Do you upgrade?

As I type this post, I’m sitting amongst the lowest of the low. The scum of the earth. The outcasts. That’s right. I’m flying coach. Gasp!

Let’s be real, flying first class is pretty awesome. Not only do they enjoy a couple of inches of extra legroom, but they also have the luxury of having their nuts warmed (I mean the airplane peanuts your perverts). But is it worth it? Not for this ninja. First class is nice, but I’d much rather save that $50-$100 and be slightly uncomfortable for a few hours.

For me an upgrade to first class just isn’t worth it. There are, however, a few things I will almost always upgrade.


I’m totally obsessed with photography and I’ve got to warn you, it’s an expensive hobby. I got my first digital SLR this last Christmas. I, like many others, decided to lose my dSLR virginity to the Canon Rebel. The camera comes in three different models: the XS, the XSi, and the T1i. The XS is the cheapest model at about $500 and the T1i is the most expensive at $706. Instead of being totally frugal and getting the cheapest model, I did a little research and decided the cost increase for the XSi was worth it to me. Even though it is about $100 more than the XS, it has some features I didn’t want to miss out on. Six months later, I’m still in lust with my camera and am glad I went with a slight upgrade. Here’s a picture I took of a friends baby this weekend…

Electric Toothbrush:

Unfortunately, I learned this lesson the hard way. I’ve always owned the normal $0.99 toothbrushes from Target, but a few months ago I decided to “upgrade” to an electric toothbrush. Only problem was, I was too cheap to drop the $80-$100 on a Sonicare. Instead I opted for the $20 no name one. Big mistake. It sucked. The motor in it was so weak that it would stall when I’d push the bristles up against my teeth. Let’s just say, I tossed that toothbrush a few days later. I’m still too cheap to fork out the moolah for a Sonicare, but if I do venture back in to the world of electric toothbrushes, I’ll be sure to upgrade to a legitimate model.


I don’t know if this technically qualifies as an upgrade seeing that I put regular unleaded in my car like most of you probably do. The upgrade isn’t in the type of gas I buy, but where I get it from. I’ve read some pretty interesting reports about the negative impacts “cheap” gas can have on your car. Filling up at Chevron or Shell may cost a couple bucks more than stopping at Arco, but good quality gas has a pretty significant effect on the overall efficiency and lifespan of your vehicle. I’ll gladly pay an extra $0.10/gallon if it means I’ll get better gas mileage and have less vehicle maintenance.

What are some areas of your life where you’re comfortable paying for an upgrade? Do you fly first class? Book nicer hotels? Pay for premium memberships? Buy the middle or highest grade models of a certain product?

30 thoughts on “Do you upgrade?”

  1. First, get this toothbrush. It’s awesome. I got one free once and recently replaced it because it was getting gross and I couldn’t clean it out but it would have lasted. I had to replace the battery once and the speed feels like a racehorse in my mouth. Here it is: – Oral B Cross Action.

    Secondly, yes I’d pay for a bit nicer hotel. Flight? Eh, depends on the distance I think but I hate to fly so I avoid that at all costs. We upgrade for comfort on some things but it depends on what it is. Shoes? Probably because you should take care of your feet. Things like that are worth a little more.

    Where are you headed?

  2. Hm, I’ll pay more for good seats if I’m going to attend an event. Unless it’s “just” a speaker — with no particular need to see the stage in detail — I want to actually see things for myself (as opposed to on a Jumbotron) if I’m going to an event.

    Also, I would so pay an extra $50 to upgrade to first class if I could even get a deal like that. My knees would be overjoyed!

  3. definitely hair. i’ve had too many BAD haircuts by cheaping out and going to a supercuts or similar. i now suck it up and pay the $60 for an awesome haircut.

  4. Ninja – I always see 20 dollar off coupons for the Sonicare toothbrush. Clip one and go buy it. Think of the money you will be saving on dental care by using your new, awesome toothbrush. I love mine.

    I splurge on utilities. I hate to be cold, and here in Michigan, it can get pretty chilly. I keep our thermostat at a temperature I won’t even mention because everyone will hate on me. I also avoid people’s houses in the winter that like to keep their thermostat at 67.

    I also spend on fresh food. I won’t buy something if it is ridiculously priced, but I do buy fresh food as much as possible.

  5. If it’s a flight over 10 hours (and I take a lot of them), you can bet I’ll be wrangling for an upgrade.

  6. Eating out is my main upgrade. I know it is the first thing to go for a lot of frugal folks, but I really enjoy it and it is a big part of my social life, so I make room for it in the budget.

  7. Ninja-seriously, get a real motorized toothbrush! I got one as a gift a few years ago, and now don’t want to live without it. I feel like I’ve been to the dentist every day when I use it!

    I “upgrade” on things like running shoes (so my knees don’t hurt), mattresses/pillows (so my neck/back won’t hurt), and a safe car (so my body doesn’t hurt as much if I get in an accident). Apparently I’m all about avoiding pain…hmmm…

  8. Ha! We have the same camera! How crazy. I got mine for my birthday last year, along with a zoom lens. (It zooms so crazy!)

    I also received an electric toothbrush (Look into Oral B Vitality. I’m not sure how expensive it is, but the difference it makes for your teeth is seriously worth it!) as a gift. I doubt I would have forked over the money for it on my own.

    I’ve never flown first class, and I’m glad since it means I don’t know what I’m missing. (Plus, I don’t have any nuts to warm!)

    The only “upgrade” I can even think of is clothing. And I’m probably not spending more than the average Joe since I go shopping once every two years or so. But I buy my shirts at the Gap instead of Walmart, pants at a department store instead of Target. I can’t help but think the extra price is worth it since the clothes last forever! (Or until I accidentally bleach them in the wash. Whooooops!)

  9. Like Everyday Tips, we spend extra on electricity…just for the opposite reason. We live in Houston, Texas and keep our thermostat between 72-76 (72 at night, 75 or 76 during the day) year round…that means paying double in the summer usually – our bills are usually $70-$90 but more like $150-$200 from June-September.

    We also splurge on name brand foods like Nature’s Own Honey Wheat and Honey Nut Cheerios and a bunch of others…they just taste better to us.

    Lastly, we will splurge on vacations. We spend about $2000-$3000 every year on a one week summer vacation (a cruise or Las Vegas) and another $500-$1000 on a few weekend getaways. We don’t upgrade to 1st class (in fact we have an interior room on the cruise), but we don’t hold back on going to shows or buying souvenirs either…

  10. Steak is worth the upgrade. The $20 one at Outback verses the $60 one a Donovans should always result in the upgrade. There are miles between the quality of each.

    T-shirts also. I primarily wear blank shirts in different colors and patterns. Compare the quality and lifespan of your old navy shirt to my gap/bannan republic shirt… totally worth the upgrade.

    Coffee… if you drink it and you like it, the tall/small is a waste of loot. The medium, and mostly large, size is well worth the dollar or two for quantity. if you are already paying $3, why not $4.80?

  11. Steak for sure! Huge difference between the $4 kind and the $8 piece. Since I am anemic and they help me a lot, I buy without guilt. Ditto good dark chocolate. Travel: I am 36, I can’t any longer do the backpacking, sleeping on crappy beds.
    Eating out can be good for the soul, however since reading Ninja, JD and Trent I have cut down severely, and when I do it is a cheaper option.

  12. Wow. Dangerous subject. But so important nowadays. Lifestyle inflation has been my biggest struggle as of late. After being pretty good about saving, I’m able to afford the finer things in life. However, I really don’t think I should because I’m far from wealthy. It’s hard to find the Yin and Yang balance living in Las Vegas. I love food and there are too many good restaurants here. Having everyone show off their bling cars, homes, and iPhones makes me extremely envious. Sometimes I feel like taking on some debt to have a little more fun.

    The biggest thing I upgrade in my life has always been my car stereo. Being a car audiophile can be very expensive.

  13. seats to sporting events definitely, and for my automatic car washes. those touchless ones have multiple settings, and i always pay the extra 2$ to get the premium one that cleans under the car as well as applies a layer of polish at the end.

    Preferred Financial Services

  14. Seats for concerts. I will not sit anywhere above 10th row.

    And isn’t the cheap gas/bad gas thing just a myth by the gas industry? At least in Germany all gas stations carry the same quality gas and we pay a minimum of $5/gallon.

  15. Eating out. Its a big social event for my husband and I, even without friends its a nice way to relax and unwind. My husband always always eats lunch with coworkers and while it more expensive then brown bagging it, its a great networking and bonding experience and we budget for it.

    Since my husband is massively afraid of flying and 6’4, I would totally upgrade to first class for him especially on a long flight. I would want to make the experience a lest terrifying as possible.

    And we totally splurge on the air in the summer. Being from so cal I can’t stand the humidity we have to deal with in Texas and my husband is from a cold weather state so he hates heat in general so we pay extra to be comfortable at home in the summer.

  16. Sunglasses are another necessary upgrade. Oakley’s or Mossimo? The difference is unparalleled! I wore the cheap ones at one point in life, then slowly upgraded (Target brand => Von Zipper => Spy => Oakley => Oakley Polarized). Don’t go cheap on them, otherwise you aren’t really protecting your eyes. SIDE NOTE: My current sunglasses (Oakley of course) turn everything into cooler colored tones. Basically, the yellowness that the day brings is translated into a cool grayish color. They are phenomenal and worth every penny of the $120.

  17. One thing I will not upgrade to is an ocean front vacation room. Even on my honeymoon, I had real issues springing forth another $150 just so my room faced the ocean. I saved my $150 and got an angle ocean room which actually had a great view of the ocean and the pool.

    I also never biggie size my order. Tecnically, a kid’s meal should be enough food for one meal in terms of calories. Even if I want some more fries, I have enough self control to say NO!

  18. Where did you get the $50 – $100 flight upgrade? As far as I’m concerned, upgrade to business class (or first class as you call it there) will cost you an extra 100% of your economy class ticket if you don’t use frequent flyer points or other unconventional tricks/circumstances.

    That being said, I’ve been on a few first class international flights with one of the best airlines in the world (Emirates) for less than extra $100/person because of my anal-retentiveness in collecting frequent flyer points. One time, I got upgraded for no apparent reason, the ticket staff just “felt like it” 😀 It was an 8-hour international flight.

    Being in the first class is not just about getting your nuts warmed. Provided that you fly with a reputable airlines, you’ll get access to their executive lounge (premium food, alcohol and other 5-star facilities), your luggage is on priority, you get a special line on the immigration/custom check, free airport transfer limo, no queue on check-in, getting into/out of plane, big seat with massager, big TV and of course… the 5-star food. Hmmm…

    I’m not rich but being loyal, consistent and thoughtful when you choose airlines and collect the frequent flyer points do pay off. All those luxuries cost me (and my husband) a discounted internet economy ticket plus less than $100/person. Long live travel hacking! 🙂

  19. $50-$100? For me an upgrade was going to be well into the hundreds. Maybe that’s just internationally. So yeah, I fly coach.

    I’m trying to think what I have to buy in terms of name brand. Coffee, most food, conditioner but not shampoo (any brand will clean your hair but conditioner is worth the investment). I buy name brand electronics but I tend to buy last year’s model when they’re closing them out. I buy name brand appliances but with very few features. Never really thought about it but it seems that I definitely do have a “system!”

  20. Running shoes. Evens out when it prevents knee replacements.

    Clothing upgrade from polyester crap to cotton blend-plus; feels better, looks better, actually lasts longer. I do have to buy less, but I wear them more.

    Pens – nothing drives me up the wall more than when a government issued Bic pen dries up on me. Luckily our secretary will buy better ones. Hopefully Ninja’s office does the same!

  21. Shoes. Both running shoes and shoes for work/play. Not because I’m a shoe diva, but because I have chronic foot problems. But I save up for shoes for months to afford the ones that don’t kill my feet.

  22. I have a 4 year old Rebel Xt…. I love it but really want to upgrade but know I need to learn more first. Your pic is awesome!!! What lens / settings did you use and how much post processing was involved?

    I upgrade a lot of things but agonize over the decisions.

  23. Oh the subscribe to comments plugin isnt here so I wont be able to see when you answer!! Any chance you could drop me a quick mail 😉

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