Help me upgrade the quality of my life for 100 bucks?
January 16, 2018 7:19 PM   Subscribe

What could I buy with 100 USD that would improve my happiness and quality of life?

I have a (very) teeny windfall coming in soon. Some of it will be saved but I would like to spend USD 100 on a meaningful gift for myself. In the past I have bought myself stuff like a pedometer which is a awesome purchase that I still use everyday. My mattress needs replacing but USD 100 is way too little money for big upgrades like that.

I would like to buy something that will stick around so no consumables like food, perfume or toiletries though I love them.

I already have a new blanket and pillow and there's no room in my tiny kitchen for more kitchen equipment. I bought 4 pair of nice angora socks lately so not sure if I need anymore. So basically I am looking for something

1. functional, preferably used frequently if not daily
2. improves the quality of my life/happiness
3. costs 100USD or less
4.not consumable/sticks around
5. preferably meaningful

I was considering replacing my regular keychain multi-tool penknife ( a battered, heavy, barely functional Swiss Army knife that belonged to my father) with a Leatherman Squirt PS4 (I need scissors so I guess this will be the best model?) but I thought Mefites might have better ideas since this purchase is practical (I have been thinking about it for years) but doesn't excite me deep down.

I also considered a sunrise alarm clock but I'm not sure how well they work and they are not sold where I am (I live in Asia) so there will be shipping/plug/electricity issues if I bought them online from another country. I paint but I think I have already spend too much on painting supplies considering how often I actually get around to painting. I am a middle-aged female if that helps.

Thank you.
posted by whitelotus to Shopping (50 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
The Leatherman Micra is really awesome. Cheaper than the squirt and from what I can tell it's similar enough. I've had mind for 15 years and it is great. If you use a small multi-tool often that's definitely a solid upgrade with a good warranty (don't bother with the colors though as that will chip over time). Sounds like you could buy one of those, also keep the Swiss Army knife and then happily put the remainder toward future purchase of painting supplies or just a rainy day/what if something breaks fund.
posted by belau at 7:30 PM on January 16, 2018

Do you live somewhere it gets cold? Because if it's cold, then a heated mattress pad is the very best thing ever and it costs c $100. Turn it on when you go to brush your teeth at night, bed is toasty warm by the time you get in it. It is the shizz.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:38 PM on January 16, 2018 [16 favorites]

My next ~$100 treat is going to be an e-reader. It feels silly to have a phone and a laptop and an e-reader, but the reading experience is a lot nicer.

Based on your previous questions, is there workout equipment that sounds fun or interesting? You might be able to find a suspension trainer in your price range. Workout clothes you're happy to put on?
posted by momus_window at 7:40 PM on January 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

Check the posts listed under What should I buy that's reliable, durable, and possibly worth spending a lot of money on? in the the Shopping section of the Mefi Wiki FAQ.
posted by zamboni at 7:42 PM on January 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

I know you said no consumables but if you enjoy cooking you could swap out old spices for new fresh ones. It's amazing the difference in flavor that you get and it'll last you a couple years.
posted by Mizu at 7:45 PM on January 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you like the idea of a sunrise alarm clock, consider a LIFX light bulb (or more than one if you want). The admittedly brief Googling I did revealed that LIFX has better compatibility with Asian voltage (more so than Philips Hue) and will provide the “sunrise” effect with your existing lamp.

I have Hue bulbs and use them for a sunrise alarm, and they work very well.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:45 PM on January 16, 2018

If you write with pens, a nice fountain pen is a joy. I have a Lamy 2000 that I use daily; it's slightly outside that price range but many other excellent pens are not.

A wool t-shirt/base layer (here's one from Outlier, but many other outdoors companies make them) is an extremely versatile and long-lived garment.

I have exactly that Leatherman (the squirt PS4) and it's great.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:46 PM on January 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I know you don't want more kitchen equipment to clutter your space, but I might swap it out -- replace one or two of your cookware (pans or pots) with some excellent expensive ones, or your old knives with a couple of high quality new ones.
posted by velveeta underground at 8:04 PM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Could you upgrade whatever bag you carry around on a daily basis? $100 won't get you fancy, but if you're schlepping around some battered old $20 K-mart pleather special, getting a nice well-organized EDC could improve your life daily.

I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but if it gets at all cold, a nice down throw for the living room can be amazing. (I just bought one and am so glad.) Eddie Bauer has a sale on its version for like $50 right now, or for $140 you could get the Feathered Friends version, which looks amazing.

If you cook a lot, upgrading your biggest chef's knife would probably be a pleasure. You can get the entry-level full-tang forged Wusthof chef's knife for, I think, slightly less than $100.
posted by praemunire at 8:07 PM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I recommend a sonicare electric toothbrush. It may not be the sexiest of purchases, but it is worth every penny. I have had one for about 4 years now, and I can't imagine ever going back to a basic toothbrush.
posted by August Fury at 8:32 PM on January 16, 2018 [10 favorites]

Depending on your climate, a really nice dehumidifier or space heater.
posted by kylej at 8:54 PM on January 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

A NYT digital subscription, if you don't have one.
posted by retrograde at 8:55 PM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

A large fluffy bath towel.
posted by GoldenShackles at 9:00 PM on January 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I got a Poang chair from Ikea and I love sitting in it and reading.

If you eat sandwiches and burritos, I'd recommend a panini press. I use mine (Hamilton Beach brand) all the time.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:05 PM on January 16, 2018

If you lose your keys or phone a lot, a tile. It is a magic thing that instantly reduced my general anxiety of "where the fuck is my stuff". Instant pot (or local equivalent) is awesome and can replace a rice cooker and a slow cooker, as well as help you get food cooked quickly with relatively little hands on effort. A Kindle or other e-reader.
posted by kjs4 at 9:23 PM on January 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

Chiming in to second a Sonicare toothbrush! Best money I ever spent.
posted by stellaluna at 9:58 PM on January 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I would buy an old cast iron skillet and a new portable induction cooktop. The ultimate combination for cooking just about anything. The $100 +/- expenditure should last at least 1 or 2 decades.
posted by blueprinter at 10:02 PM on January 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I bought a heated mattress pad (Sunbeam brand, ~80USD for a queen size) a couple of months ago and it might be the best $80 I've ever spent that wasn't for food or shelter. It's so wonderful. No more huddling under the blankets waiting to warm up. I can keep the room temperature lower and it's more comfortable to breathe. It's so wonderful that I worry that I might never be able to fall asleep on trips again.
posted by stowaway at 10:16 PM on January 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

Oh! I bought a sunrise clock from Lazada that cost me S$28! They list them with all the plugs for Asian countries. It's awesome. It does pretty much 95% of what the Philips one does and is basically a knock-off. It is so nice to wake up at 5am without wanting to murder everyone.

I also very much also love the soft giant blanket I got there, then had to reorder because my kids kept stealing it.

(Non-vegetarian) The single best under $100 thing besides the clock were all the sheepskin rugs I got, but the particular vendor I ordered them from is not on Lazada any longer so I think you'd have to search Taobao. My ancient ratty sofa is now covered in sheepskins across the back and the dog lounges around on a sheepskin with the cats curled up next to her, and it is so luxurious to sink down onto one. Ikea sheepskins are ok, but upgrading to a slightly nicer quality and a much bigger one as a mini-carpet is glorious, and possible through Alibaba/Taobao.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:20 PM on January 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've got two.

- unicorn pepper mill. Wirecutter be damned, this is the best pepper mill for those who like lots of coarsely ground pepper. ~$50

- a better shower head. Comes down to personal preference, I poked around a lot before pulling the trigger, but got one for ~$20 that was a huge improvement.
posted by booooooze at 11:00 PM on January 16, 2018

If it gets cold where you are, nice warm slippers. I just got some and it's been one of those "every day, multiple times a day, I notice how good this is" purchases.

Maybe look around your everyday routine, your home, your commute, and think about what are the lingering annoyances. Getting one of those problems decisively solved would make a big difference. Offhand just some random guesses - good rainboots or raincoat? Coat tree for your entranceway? good bedsheets? a shelf to deal with an annoying area of clutter?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:32 PM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Where do you spend the most time? I would focus on sleep and work as that is where we spend 1/2 of our lives and I think you could get great bang for your buck!

Sleep - I would suggest upgrading your sleeping setup to try and get as close to that "sleeping on cloud nine" feeling as possible. $100 would not be enough for a brand new bed or mattress, but it could buy you a mattress topper? I like a soft mattress, and a brand new one would cost $500+ for the kind I like, but I found that getting a memory foam mattress topper can make a firm mattress much more pleasant to sleep on, and that is much cheaper than a brand new mattress!

Work - an upgrade to a more ergonomic setup, maybe a better chair, better storage solutions, a better monitor, etc?

You could also spend it on some home repair or upgrade, if there's an everyday annoyance that you'd like to get rid of. I've been watching a lot of home design shows lately, and there are tons of people who just "live with it" even if the solution could be something like "call a plumber to replace the leaky faucet." Then 5 yrs later they hate their house because the faucet has been dripping for years!
posted by tinydancer at 11:56 PM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

A quick check on Amazon shows bunches of bidet attachments for under $100. You'll use it every day.
posted by Marky at 12:11 AM on January 17, 2018 [6 favorites]

That reminds me, I have a sheepskin rug that I use on my office chair. Originally I thought it would be just for when it's colder but I keep it on during hot/humid summers as well. It's nicer than that scratchy chair upholstery and for some reason, it doesn't feel sticky or weird in the heat.

I cobbled together some straps from strips of bicycle inner tubes to keep it in place, something I learned here on the Green.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:44 AM on January 17, 2018

I know you said "no more kitchen equipment" but (if you don't have one already) you could swap your largest stockpot / saucepan for a pressure cooker.

I have no idea why pressure cookers appear to be overlooked, and are not staples in every kitchen.

With a pressure cooker you can:

- turn cheap garbage meat (e.g. blade steak, gravy steak; the cuts reserved for slow cooking) into melt-in-mouth wonderfulness in about 20 minutes

- cook dried pulses (cheap, and not sloppy canned rubbish) into edibility within about the same period of time

- cook brown rice (the only really nutritional variety that isn't basically equivalent to eating an equal quantity of refined sugar) in 17 minutes

- make your own stock from leftover bones, carrot peels, celery offcuts, wilting herb and onion peelings (stash these all away in your freezer until stock time) in about half an hour, rather than the stockpot version that takes about 2-3 hours

- produce one-pot meals in the similar tiny time periods mentioned above

Pressure cookers are the best. With USD100 you could probably get a reasonably decent one, and like I said, you can always use it to double for your biggest saucepan / stockpot, e.g. if you want to boil pasta. With the lid off or not on any pressure setting, it's basically just a big saucepan.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:01 AM on January 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Congrats! I have a titanium spork that I use to eat lunch every day at work and it makes me happy every time.

Get rid of all your wonky/old/mis matched tupperware and get a nice, matched, maybe glass set, if that's something you use?

Or, do what I did with my first every cheque for a side-project and buy a big, beautiful glass paperweight with a jellyfish like thing inside. Bonus - glows in the dark!
posted by sedimentary_deer at 2:19 AM on January 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

Possibly the best gift that Mrs Gotanda ever bought me was a really high quality natural boar bristle hairbrush. Holds up forever. I use it every day (even when my hair is buzzed down short). And, it feels great. If you don't have one, get yourself one.
posted by Gotanda at 3:29 AM on January 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

Prescription sunglasses if you wear glasses. Get the frames at a thrift store, get new lenses put in them.
posted by aniola at 4:55 AM on January 17, 2018

Use it to do something for or with someone. Definitely meaningful, and that relationship improves the quality of your life.
posted by aniola at 4:58 AM on January 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

IKEA has a mattress for $89.99.
posted by at at 5:19 AM on January 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

A pair of really excellent sunglasses if you're in a bright climate. You can sometimes find Maui Jims for under $100. I got a pair for my husband and he finds them to be life-changers.

I agree with whoever said bidet seat above!!! Assuming you can find one that heats the water in your price range.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:57 AM on January 17, 2018

Buckwheat filled zafus. They're not just for meditation any more. We have a couple on our couch and use them as adhoc adjustable armrests, foot rests, and even couch napping pillows. But that's not all! Their loose mold-ability and insulating powers make them great lap desks for laptops, TV trays for holding a hot plate in your lap, and great book stands for hands free reading.
posted by mumblelard at 6:41 AM on January 17, 2018

If you cook, and your knives are just ...knives, buy a big Global knife and a knife sharpener (a little one you clip on the edge of the work surface). Cooking with a big knife is fab and cooking with a big, sharp, well-made knife is just magic.
posted by Heloise9 at 11:13 AM on January 17, 2018

Like others have mentioned, $100 could get you a nice mattress pad to upgrade your sleeping situation, heated or otherwise. I don't have a heated mattress pad, but I do have a heated blanket and it is INVALUABLE in the colder months. $100 would also buy some nice sheets!

I like the idea of picking something that you already use every day and purchasing a nice upgrade, as you suggested with your multitool. Maybe a nice pair of snow boots or work shoes? A better travel bag/backpack for weekend getaways? A really plush bathrobe or towel set?

Also, quick aside, I know you said no more kitchen gadgets, but I just got a soup thermos for like $15 and it is my FAVORITE THING EVER. Hot lunch without having to use the gross office microwave? SO GOOD.
posted by helloimjennsco at 11:14 AM on January 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not sure what you do for work, but I type a lot on a daily basis, and getting a very-clicky mechanical keyboard improves typing for me every day. I'm using it now and as I type this, I'm enjoying the clicky click click.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:38 AM on January 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

I am not adding much useful here, but I'd like to second everything Sokka Shot First said.

I have a Lamy Vista fountain pen that is simply My Pen and I top it up with ink and gosh a bottle of ink lasts forever! I also recently bought a Leatherman Squirt PS4 and it is ideal for pocket pliers (I compared to the micra and the gerber dime, and found from reviews the Squirt was what I wanted). I also rely heavily on nice base-layer shirts to keep me warm and cool and dry as appropriate to the weather, since I used to be a cotton-clad ball of sweat that either froze or boiled whatever the weather.

If we're talking tools, the Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite is an amazing pocket ratchet-driver that accepts ½inch bits of any sort. You can kit it out with bits from any hardware store to match the job you're going to do, and it's astonishing how luxurious it can be to have a versatile little ratchet driver when you need to turn a screw or tighten a bolt! I refuse to use ordinary shaft screwdrivers any more.

The other things I'd consider for this category are outside the $100 range, in that "buy cheap = buy twice" sort of way. Shop for the perfect shoes, I say!

But I switched to a Merkur HD razor that takes double-edged blades and got a brush and nice pots of English shaving creams to shave with, and it made my mornings far more pleasant!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 12:34 PM on January 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Pressure Cooker love. It does seem like you're joining a cult when you buy one, but I feel that the Instant Pots are genuinely worth it.

If you live alone, the 3 quart size is perfect, and it's both in stock at Amazon and under $100. I own it, and it's been invaluable for me.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:39 PM on January 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Also - do you drink tea?
Do you use an alarm clock?

Why not combine the both, and get an alarm clock that makes you tea? Let me introduce - the Teasmade! I also have one of these, and use it daily. Love my Teasmade to bits.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:43 PM on January 17, 2018

I recently was given a SodaStream and I wish I'd gotten one sooner.
posted by alphanerd at 1:04 PM on January 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

This rechargable hand vacuum cleaner is very satisfying to have around. And it's only fifty bucks so you can think of it as a bargain.
posted by Morpeth at 2:29 PM on January 17, 2018

The Amazon Echo is something we use literally every day. It reads the (self-curated) news to us in the morning, tells us the weather, plays Pandora music while I'm doing the dishes (or functions as a bluetooth speaker that you can pause/play with your voice), plays classical music if I have a hard time sleeping at night. We can order things from Amazon by voice, or Wikipedia things without having to look at our phones.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:34 PM on January 17, 2018

Seconding a Sonicare toothbrush and a heated mattress pad/electric blanket. Both are wonderful inventions that I am happy I spent money on every single time I use them.

Other things:
Roku stick
A thick terry cloth robe
Some Frye boots (I got them for about $100 at DSW shoe store.)
Really nice sheets or duvet cover or towels
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:22 PM on January 17, 2018

I recently used a rebate card to upgrade from a $30 Conair hair dryer to the Rusk W8less ($80 on amazon). I am not a person who does fancy blowouts and I don't even wet/shampoo my hair everyday but OMG I love this hair dryer.

Also nthing the heated mattress pad. On nights when I remember to turn it on a bit before bedtime it is such a luxury to crawl into an already-warm bed.
posted by misskaz at 6:32 PM on January 17, 2018

Thank you everyone for your answers! I have actually replaced my electric toothbrush and daily bag recently so I won't be buying those.

The mattress topper sounds like a good idea but my mattress is so old I'm not sure if it will make a difference?

I think I would be buying a Chinese knockoff sunrise clock since I really have trouble getting up in the dark, a cheap wallet to replace my peeling patent leather one and a new silicone potholder to replace the dollar store one that is too thin and have been annoying me forever.

dorothyisunderwood: do you wash your sheepskins yourself? I used to have a beautiful one but I gave it away because the dry cleaning fees was too much to pay long term. Washing them at home seems a lot of work.
posted by whitelotus at 4:36 AM on January 18, 2018

I have and love many of these suggestions but would, myself, buy a new pair of well-designed hip daily-wear earrings that make me really happy.
posted by athirstforsalt at 12:40 AM on January 19, 2018

I have previously taken them into the shower and used human shampoo on them and basically stomped on them with bare clean feet to work it in all sudsy then rinse it out.then I hung it to drip dry leather facing up over the poles in the apartment walls outside. I used a dog fur brush to sort of fluff it up ok afterwards. My new ones shipped with a special fluff brush which looks to me like a cat fur brush basically.

My old ones were thrown when my kids broke glass into them, no way I was going to attempt to find glass shards in a fleece.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:45 AM on January 19, 2018

Also I only washed them when someone spilt stuff on them so in my house every 3 months? It was just like an extra 10 minutes on a shower and sort of grape-mash-shepard fun.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:47 AM on January 19, 2018

Linen sheets are a delight. It's hard to work to find them for under $100 though but I consider them worth every penny. By far the most significant sleep upgrade I have ever experienced and I have a nice mattress, a foam topper and buckwheat pillows.
posted by srboisvert at 8:58 AM on January 23, 2018

Update: I bought a full leather wallet to replace my peeling patent leather one and a better quality though overpriced pot holder to replace the burnt dollar store one. I also bought a sunrise alarm clock which is the best purchase decision I have made lately.

I have to get up before dawn on certain weekday mornings and my old routine consisted of being woken rudely by my mobile phone alarm and then forcing myself to stumble out of bed in the dark to fumble around for the light switch.

With the new sunrise clock, I get to get out of bed in a room that's already well-lit to the sound of recorded birdsong and can turn on my bedroom light easily. I would recommend a sunrise alarm clock to everyone. The one I bought was a Chinese knockoff and has less than perfect controls but considering I paid less than 30USD for it, it does its job well enough.
posted by whitelotus at 6:56 PM on May 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Further update: I have been using my 3 quality purchases for some time now and they remain satisfying. The sunrise clock's shining on my face really helps to wake me up when the real sun's not up yet.

Also, I just bought a (non-heated) mattress pad as fingersandtoes suggested and now I sleep on marshmallows! It is that soft and really make a difference to the mattress surface.
posted by whitelotus at 3:40 AM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

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