Upgrade yourself  DEC 10 2008

No one needs more stuff. But if you've got some disposable income burning a hole in your pocket, here's a bunch of upgrades for your current possessions.

Can you suggest some replacements for standard, everyday household items that are far superior in terms of usefulness, luxuriousness and quality?

My wife and I are ardent upgraders. I rarely buy anything anymore but the things I do buy are usually better versions of things I already have. As things break or wear out, we've been replacing them with items that are nicer to use/wear/whatever and will last a whole lot longer than the cheaper stuff. Here are a list of things that we've upgraded over the years that I would recommend.

Knives - Cooking is Meg's department but even a novice like myself has to admit: good knives are worth the extra money. The best part is that unless you cook all sorts of crazy stuff -- in which case you likely don't need this advice -- you only need two or three knives. Get a good chef's knife that fits well in your hand, a paring knife, and a serrated knife for slicing bread. Your impulse will be to skip the nice serrated. Don't...slicing bread is so much easier than with that flimsy piece of crap you have and it does tomatoes wonderfully as well. Keep them sharp and they'll literally last forever.

Miele vacuum - I have no idea which model we have -- it's the low-end canister model with just a few settings -- but it is the greatest vacuum cleaner in the universe. I don't mind vacuuming at all with this thing. Love it.

Tailored shirts - If you get yourself a tailor from Hong Kong, China, or the like, shirts tailor-made to your specific measurements don't cost much more than stuff off-the-rack from Banana Republic or whatever. And lemme tell you, tailored shirts fit really well and look amazing.

Pots and pans - Again, Meg's department, but proper cookware is really a pleasure to use. And it heats more evenly, you won't burn yourself grabbing the handle, blah blah blah. They'll last forever, even with heavy use.

Bed sheets - Flannel sheets for the winter are priced the same as regular cotton sheets but are way softer. For spring/summer/fall, go with something in the 400 thread count area. Sleeping and fooling around are so much better with nice soft sheets.

Mattress - Slate says that all mattresses are created equal but we got a firm mattress with a pillowtop and love it.

Headphones - Ditch those Apple earbuds and get yourself a pair of in-ear phones from Shure or Etymotic (or sound cancelling ones from Bose). They're expensive, no doubt. But you don't listen to crappy music so why listen to good music with crappy sound quality?

Coffee-making machine - I don't drink coffee but getting some sort of coffee contraption for the home, even an expensive one like an espresso machine, saves you lots in Starbucks purchases down the road.

Wine glasses - If you drink wine at all, get some nice glasses, even if it's only two glasses that you use for yourself when drinking casually around the house. Your cheapo wine will taste better.

Fleur de sel - Or Malden's or whatever your preference is. Regular table salt isn't ideal for salting food after it's served. Malden comes in nice flakes that melt nicely on the food. Meg prefers fleur de sel but I find it too crunchy. A 4 oz. container will cost you $11 -- 3 times as much as 3 pounds of table salt -- but it'll last for months or even years.

Shoes - Cheap shoes wear out quickly and can hurt your feet. A good pair of men's shoes made from quality materials will last for years; just keep resoling them.

None of these items are super-expensive...I think the mattress cost the most and it was under $800. We bought this stuff over a number of years and it probably worked out to an extra couple hundred dollars per year total. The upfront expense is sometimes tough to swallow but over time, you break even or even come out ahead money-wise (i.e. you'll never have to buy [item] ever again). The way I think about it is buying nice products that you'll use for several years/decades is both a financial investment and an investment in your personal well-being, even if it's just some nice salt to make your food taste a little better.

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