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From $10 to feel-good investments, here are the life-changing buys that Globe staffers say they’ll never regret.The Globe and Mail

Arts reporter Brad Wheeler
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The buy: A vintage guitar that took more than 30 years to find, again

In the early 1990s, I felt ready to buy a real electric guitar. (Not that I knew an EmMaj9 chord from an electrical cord.) Stepping into Toronto’s Ring Music, this thirtysomething kid met his candy shop.

What caught my eye most was a streaky-greenish hollow-body model that looked more like an art project than a musical instrument. It was Fender Coronado Wildwood from the late 1960s. The wood, I was told, came from trees injected with dye years before they were harvested. The uniqueness was appealing: I could barely play, but nobody else would have a guitar like mine. The $1,200 price was outside my budget, though. More than that, I felt I wasn’t ready for that level of guitar – it was above my station. I settled for another guitar and have regretted not buying that Coronado Wildwood ever since. Occasionally I’d scour the internet looking for one, but it’s a rare animal. Three years ago, when former Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour sold his at auction for US$100,000, I gave up the hunt.

An e-mail from a friend popped into my inbox not long ago. He had spotted a 1967 Wildwood for sale for $5,000 on the website of Folkway Music, in Waterloo, Ont. I called the store immediately and bought the guitar – an impulse purchase three decades in the making. It plays like a dream and looks as fantastic as I remembered. Though it’s a luxury as far as toys go, it’s a real bargain when it comes to wiping out regret.

P.S. The guitar is currently in the shop for a minor repair. The luthier said it would take a couple of weeks. I can wait.

Editor Domini Clark
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The buy: A point-and-shoot Nikon Coolpix P1000 that shoots the stars

For most of my travels, my iPhone 14 does an incredible job capturing memories. But for two types of my favourite photography – wildlife and night sky – I need more oomph. I’ve found it in the Coolpix P1000, Nikon’s super-telephoto digital camera. The zoom is a whopping 3,000 mm. What does that mean in practice? On a recent trip to Antarctica, I captured beads of water on a penguin’s individual feathers from several metres away.

Surprisingly, it’s not a DLSR, but just a point-and-shoot, so there’s no changing lenses, which for me is one of the best parts. And while you can tinker with settings, you can also simply leave it in auto – or use one of the preset scene modes – and still produce stunning images. (It also records 4K video and time lapses in five different speeds.) A tripod is recommended for astrophotography, but the camera’s two-way stabilization system (vertical and horizontal) meant I was fine without one even when shooting swooping albatross from a moving ship.

Finally, there’s no need to visit far-flung places to make the most of the P1000: I expect birders would delight in this no matter where they live. Ditto for backyard astronomers.

Executive editor Angela Pacienza
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The buy: A no-stress wardrobe makeover from stylist Charly Goss

As summer turned to fall I realized the skinny jeans in my closet weren’t going to cut it as I headed back to the office. When the pandemic began, I wholeheartedly traded my work dresses for joggers. But after two years of leisure wear, I was ready to dress up again. Yet I felt lost as I attempted to rejoin the world of fashion. A trip to the mall only made me feel even more out of touch and, frankly, old. How wide are the pants supposed to be? How short? Tuck or untuck the shirt? Instead of feeling chic, the new baggy styles only made me feel like Munsch’s Paper Bag Princess. I felt like a frump.

Enter Charly Goss. Her highly instructive Instagram account and style guides got me back on track. Goss has a snarky, tell-it-like-it-is, no apologies tone to her advice. “Don’t hate me because skinny jeans are out” is the vibe. She aims to help. And that she does!

In addition to her Instagram, she sells fashion guides via her website, charlygoss.com, to lead us lost souls on how to dress for every occasion and season: “Autumn capsule” and “Cool mom” and “Fall work guide” to name a few.

The guides ($68 each or $78/month for all the guides) come as downloadable PDFs, which directly link to (Canadian!) retailers. It was the perfect map to get me back on track. Armed with my personal stylist, I felt more comfortable and confident in my choices. So when Goss came out with holiday gift guides, I jumped. For $38 I had dozens of (again, Canadian) gift ideas for every type of person, from the cyclist and movie buff to teen boy and hockey mom.

Art director Ming Wong
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The buy: Trek FX 1, the perfect entry level ride to savour life’s every moment

The pandemic turned me into a cyclist, and this was the year I upgraded from relying on bike shares to buying my own two-wheeler. I wanted something that could do it all – commutes to the office, longer weekend rides out of the city – without spending thousands. After testing out a few at local shops and comparing specs online, I landed on Trek’s FX 1, the entry-level model from their hybrid line. It’s nothing elite – it has a basic range of gears and comes in a modest silver colour, but if you’re like me and have only ridden on those clunky bikes shares, having something lightweight that you never have to return to a dock is a gamechanger.

Having moved back home to Vancouver after living and picking up my biking habit in Toronto, my new bike has given me new life in my old city. My phone is full of dreamy sunset pics from rides on the False Creek Seawall and the Stanley Park loop, both firsts for me despite growing up here. Maybe it’s endorphins, maybe it’s nostalgia for summer – but scrolling through those photos reminds me how freeing it is to get out of my apartment (and my head) and just ride.

Real estate reporter Carolyn Ireland
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The buy: A smart and camera-friendly travel backpack that’s high on function

Adventurous photographers need a way to smoothly transport gear so they can focus on capturing images.

Peak Design founder Peter Dering discovered that tenet when he lugged a nice camera on a trip around the world. On his return, he launched a Kickstarter campaign, which led to some incredibly well thought out solutions for carrying cameras, video equipment and drones. After researching bags for an Arctic expedition, I went with a black Peak Design Travel Backpack in the 30L size for $299.95. The medium camera cube insert for $89.95 comes with innovative origami-style dividers for seemingly endless permutations.

The beauty is in the versatility: Remove the camera cube and the ultralight bag is a squishable, expandable backpack for travel or everyday use. The creatives who designed the bag added a padded compartment for a laptop or tablet, and access to essentials like sunglasses, passport and water bottle. There are also thoughtful details such as magnetic closures, theft-deterrent pulls and clips that hold the cube snugly in place. The backpack straps slide away to create a sleek package. The build quality is excellent, with burly zippers and a weather-resistant shell. Plus, the bag is fair trade certified, carbon neutral and guaranteed for life.

Feature writer Ian Brown
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The buy: A KitchenAid stand mixer that has made sweet pavlova and memories

One of the best presents I ever received was a KitchenAid stand mixer from, surprisingly, my mother-in-law. I count the Christmas Joanne gave it to us, decades ago now, as the date of the first thawing of our mother-in-law/son-in-law ice jam, the point at which she began to believe I wasn’t intending to break her daughter’s heart. You don’t give someone a 22-pound, 325-watt, $245 (back then) stand mixer unless you figure they’ll stick around.

It’s a beautiful object. It always looks at home, no matter what style of kitchen we have had: antique (or at least kind of art deco) in a modern kitchen and sleekly contemporary in a countrified one. Its stout thickness declares its multifunctional competence: After I started using the KitchenAid I was never again daunted by a complicated procedure. I knew the mixer would a) make the recipe easier and b) make it take less time – impatience being the scourge of good cooking in particular and humanity in general. By now, after all these years, it is not so much a mixer as a kind of inanimate coach, urging me to try all the things I might have been afraid of.

The mixers come in a soothing range of colours (ours is all-purpose white); it’s quiet and easy to clean. Best of all, it is utterly reliable, and always, always, always works. There are no odd-shaped batteries to dislodge and find and replace, no LED lights to mislead you: The mixer is either on or off. There is no in-between with this baby (though it does come with a balloon whisk, a paddle and a dough hook. I added a meat-grinding attachment, which I recently used to make meatballs). Our mixer has only five speeds. Five, it turns out, is all you need: The frightening blender-level “liquefy” is not an option. The first time I ever used it, I made meringue, which became a pavlova with lemon curd and raspberries and mint, which in turn became my daughter’s favourite dessert. It remains so to this day. What better gift could you ask for?

Editor Adrian Lee
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The buy: EQ3 Marcel Lift bed, a milestone purchase made for adult-ing

For nearly 15 years, across multiple homes, I slept on the same plywood bed frame from IKEA – not out of any real devotion, I told myself, but because I didn’t want to have to spend money upgrading it. These beds are probably not meant to last that long, though, and about six years ago, the slats supporting the mattress started shifting off the frame, so that when I rolled to my left (and sometimes just randomly), the bed would become a sinkhole in the middle of the night. Still, I insisted all through my 20s and into my early 30s that it remained serviceable enough. To my great shame, I kept insisting this even after my now-fiancéee moved in, and she made an enormous ask of me: please can we get a not-broken bed? But it was only collapsing on my side, I said, and I had a technique for contorting myself into bed just-so to avoid slat-slipping – so we’re good, right?

But I’m getting married next year; it is time to put away one’s childish things. So this summer, we bought the EQ3 Marcel Lift bed, which has serious storage underneath (crucial in our tiny condo), includes a solid-feeling lift-up mechanism, and is made of sturdier composite wood – and of course, I sprung for the deluxe reinforced slats. What a luxury, it turns out, to sleep on a bed that won’t sink in the night – and now, I can cling to this one past its expiry date, too!

Editor Caora McKenna
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The buy: A Tiger non-stick rice cooker because rice deserves to be more than meh

In my house growing up, rice was made in the microwave. It was mediocre. In adulthood, mediocrity followed me until recently. My miracle of a rice cooker came into my life when I was struggling to make healthy meals. It makes light, fluffy, perfectly crispy-on-the-bottom rice every time. I eyeball the water to rice ratio, get distracted and leave it for hours – the rice is still perfect. Plus, there’s a tray for steaming. I’ve steamed everything: sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, even pot stickers. With some butter and soy sauce, my healthy one-pot dinner is ready in less than 30 minutes.

Reporter Carrie Tait
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The buy: A Dyson hairdryer, and the price is worth it when your hair stresses you out

Five hundred dollars is a stupid amount of money for a hair dryer. Who – WHO?! – would spend five hundred freaking dollars on a hair dryer?

I have long, thick hair – a burden, I swear. It takes forever to dry. Then I bought the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer. It ninja chopped my drying time, makes my hair all shiny and soft, and the styling lasts for days. Touch it – touch my hair. See how soft and smooth it is? That’s the Dyson hair dryer. Want salon blowouts at home? Get the Dyson hair dryer. Flyaways? Dyson has an attachment for that. Curly hair? YouTube tells me the Dyson diffuser is amazing. And the thing is so lightweight and its matte finish feels like a mix of velvet and silk. Here, hold it. See? Amazing, isn’t it!

It remains stupid expensive. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit my hair dryer costs about as much as a set of winter tires. But I’m a Dyson evangelical now. If you can afford it, buy it. It will change your life.

Reporter Patrick White
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The buy: A bass guitar that added a heartbeat to dark days

During the darkness of another COVID winter, a neighbourhood friend told me he was in a dad-band that needed a bassist. “I play bass,” I lied. I hadn’t touched a bass since the late 20th-century, when I’d botched The Lion Sleeps Tonight while accompanying our high-school choir, my first and last performance. I withheld that information. The pandemic made me sad, and regular dad-band jams in an unheated garage seemed like a possible antidote. But it raised a problem: I didn’t own a bass.

I hurried to the nearest guitar shop, Lil’ Demon, and bought the Model-T of bass guitars, a basic, all-black $225 Squier P-Bass. More than anything else I’ve blown money on this year, it has slain the gloom of modern times. Despite -20 C temperatures and my janky technique, that simple Squier stayed in tune as we jammed, laughed and shivered in that little garage, becoming tighter as a band and closer as friends. By fall we were playing laneway parties and even curriculum night at our kids’ school. When my clanky quarter-notes are barely keeping up with the beat, my worries disappear. I could upgrade the Squier, but why mess with such good medicine?

Columnist Marsha Lederman
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The buy: AirPods because it’s never too late to finally understand what all the fuss is about

For years, I resisted. Why drop oodles of cash on AirPods when my (several pairs of) wired earbuds work perfectly well?

They will change your life, a friend advised, as I texted her from the electronics store, with a gift card burning a hole in my pocket.

I am a sucker for a life-changer. The slow cooker, the air fryer – these are going to change our lives, I declare, justifying the purchase as I slap down my debit card. While each has been helpful, none can really claim that life-altering descriptor.

But those AirPods? Life-changing. Actually.

These wireless wonders make listening far less cumbersome and ultimately more enjoyable. So I’m not just listening more, I’m doing more: walking, cleaning, organizing, gardening. When I’m tuned into something like the podcast SmartLess or Matthew Perry’s Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing audiobook, the time I spend tackling chores goes by quickly, and I have incentive to keep going. So more laundry gets folded, more dishes washed, more steps logged onto my Fitbit.

Sure I could listen at home on a speaker, but there’s something about the headphone experience that makes the content more powerful. I like having Jason Bateman crack jokes directly into my ear.

The AirPods are more motivation than anything else I’ve tried when it comes to housework or getting my steps in. Something to consider as we head into the New Year’s resolution zone.

Editor Sarah Efron
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The buy: A stand-alone hammock that just needs a breeze and your free time

After years of hammock envy, I finally found a solution. My small city backyard doesn’t have the ample space – or the sturdy trees – required for a traditional hammock setup. Vivere, a Guelph, Ont.-based company, sells hammocks with compact stands that are simple and quick to set up – no tools or trees required. The stand can be easily taken down if you need space for other activities and in the winter, you can store the parts in its carrying case. The result: backyard bliss. I now have a special spot to read and snooze and soak up the sun’s rays – it’s like being on vacation at home. (P.S. You can also shop for them at rona.ca and lowes.ca).

Columnist Cathal Kelly
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The buy: A dough scraper. For $10 or less, you’ll feel smarter in the kitchen

You know that thing in cooking shows where the chef turns the edge of a blade and scoops a diced onion neatly into a pan? Yeah, you can’t do that. Diana Henry can. But not you. What you do is drop a thousand onion bits onto the floor. You’ll be reunited with them years from now when you get around to cleaning under the oven.

What you need is a dough scraper. Plastic miracles that allow you to move ingredients around a kitchen without crop-dusting the linoleum. Three for 10 bucks, and a boon for the averagely hand-eye coordinated.

Reporter Dave McGinn
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The buy: LuggageHero, an app that lets you lighten your load while you’re on the road

If you’ve ever been stuck dragging your luggage around – perhaps you’ve landed at your destination but can’t check in to your Airbnb for a few hours – know that there’s a way to unburden yourself. LuggageHero is an app that connects travelers to certified locations – shops, hotels, etc. – where they can store their bags from an hour up to several days, with prices ranging from US$0.95 an hour to US$6.05 a day. The service offers more than 800 storage locations in 125 cities around the world, so chances are you can find someplace to put your suitcase away safely and start enjoying your trip sans baggage.

Editor Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani
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The buy: A Tesla. For this working mom of three, it’s made pick-ups, drop-offs and everything in between easier

I can’t say I’ve ever really been into cars.

That changed this year. We bought a Telsa Model Y. Now I can’t imagine wanting to buy a fuel-driven car again. It wasn’t an obvious choice because of the upfront cost. And, one triggered by a series of events including having a third child and needing a car backseat big enough to hold a car seat, booster and comfortably fit the oldest child.

We also drive a lot.

The biggest benefit, of course, is the money we’ve saved on gas. I’ve started driving downtown twice a week to work and it’s a one-hour commute during rush hour. It costs me just more than $100 a month to charge my car at home, the same amount I spent filling premium gas in my SUV per week before inflation spiked.

Other perks: As an electric vehicle driver, I’m allowed to drive alone in the carpool lane. That’s cut down how long I spend on the road and the time it takes to pick up three kids from two schools after work. Safety features and alerts like self-driving are invaluable for a tired mom of a toddler, who refuses to sleep through the night. Before self-driving, I used to have to leave the kids in the house alone while I moved the car out of the garage, because it’s parked against a wall and doesn’t allow me to buckle the youngest into his car seat. Thanks to the Tesla, I can back the car out onto the driveway from my phone while waiting with my kids on the porch and then buckle them in.

Needless to say, I talk about my car all the time now.

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