Thing the First: I love this post from ParentHacks, about inexpensive things that make life easier. I second the suggestion for easily matchable flatware - I only wish I'd done the same for glasses. That way when you need just a few extra forks or spoons or drinking glasses, you don't have to buy a whole set.
Thing the Second: I'm a big fan of science fiction and fantasy. I've read all the Hugo and Nebula award winners in chronological order up through the early 2000s, but here's another great way to look at that list - favorites as ranked by fans and genre blogs. My favorites: Ender's Game, almost anything by Heinlein, and The Hitchhiker's Guide series.
Thing the Third: As usual, Trent's got some great advice. The way to think about the best value of something is more than just its price. Put your dollars behind your values, and be willing to spend a bit more for things that are worth it to you.