My 5 best purchases under $100

I recently read Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, where he interviews entrepreneurs, athletes, writers and many others. One of the questions he asks often is “What’s one item you’ve purchased in the past six months for under $100 that’s had the biggest positive impact on your life?”. I really enjoyed the replies, so in this post I ask myself the same question, with a bit more flexibility on the time of purchase and price. I recommend these for yourself or as gifts – for more gift ideas for academics see here and here. Now on to my 5 best purchases under $100.

1. Pullup bar ($20)

A great reminder to do at least a bit of exercise every day, which is of course good for you.

I actually found mine next to a dumpster, so it was free – but you can get one for as little as $20.

2. Soda stream ($80 and up)

A great way to stay hydrated! I really like sparkling water, so I drink more water when I have it. I used to buy bottles at the store, but dragging that much extra weight (I don’t have a car) was a pain. Plus, the Netherlands has really great water just from the tap.

Now, I always have as much sparkling water as I’d like, I save money AND it’s more sustainable.

3. Wake-up light ($50 and up)

Great for waking up refreshed! I’m definitely a morning person, but before this purchase, I would still have days where I was uncomfortably woken up by my alarm.

This is no longer the case since the wake-up light! It emulates the sunrise by starting with a dim red light, which slowly turns into a brighter yellow light within half an hour, at the end of which there are some nature sounds. I typically wake up somewhere in the middle of this cycle. I still do have a “backup” alarm on my phone a few minutes later, but I dont remember ever needing it since the purchase.

I have a model from Philips which currently costs $130, but there are other (also Philips) options available from $50, or less if you go for other brands.

4. Fitbit ($85 and up)

Great for walking more, sleeping more, and just general keeping track of your health. I would recommend a model with heart rate monitoring, since I find that the most insightful feature.

I have a Fitbit Alta HR, which is great for small wrists and costs $125, but other models like the Charge HR start at $85.

5. Comfortable shoes

Spending just a little bit more on shoes has been a life changer. It’s not that I always had impossible shoes with high heels that I couldn’t wear. My choices were actually quite reasonable – often flats or boots with a medium heel. But they had to “look good” and I had to have several different types and colors. As a result, each pair had to be “affordable”.

In the end I had a lots of shoes, but none of them were very comfortable – I couldn’t just decide to go for a long walk in my “normal” shoes. This was quite limiting during conference travel, because I would always have to think ahead what I would be doing later that day, or go back to the hotel to change, and so forth.

Since I bought my first pair of Ecco shoes (around $100 for new), I have downsized my collection quite a lot, only buying REALLY comfortable and versatile shoes. I also buy used shoes more often know, since I know what brands to search for. In the end it’s cheaper than what I used to do! But the most important benefit is that I’m no longer wasting energy on an issue that’s not really important.


What do you think? What things have you bought in the past year that you would recommend to others?

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