Impactful Purchases Under $100

On Tim Ferriss’ podcast, one of his regular interview questions 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?

This is always one of my favorite questions, because sometimes I feel like I waste money on things that don’t give me much benefit. These less-than-$100 products are an opportunity to learn about high leverage ways people have spent money to improve some aspect of their lives. It’s reminds me of this great TED talk.

On this page you’ll find a list of answers from Tim’s podcast followed by my answers to the question.

From Guests on the Tim Ferriss Show

This is an informal list of Tim’s guests’ answers to this question on his podcast. Click the person’s name to listen to the episode. It’s by no means a complete list, so if you remember one I left out please email me and let me know!

#114: Jimmy Chin

Jack Black Lip Balm. Jimmy said it’s “one of the few things that keeps your lips from cracking on like a really tough expedition.” This guy is awesome. Check out his documentary Meru.

#125: Derek Sivers

A huge box of old used toys (“figurines and cars and stuff”) from eBay. Derek said he’s very minimalist, but couldn’t force that on his son, so he bought him a giant box of old toys after they were at a cafe with a similar box of old toys that his son enjoyed.

#127: Amelia Boone

Manuka Honey Bandages from CVS. Amelia puts her body through a lot, as you know if you listened to this episode.

#131: Eric Weinstein

A mandolin for his son. This episode talked about education, and specifically Eric gave some reasons why he thought the mandolin was a good instrument for his son to learn.

#135: Luis von Ahn

A Tumi backpack. Luis said it was probably over $100, but he likes this backpack because it lets him quickly remove his laptop at the TSA.

#161: Sebastian Junger

The book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, and a good axe. Sebastian thinks a good axe is a great value $100 as long as it’s high quality materials and sharp. If he could pick one thing to take into the woods it would be a good axe.

#168: Malcom Gladwell

Another Green World by Brian Eno. Malcom says he hears this in his head sometimes and one of his favorites. He mentioned an adage that says the music you find when you’re 18 stays with you the rest of your life, and he discovered this when he was 18.

#170: Shay Carl

A Boosted Board. Shay admitted this is “more like $900,” but is very impressed with the battery technology and the ability to go uphill. He thinks it’s a precursor to personal quadcopters for transportation.

#171: Kevin Rose

Good pens. Kevin had an expert on paper and pens on the second episode of his podcast, The Journal. He thinks those pen recommendations were a big improvement in his life. The pens are:

#173: Chris Young

An OXO electric tea kettle. Chris always used stovetop kettles and underestimated how much his life would improve by being able to make tea faster.

His second answer is DJ Hero for Wii. Chris likes to play this with his son, and it reminds of him when he used to DJ fraternity parties in college.

#174: Nicholas McCarthy

An aroma therapy diffuser. Nicholas likes to use different aromas to impact his mood and concentration.

#176: Mike Birbiglia

A Fitbit. Mike likes it because it not only tells him how long he slept, but the quality of the sleep.

#195: David Heinemeier Hansson

A Boosted Board. Well really, DHH initially said “a skateboard.” He was originally inspired to get a Boosted Board after seeing Casey Neistat using one on his vlog, but then he found out there was a wait to get a Boosted Board. So instead, he got a non-electric skateboard he described as a “short longboard” for about $120. He likes the skateboard because it’s perfect for distances that would normally be a 10 minute walk, like going to lunch.

I only recently started cataloging Tim’s guests’ answers. If you remember one I left out please email me and I’ll add it.

My Answers to This Question

Whenever I hear this question I reflect on anything I’ve bought recently and how I would answer it if Tim ever asked me. So, I put together this running list of my answers:

1) Charging case for my phone

Some say the smartphone is the most important single item people own these days. But it’s no good when the battery is dead.

After having one of these charging cases for a while, I feel so dumb for not buying one of these immediately every time I get a new phone.

For my current phone, the iPhone 6, got the Trianium Atomic S since it’s cheaper than the Mophie I had for my iPhone 5. It’s been great so far. If your phone has run out of battery more than a few times and it’s frustrated you, do yourself a favor and get one of these.

I only have two complaints compared to the comparable $120 Mophie:

  1. The Trianium is harder to take off
  2. Even my Bose headset, which has a very thin connector, requires the included headset adapter to fit into the headset jack

Another bonus is that most of these charging cases charge with a standard Micro USB connector, so you can use Android chargers to recharge the case and your phone!

2) Floss Picks

If you’re like me, you feel a little bad when you go to the dentist and they ask “how have you been doing with flossing?!”

One day I was at a pharmacy and walked by some of these DenTek flosser things and thought “maybe these will get me to floss.”

And it worked! The trick is I keep them next to my bed. Usually before I fall asleep I listen to some podcasts and I’ll grab one of these and floss for a bit. If you have trouble remembering to floss, buy some of these, place them somewhere strategically (your desk? your car?) and see if it works for you!

One other related life tip: put some floss in your shower. This is what I needed to truly make it a daily habit. I like long showers, so by flossing in the shower I get to hang out there longer and my teeth feel great after.

3) Saychelle Water Filter

I drink a lot of water. (I did create Pee & See, after all)

One time I was at my friend’s house in Florida (where there’s typically bad-tasting tap water, in my experience). He gave me a glass of water out of his pitcher, and as I drank it I felt compelled to immediately pour myself more. It was like my body knew this was particularly good water.

I immediately ordered one of these pitchers on Amazon. Since water is so important and I drink so much of it every day, I thought this was a great investment. Not only is it great because the water it tastes so much better and that encourages me to drink more water, but I figure it also must be filtering out stuff that’s bad for me.

4) Single-ear Bluetooth Headphone

I mostly use this for listening to podcasts on walks. Since it only goes in one ear it’s not a great choice for music, but it’s my go-to for listening to podcasts. It combines the left and right channel into one, so for podcasts mixed in stereo you won’t miss out on anything. Not only is it super cheap (less than $15), but it is very small and stays in my ear well. The play/pause button right on it makes it easy to pause and take out the headphone if I want to talk to someone.

The battery life is decent (about 4 hours of listening) and it charges very quickly, although it uses a non-standard USB cable. Technically, it’s also a Bluetooth headset, since it has a microphone, but I don’t really use it for that. Thank you Andrew Furman for telling me about this product!

I’ll keep adding to this list as I think of more! Email me and tell me what the best things you’ve bought for under $100 are, too.