What items have you purchased that were cheap as hell, but totally worth it?
May 23, 2011 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes, we can't all have the best of the best. What items have you purchased that were cheap as hell, but totally worth it?

A few restrictions:
  • You may define "cheap" however you'd like, but be prepared to explain why. You should take into account both the item's absolute price, and price relative to similar things that perform the same function.
  • These things must be "Good," if not "Great." Not merely "Good Enough."
  • These things must be readily available new or used. Nothing that was cheap back in the day, but impossible to find now.
  • I'll count things that are "average priced," but save the owner money by being significantly more durable than their alternatives. Truly exceptional cases only, please.
Hat-tip to cashman, who first posed this question in MetaTalk last week.
posted by schmod to Shopping (19 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: In the MeTa thread people pointed to the 4-5 times this question has been asked before. If this isn't a substantial variant on that one and you're aware of the other ones, it's pretty much a solid double unless I am missing something. -- jessamyn

Metafilter membership.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 12:33 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Cheap but bombproof.

Also: My $20 baby sling carried two kids for a total of six years and got more use than any of our strollers or backpacks. Wore like iron, washed up well, easy to transport, kept kids close and safe and comfy.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:33 PM on May 23, 2011

A zip-it (a $3 impulse purchase at Home Depot) was able to declog our bathtub way way better than Drano, and I didn't have to worry about corrosive chemicals in our plumbing system.
posted by kmz at 12:34 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

That same MetaTalk also referenced a previously, though that has a slightly different focus than this (longevity as opposed to general awesomeness).
posted by brainmouse at 12:34 PM on May 23, 2011

posted by ryanshepard at 12:34 PM on May 23, 2011

Cast fuckin' iron skillet.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:35 PM on May 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

240 series Volvos. I got mine for $150 bucks, but that was unusual - however, they're still super cheap, and they last forever. Mine has over 390,000 miles and it's still going. If I buy another used car, it'll probably be another old Volvo - but a wagon this time.
posted by HopperFan at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2011

These earbud headphones are awesome. I wear them so people don't target me as an iphone owner and beat me up.
posted by pwally at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2011

Lodge cast iron skillets. Under $20 and available at Target!
posted by rtimmel at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

So this isn't an item, it's a service.

Amazon Prime.

Right, I know I know.. $79 is a lot of money and even I don't define it as "cheap". But! I took a look at it and it's less then $7 a month. And it's absolutely totally worth it. When you don't have to pay for shipping and you get it in two days.. it opens you up to a whole new world of possibilities.

It's more then paid for itself, and I was able to find some really excellent gifts for people that I couldn't find elsewhere or would pay far too much money for.
posted by royalsong at 12:38 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

A french press for making coffee. You can buy one for about a the price of a cheap drip coffee maker ($10) with the french press having the added benefit of never needing paper filters. The difference in the quality of coffee produced is unbelievable for such a small initial expense.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:39 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

My Okapi ratchet knife is the best knife I own. It fits comfortably in my pocket. It is large but light. It holds an edge like nobody's business. The lock on it is bomb-proof. It's ugly as sin and the blade takes on a dull patina.

It cost me 2 bucks in Jamaica.
I've bought ones for nine bucks from Ragnar.

Definitely beats my overpriced Benchmade any day.
posted by Seamus at 12:40 PM on May 23, 2011

These earbud headphones are awesome.

Seconding the JVC HAF140BN earbuds. I've stepped on mine about a dozen times and the speaker assembly goes right back into the backing without any trouble. Sound quality and fit are pretty good, and they've accepted more than their share of sweat and dirt without any trouble.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:42 PM on May 23, 2011

These $15 glove liners, with a built-in pocket for a heat pack, do a far better job of keeping my hands warm than various fancypants electrical gloves ($100 - $200+), with far less fuss. Simple genius.
posted by Corvid at 12:42 PM on May 23, 2011

kmz: "A zip-it"

Warning: Video shows disgusting gigantic hairball being pulled from a bathtub drain. Fantastic if you want to restrict your diet or unclog your tub. Not so great if you're eating lunch.

posted by schmod at 12:43 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cheap Velcro cable ties. $5-6 for a pack of 100, depending on where you find them, and they're reusable. I've got a house full of random cables and they beat the pants off of more expensive "cable management solutions."
posted by verb at 12:43 PM on May 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

I bought a $25 LL Bean backpack in 1991 when I started graduate school. After I finished grad school it became an adjunct diaper bag and survived two kids. My wife is still using the damn thing today.
posted by COD at 12:44 PM on May 23, 2011

Amazon Prime.

Amazon Prime is awesome, but be warned that for those (like me) with poor impulse control, it can also lead to buying stuff you don't really need from Amazon. "Hmm, do I really need this book? Ah hell, I don't have to pay for shipping anyway, *clicks buy*" (I can imagine it's only worse if you have one-click turned on.)
posted by kmz at 12:44 PM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, a cheap sewing kit from the drugstore. It's sub $5 but incredibly liberating. You can now fix that button/rip/loose thread that's prevented you from wearing your favorite jacket for the past 6 months. It costs less than one visit to a tailor and saves you a high multiple of your initial expense. The same can be said for a basic toolbox.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:44 PM on May 23, 2011

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