Not everyone can afford to rip out their counters and install granite, but there are some budget friendly ways to makeover your old laminate counters, especially if you are willing to do-it-yourself. There are at least two products on the market now that are made to recoat over laminate, but are much more durable than just painting the surface. Rustoleum makes the Transformations products (for counters and also for cabinets) and Rudd Company makes Encore.
The Transformation product, when finished, has a speckled look. The Encore has a more leathery, slate or concrete look. Personally I prefer the look of the Encore product as it feels more updated and would look great in more transitional and contemporary kitchens and bathrooms. It is a little more labor intensive.
The product itself will cost only a couple hundred dollars, depending on the size of the surface you are trying to cover. For example, here in Seattle a box of the Encore costs $275 and covers up to 50 square feet. It is recommended that you uninstall your sink before applying, though you could do it by just taping off the edges. They say that the process will take you 3 days, but plan on a week of not having a functioning kitchen so that you don't rush the process.
My favorite color from the Encore products is Sterling Gray - it's a rich neutral gray that isn't brown or black, kind of a warm charcoal. Pair it with Benjamin Moore's Anjou Pear AF 425 for a fun, urban kitchen, with Safari AF 335 for a warm contemporary kitchen, or with Glacial Till AF 390 for a warm, sophisticated master bath. The Cocoa Bean color from Encore would go great with Woodlawn Blue HC 146 and white subway tile for a fresh and updated traditional kitchen.
This product won't save you money if you plan to hire a contractor or painter to do the work (just choose new laminate from Wilsonart or Formica), but for the DIYer it is a great option!