“What is the best money you ever spent under $20?” asks redditor davy_do. There are some funny stories in there, but we’ve collected only the replies that you can apply to your own life.
- Wax for your glasses, says cascadegaming. “Since it’s a wax and not a spray that it helps fill in small scratches on the lenses.” Meatchris links to Smitty’s Protective Glasswax, but you can also use car wax or bicarbonate of soda.
- “Windshield ice scraper with a brass blade,” says will6566. “Brass is softer than glass, so it won’t scratch. Makes Wisconsin mornings before work 10x more tolerable.”
- This only applies when you’re in the Spanish island of Ibiza, but still: “One day I strolled down the coast and came across a wooden shack which turned out to be a bar — a bar with a view,” says Mitch_Eth. Next to this bar was an aquarium inside a cave — you can explore it with Google Street View — called Aquarium Cap Blanc. And it only costs €5.
- PM_ME_CODE_SNIPPETS bought a mini frying pan, ideal for small dishes: “Eggs over easy come out perfect since the egg white can’t run all over the place and I could flip the entire thing with a spoon.” Takes less oil to coat the thing too.
- Speaking of cooking, “A rice cooker is honestly badass,” says CSThr0waway123. “You can cook so many different foods with it. Rice, pasta, soup, vegetables, etc. Bought mine for about 15 bucks and I used it throughout college.”
- And one more cooking story: “The ingredients for chicken parmesan, which I cooked for my now-wife on our first date at my place because in those days I couldn’t afford to take her out,” says deathinactthree. “It went okay.” (I cooked the same thing for my now-wife! We probably read the same Reddit recipe!)
- Save money, adopt your pets! A lot of users listed their pet as their favourite cheap purchase, even if they cost a hell of a lot more from day one. Look at the return on investment for RioBlue93: “Bought my Australian Shepherd at Vons in the early 00s. He was a great family dog for 15 years. Woke my mum up when she fell asleep and the oven caught on fire.”
- Or buy a cheap pet: squishyzucchini paid $3 for their snail, Frankenstein. Here’s a pic of Frankenstein “going to town on an algae wafer”.
- “A 10-foot [3m] charger cable for my iPhone,” says firepebble14. Damn right. But play safe, and get something legit like Anker or Aukey so you don’t fry your phone.
Video: Nobody likes spending money for a cable to replace the one that came with your smartphone, tablet, or other battery-draining device. You know, the cable you can't find, the one that's weirdly frayed, or the one that your loving pet chewed to pieces.
- One common theme is cheap used items that lasted for years — a backpack, a couch, a perfectly fitting suit at an op shop. And here’s the hack, from De_Vries8: Go into a flea market with $20. “Leave your wallet at home. Buy what you want, walk around and try to trade with others. See where your $20 can take you.” Once they bought some old tapes and traded up to a custom-painted motorcycle helmet, which they pawned for $100.
- Gag gifts also come in handy: “A wooden back scratcher I bought my father for Christmas several years ago almost as a joke,” says l4mpSh4d3. “He loves it and still goes on about it and says it’s the best present he’s ever received.”
- Sites such as CafePress make bizarre gag gifts cheap and easy. For instance, newman11 made a book of selfies on Shutterfly for their sister: “It made her laugh for days and she brought it to her law office to share with other attorneys and coworkers because she thought it was hilarious.”
- Sometimes it’s worth upgrading from an app to a specialised gadget, according to Torquebeau, who got “a guitar tuner that clips to the head of the guitar and displays the note being played from vibrations”. They say it beat phone apps and older corded tuners. “For like $15 this is a huge quality of life change for my hobby.” Our sister site Gizmodo recommends the Headtune series from Korg.
- Another theme is starting a hobby for cheap. MackiDoo17’s favourite purchase is her first cross-stitch kit.
- And check if your employer, school or insurance offers discounted memberships on entertainment or gyms, say Fireice113 and FunctionBuilt.
- Bbyamelia loves her heating pad for menstrual cramps — but several users recommend a microwaveable cloth rice bag instead of an electric heating pad or hot water bottle, especially if you might fall asleep while using it.
- “A good reusable water bottle,” says ancientflowers. “I always have water with me and it saves a huge amount of money in the long run.” Personally, I recommend a flat collapsible water bottle. Then you’re less likely to ditch it to save space.
You can read more stories of cheap purchases that paid off in the original AskReddit thread.