9 Affordable/Free Life Upgrades

in #life6 years ago

9 affordable life upgrades.jpg

There is a knack to living well. Most of it is mental, but there are definitely some things to own that can help you get a little more enjoyment out of life. The best things in life are free, but try as you might, you'll never filter coffee through a maxim!

French Press / Coffee Grinder

Freshly ground beans + coffee grinder + french press = coffee nirvana. If you are a coffee drinker and you have never had french press coffee, this is a must try. As far as I am concerned, there is no better way to enjoy it. The deal is, there is no paper filter in the french press: only metal. Because of this, more flavour and body from the coffee comes through. Combine this with freshly ground beans, and you're really cooking! If you want to go super crazy you could roast your own beans .. but we have not taken it to that level and have not seen the need.

Proof: No one who has coffee at our house fails to mention how good it is. Not one person.


Cast Iron Cookware

It's pretty much all my wife and I use to cook, and we have almost no need for anything else. You can cook anything in cast iron, from eggs, to bread, to steak, to almost anything you set your heart on. It lasts forever, it's easy to clean, and once you know how to use it, it provides you with a very slick, non-stick cooking surface. If I had to pick one thing to cook things in, it would be a large cast iron pan.

If you decide to pick one up, try and find an older one: they tend to be lighter and better made. The newer examples tend to be heavier with less impressive finish. This really is one of those cases where older is better: you're going to get better performance out of Granny's 50 year old cast iron pan than you will one new from the store. They take time to season properly, and one that has been lovingly used over an extended period of time will probably have a much slicker, refined finish than a new one. Check the swap shops, antique stores, check and your granny's cellar.


@walkerland has written extensively about cast iron. For more information, you may find these articles to be quite useful.


P.S. You can get better results on steaks in a cast iron skillet than you can on a barbecue. Real chefs tend to cook steaks in cast iron pans: super heated ones. Heat it up, big time .. add some high smoke point oil to the pan .. get it good and hot, and let the sizzling begin.

The Ability to Bend the Rules for People

This world is full of way, WAY too many rules. It seems like open season on freedom, basically, and every institution out there seems hell bent on MORE RULES. I think it's time for a grass roots revolution to this .. and the way to do that is to just stop enforcing the stupid rules. Look the other way.

I think we all have examples in our lives where people did this for us. I know when I was a kid, in the eighties and nineties, policing was radically different from how it is today. When I was young, some friends and I got pulled over one time, and had some stuff in the car we should not have had. Beer. But we were good kids, generally, with no criminal records or any bad history .. and we weren't drunk or anything. We were just kids being kids. We got a stern talking to .. wew, did we ever .. delivered to our parents .. and that was it. No charges, no arrests, no real problems for us. But we did learn the lesson. Today, you'd be arrested (possibly tazed and shot), the car would be seized, and an unholy shitstorm would ensue. All because we, as a society, have lost the ability to look the other way, when the situation calls for it.

So .. when you can bend the rules and make a situation right .. think about doing it. What is more important, the rule, or the reality?

Mechanical Keyboard

If you type a lot on a computer, you owe it to yourself to get a mechanical keyboard: you'll type faster, more accurately, and you'll enjoy doing it. A tactile keyboard lets you know, in no uncertain terms, that a key has been pressed. As a result of this, mistakes are easier to catch, and typing just seems to go better, generally. I am a big fan of the IBM model M keyboard, but any decent mechanical keyboard will do.


We often tend to overlook the keyboard (and mouse) - we use whatever came with the computer. This is a big mistake! The difference between a standard keyboard and a mechanical keyboard cannot be overstated! Normal keyboards feel like you're typing in oatmeal! If you use your computer seriously, read some reviews and get a mechanical keyboard. Or, just skip right to the best and get an IBM Model M. I wrote a review about my favorite model here:


A Basic Understanding of Human Psychology, Empathy

This is perhaps the biggest upgrade on the list. If you can develop a basic understanding of human psychology, your time on this earth will be a lot less frustrating, and you will be able to contribute more to your fellow man. Call it development of the superego .. call it enhanced empathy .. or maybe it's something as simple as mentally "walking a mile in the other persons shoes" before passing judgement, or reacting too harshly.

A lot of serious stuff is going on in this world right now, and everyone is feeling the strain of that. Some, more than others. If you live in Venezuela, your life is probably in relative chaos. If you have no money, every day can feel like a struggle. Raising a teenager is a whole special hell. High school can be stressful. Society is very demanding in all sorts of strange ways.


The people around you are all going through things, every day, struggling with invisible things of which you have no clue. It shapes their behavior. The snappy teller is that way for a reason. The frazzled mother, the angsty teenager, the sad old woman .. they are all going through major things, and this will impact their behaviour. KEEP THIS IN MIND! That's not to say you should tolerate bad behaviour, but .. try to have a heart .. try to let a little warmth in. Understand that many people (even just according to economic statistics) are having a really hard go of it, and every day, for them, feels like a marathon. It is a cold world, getting colder by the day, so, warm someone, when you can. Be understanding. Be good to people as a default.

Silent Computers

Are you familiar with that droning sound a standard PC makes? Sucks, eh? Well, i's probably down to fans and possibly, if you are running an older rig, the hard drive. Fans and hard drives are the only two items in a computer that typically make regular noise. In order to eliminate the sound, you need:

  • A quiet power supply
  • Quiet Fans
  • A Solid State Hard Drive

It is not hard to make an existing computer quiet, especially if you are not using a powerful video card -- these often come with mega fans and they are anything but quiet. Water cooling is an option, but it is not the cheapest thing in the world. Maybe you don't want to bother doing this with your existing machine .. but for your next one, make sure to consider how loud it is .. if you can, get one that is silent. Personally, I run laptops which are all silent by default .. and let me tell you, it is so much nicer to work in a quiet environment, absent the drone of a computer. Now that I have experienced how slick it is to work in silence, it is one of my top criteria for any new computers.

If you want to read about an awesome, silent, older school laptop, check my review on the Panasonic Toughbook.


You can find these for $300-500 or so, and they are wonderful little units (IF you are running lightweight open source software: this is NOT a machine for running Windows 10.)

The Ability to Laugh at Yourself

We are a ridiculous species in every sense. Physically, we have bits and bobs that are quite funny to look at .. not to mention bodily functions that are rather humorous. Our legs jump around when you poke us in the knee. Sometimes we laugh and cry at the same time. We fall over ourselves, we drop things .. we back our cars into the garage, put our feet in our mouth, and screw up the most basic and simple tasks. As a species, we are a walking comedy. Some hide it better than others, but none of us are immune.


So .. realize you are part of that, subject to that, and LAUGH at yourself when you mess up. Learn from it .. change your behavior .. don't make the same mistakes .. but ALWAYS remember to give yourself the gift of levity. An ability to laugh at your own mistakes is a gift to yourself and to those around you.

A Proper Chef Knife

When I was a child, the biggest knife we had in the house was four or five inches long. Baby boomers, and in love with instant food, my parents never learned proper knife skills: I was taught to chop with a paring knife! I grew up under the impression that only professionals used the large knives. How wrong was I. The first time I used a proper chef's knife, a whole new world opened up, and suddenly, I enjoyed cooking more, because my tools were not holding me back.

Your key knife is the chef's knife: get a nice big one. Eight or ten inches. Learn to use it. You truly do not need much more than a chef's knife; a full knife complement is nice to have, but past the chef's knife, you only really need a couple/few more to be well equipped for 99% of tasks. A lot of knives are specialty knives and are just not needed for the average home cook. Victorinox makes some great quality, affordable knives. You do not need to spend much, but do pay attention to quality. Also, you'll want a way to sharpen them: do some reading!


I only run one operating system, and it is OpenBSD. As a result of this decision, I have realized a great number of benefits. I give up games, and PC-only applications, but I get:

  • 99.99% Immunity to viruses
  • No spyware by default, unlike Microsoft
  • No forced upgrades
  • No forced reboots
  • No OS Crashes (only the odd application crash.)


OpenBSD gives me a free, super secure, super stable work environment. I honestly cannot understand how people put up with Microsoft and Apple, and would urge any computer users with a bit of technical ability to check out Open Source alternatives. Maybe OpenBSD is a bit too advanced for many, but there are plenty of Linux Distributions out there. If you want more info, read my review of the latest release. This is an awesome review by the way: I am a little bitter that so few people read it!!


There you have it, Steemians: nine affordable or free life upgrades! I hope you find some of this useful. Be well, take care, and thanks for reading.

[ @xwalkran ]

Seeking truth, meaning and enlightenment.
Philosophy, Technology, News, Conspiracy, Homesteading, Fiction, $$ and more.

Check out my news/conspiracy aggregation site @ http://walkran.com


Empathy and being able to laugh at yourself seem to be in short supply these days. People would be a lot less stressed if they put them into practice.

thanks for the upgrade

I learned "the ability to bend the rules for people" in the military...it's amazing what you can accomplish when you're not always a stickler. I've got a good story about it :)))

I'll await the post of your good story!

I'm not sure it would be that interesting to others! But maybe I can draw a moral conclusion out of it and link your post too. Hmmmm (wheels turning)😆

It's scary how many of these things I actually have set up! I need to get cast iron still! The read also reminds me, I didn't get so far with my little BSD project. I might ask you some questions soon! I haven't looked at it for a while so I can't remember what problems I was running into. But what I remember was that it was at an embarrassingly early stage in the install process (laughing at myself).

Pretty much you hit enter, and pick (a) autodefaults for the drive partitioning. Do let me know if you run into a showstopper.

Those were some great suggestions on upgrading your life. Very well written and a joy to read. Thank you. 🐓🐓

Glad you enjoyed the article.

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