vunder at 12:07 PM on January 11, 2017

Mattresses have (deservedly) gotten a lot of love here, but I can't describe how much my life (as an occasional insomniac) has been improved by a really good, light but fluffy and warm duvet with a lovely, soft flanel cover. After family members and pets, it's probably the thing I'd run back to save from my burning house. Really.

Also, knitwear made of real 100% wool in stead of sweaty blends.
posted by sively at 12:08 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Heated mattress pad with a separate control for each side. Queen sized will run you about $100. It is SO nice to get into a warm bed!
posted by spraypaint at 12:33 PM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Well, if you can't decide, you can probably get a discount on Amazon gift cards.
posted by theora55 at 12:34 PM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Buy some art that moves you and put it in a nice frame. Your home will look nice and every time you see it you'll feel happy. Plus, it can be a good conversation piece.
posted by Fister Roboto at 12:35 PM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

A dog.
posted by The otter lady at 12:59 PM on January 11, 2017 [9 favorites]

Diva cup
Central AC
Tankless water heater
Cleaning service

If I had to go without four of these, I'd ditch the bottom four.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:01 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you already have a dishwasher, one of my favorite upgrades was going from a basic fridge to one that has ice and water in the door.

Having access to cold filtered water on demand is magical, and I don't think it would be too much to say that it has improved my health (water is the best default beverage). Having ice available at all times without thinking about it is also great. Crushed or cubed!
posted by danny the boy at 1:03 PM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do you have any yard space? Do you live in an area with a healthy whack of mosquitoes or other flying summer pests? If you have enough to cram one in: a basic (but not too cheap; those fall over) hardware store gazebo with a rainproof top and all-around netting.

And a cheapie small firepit for the middle of it, for s'mores, and to extend the season...

We've got so much use out of it that it spawned a verb 'Are you guys gazebing this Friday?' -- Yes! -- 'Shall I swing by with marshmallows and beer?' -- Yes please! It's a "I don't know how I got through life before without this" thing. So much more time outdoors, so many more pleasant late nights with friends (and children are easily kept amused by the s'mores, and people have cooked up entire meals over the fire pit), so much more relaxation. For $1k you can get one with a good sturdy metal frame that can stay up year-round, and you can fill it with "anti-gravity" chairs, and the little firepit, and some small basic outdoor side tables. It's a grown-up's fort, complete with comic books.
posted by kmennie at 1:10 PM on January 11, 2017 [12 favorites]

Sonos: A Sonos1 got me listening to more music.
Kindle: A Kindle got me to read more.
Weights: Barbell, plates, rack, and Rippetoe's "Starting Strength" got me into better shape.
Duty boots: Danner Boots are $200ish, and have lasted me years with happy feet and knees.
posted by talldean at 1:11 PM on January 11, 2017

A 10 in Chef's knife, a utility knife, and a paring knife of the best possible quality. Global or Shun. Forget the block sets, where they bundle in clunkers for more $$$. Just those three pieces. Once you have a set of fabulous knives, healthy cooking is so much easier and more enjoyable.
posted by cross_impact at 1:11 PM on January 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

Do you use tools and build stuff? I bought one of those big wheeled red garage mechanic style tool boxes recently and it has helped so much. Emptied out my 5 crappy tool boxes that I had to hunt for stuff into one organized place. Also replaced my screwdrivers when I realized I was still using the set I bought for $5 20 years ago... I called em Old Strippy.

You can also get a miter saw, metal saw, and table saw for well below $1000. Unless you are sure they will remain in one place forever, get stands that roll for them too. Big improvement over a hand saw and miter box.
posted by BeeDo at 1:52 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'll just second the 'Cleaning Service' upthread. It's a simple way to keep life running smoothly-- if you're like me, maintenance and generalized home upkeep always had a way of falling down the priority list. Outsourcing works.

Also, for about that much money, you can take a fairly intensive CBT or meditation class at the local provider of your choice; Forget cleaning up your outsides. Have sparkling clean insides.
posted by mrdaneri at 2:02 PM on January 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would never have expected the profound difference Philips Hue Lights has made on my life. I started with a Philips wake-up light which made a big difference in how easily I woke up, then my ladyfriend got me a set of Hue Lights for my birthday (color bulbs & a light strip). I thought it was a silly, overpriced gift and it took me only 24 hours to become hooked. It would be easy to spend $1000 on them, I've spent probably $500 so far and am slowly adding more bulbs over time to cover every room in my house.

Note, I am NOT someone who cares about lighting all that much, other than getting seasonal affect disorder. I find it hard to even spend money on lamps and used to buy the cheapest bulbs possible. But now I am a Hue Light evangelist. It's so nice to wake up to the lights on where I want them to be, in a color that isn't too harsh, and to have them start to dim over the course of an hour at night to remind me to start getting ready for bed. I can turn the whole house on or off with a touch, or turn on one light at 5% in the middle of the night if I need to get up for some reason.

You can turn them on and off remotely, or set them to turn on while you're coming home. If you get the colored bulbs, you can spend endless amounts of time creating "recipes" for optimal TV watching or reading or whatever. My sexytimes have gotten far sexier now that I can always have mood lighting. (It's not so much about color, but I'm a super sensitive person and a harsh overhead light is really distracting for me!) These are one of those things that seems pointless and cheesy until you have it, then you wonder how you lived without it.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 2:13 PM on January 11, 2017 [17 favorites]

When we got married we upgraded our flatware, dishes, and knives. I always thought that stuff was kinda frivolous, and mostly did it so that we'd have a matched set instead of 6 different unmatched patterns. Man, I *really* like having nicer stuff.

Cutting with nice knives is *incredible*. We have the Wustoff Classic 7-piece set, which runs about $300 and has basically everything you need, plus extra space in the block to expand your collection.

Nicely-designed and properly-balanced flatware makes eating so much nicer. We have Reed & Barton Dalton design. A place setting is about $30, so for like $400-$500 you'd get 12 place settings plus some serving pieces.

I'd say that the plates are actually the thing that's the least significant upgrade in terms of feel/experience, but it's the one that you notice the most visually. We hosted Thanksgiving this year, and my plates looked really nice on the table.
posted by radioamy at 2:25 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Laser hair removal!
posted by serena15221 at 2:58 PM on January 11, 2017

Roomba Roomba Roomba - best $500 I've EVER spent, hands down.

If I had a thousand bucks now, I'd get laser hair removal everywhere I could afford to.
posted by raspberrE at 3:21 PM on January 11, 2017

I recommend investing in good tools!

* A good working setup, if you type or program a lot. Multiple giant monitors ($100-300 each), a good-quality standing desk (sit-stand, $500), floor mat, keyboard (I recommend the Kinesis--$300), vertical mouse, and Aeron chair ($500). The standing desk + Kinesis combo saved my back and wrists, and thus my career.

* An iPad Pro with Apple Pencil ($600-900) if you read a lot of papers/slides and annotate them, or draw or design a lot. It's an amazing tool that's replaced printing papers and Photoshop (respectively) for me.
posted by glass origami robot at 3:36 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I can't stand Aeron chairs but I was going to say my Steelcase Leap was one of the better purchases I made when I was exclusively working from home. I go into an office now and my desk chair there is so bad I keep thinking I should just schlep the Leap in. If you don't work from home though, that's perhaps not the best investment.

Do you need a new computer? New phone? Nice winter coat? New bed? I generally have a running list of stuff I need to replace soon, but it doesn't sound like you do (because if you did you wouldn't be asking the question).

Since you don't already know how to spend a thousand bucks, perhaps the best thing to do would be … not spend it? You could prepay $1000 worth of utility bills and set up a transfer to savings equal to your average monthly payment, so you're not spending money you wouldn't have spent anyway, but at the end you'd have a thousand bucks in savings you wouldn't otherwise have. I've bought a lot of arbitrary stuff, and I think now I'd rather have the money I spent on most of it.

I have become my dad.
posted by fedward at 4:00 PM on January 11, 2017 [19 favorites]

Wow mefites really hate vacuuming and washing dishes huh?

I'm with fedward. You're a grad student. Don't splurge, spend it on something you'd need to buy anyway, either pre-paying a bill or stocking up on shoes or other personal items you will definitely use over time.
posted by spitbull at 4:48 PM on January 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Lasik. You will never, ever regret it. Eventually it pays for itself AND it makes exercising more convenient.
posted by MrJM at 5:17 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have 3 pairs of Sweat Tailor pants, which look like Real Professional Pants but feel like pajamas. I don't know that I've worn any other pants in public since I got the first pair in September.

nthing Instant Pot.

I have worn my Keen Austins basically every day for three years and, though I have gone through 3 sets of shoelaces, the shoes themselves are bulletproof and easier on my flat feet + knees. Great shoes are a must (as noted above).

Both my wife and I have enjoyed having cameras that are higher-end than iPhone grade.
posted by concertedchaos at 5:58 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Re LASIK: the usual advice is to wait until your eye correction stabilizes after grad school (because of all the reading and screen time).
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:16 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh just thought of another one.

Laser hair removal of the annoying hairs on my chin & top lip.
posted by wwax at 7:08 PM on January 11, 2017

My bicycle changed my life. I became a bike commuter, ride for fun, tour lost 50 pounds and met a lot of wonderful people.
posted by cccorlew at 7:24 PM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Pay an electrician to come in and install modern LED lighting all over the damn place.

Our house was built in 1985 and none of the rooms have adequate lighting for our mid-40's eyes -- except for the kitchen we redid, where we had ELEVEN overhead fixtures put in. At the time it seemed wacky but we have been so glad we did it.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:26 PM on January 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

A serious range hood is a joy if you're a cook, but (like an on-demand hot water heater), the installation will push you over $1000.
posted by mr vino at 7:28 PM on January 11, 2017

As a recent survivor of grad school, seconding the recommendation for a capsule wardrobe. One of the best things one of my professors ever did for us was to insist we show up to exams in (at least) business casual, for two reasons: it got us comfortable dressing like adults and gave us time to build a wardrobe of clothes that weren't sweatpants and jeans. I'd recommend spending at least part of that $1000 with the help of a personal stylist at Nordstrom, if you have one.
posted by Tamanna at 8:39 PM on January 11, 2017 [7 favorites]

Hands down: mattress.
posted by Miko at 9:27 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you ride a bike enough to have some preferences, get The Right Bike (it's the one you will ride). For me, that meant a specific model of recumbent cargo trike, bought secondhand. Yours might be a touring bike, a hybrid, a fancy fixie...

Someone I know got a Zojirushi rice cooker in a similar situation. He was a grad student at the time, and it was an upgrade from his previous rice cooker.

Having written the previous two paragraphs, I realized that both are upgrades. I had enough experience with recumbent bikes to identify the one I wanted. My friend bought his Zojirushi because he liked rice cookers and wanted a better one. This might be a good way to approach the problem.

There are other things that have had similar impact on my life, many already mentioned (wool clothing, quality shoes, good cast iron pans, a sewing machine) but which aren't particularly expensive if you know where and how to get them secondhand.
posted by sibilatorix at 9:40 PM on January 11, 2017

Instant Pot >> also makes rice!
High use creature comforts: Nice bedding (mmmm linen) and towels. Underwear that you love. Socks that you love. Great shoes, a strong umbrella, a nice scarf. The most amazing coat/jacket ever that looks stylish, but also has tons of pockets (and zippers on those pockets) and a hoodie that you can roll into the collar when you're not in need of it.
posted by ellerhodes at 5:58 AM on January 12, 2017

My life would be a pale shadow without my bike and dishwasher, but I am here to say that now is the time to buy an interview suit and have it tailored. Hell, buy a whole "3 day campus visit" set.
posted by athirstforsalt at 8:55 AM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are amazing suggestions! Thanks everyone!

Note to the folks who are on team "save your money": Yes, absolutely, I'm going immediately back to ultra-frugal after this. This is really just to maximize a credit card promotional deal while also giving myself a useful or memorable treat before I put all of my spending on lock down until graduation. $1000 was kind of a ballpark figure to allow for a wider range of answers, not so much a specific dollar amount I planned to spend. :)
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:02 AM on January 12, 2017

Lot of good answers here. One thing to mention: Tom Bihn is one of those "buy once, lasts forever" manufacturers, and they make damn fine bags. Worth checking out if you need one or want to upgrade.
posted by WCityMike at 9:41 AM on January 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you like coffee, a superautomatic coffee machine.
posted by jet_silver at 7:37 PM on January 12, 2017

You might also do a bit of research to figure out whether it's possible to pre-pay your rent with a credit card, or to buy ten $100 gift cards to use at your preferred local grocery stores. (But be sure you confirm that this is legit, since some credit cards are finicky about these things.) This isn't a dreamy, big purchase that will improve your life, but it is a way to circumvent spending money you don't have in excess, while still getting the credit card bonus.
posted by tapir-whorf at 1:22 AM on January 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Used recumbent bicycle
Blendtec blender (or Vitamix; I am agnostic)
Zojirushi rice cooker (which I destroyed in Qatar)
Flat screen tv with soundbar
Mechanical keyboard
Mirrorless digital camera that will fit in my pocket
A copy of The Perfect Health Diet
posted by mecran01 at 9:31 PM on January 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! These are some excellent suggestions, and more than just a few of them are officially on my Amazon wish list (or just life wish lists--I'm due for a new mattress sometime in the next few years!) :)

For anyone ultimately interested in the outcome of my "treat yo'self" splurge, I went ahead and purchased:

-Boll and Branch sheets for my bed (I used a podcast promo code for $50 off)
-All of the necessary tools to make a pour-over coffee and take it to work with me
-A sunrise alarm clock so I might actually wake up on time for things
-Another of my favorite fountain pens (now discontinued by the manufacturer) and a Manhattan Portage pen case to carry my pens for note taking and whatnots

I am already sleeping and waking up better, and that is all I could ever ask for when trying to juggle work and grad school. (And from now on, all of my ducats are going directly to educational expenses and car payments, haha. )
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:08 AM on January 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

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