My 10 Favorite Things I Bought This Year for Under $100

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

I’m always on the hunt for items that can make my life more productive and convenient. Is it worth $70 to permanently increase the quality of your sleep for the rest of your life?
I think so.
So here’s a list of items that I’ve bought this year that have improved my quality of life, and are worth the price.
I had two rules:

  1. I wanted to keep the price point under $100 to make it somewhat affordable for everyone.
  2. If I lost this item, would I buy it again? That’s a rule that lets me know if I love it. 

By it for yourself, and remember Christmas season’s coming up soon.
Also, let me know if you’re interested in a list of items over $100 that I recommend.
Hat Tip to AsianEfficiency to inspiring this blog post

10 Items for Under $100

1. Bamboo Charging Station 

Think about how many items that you have to charge on a daily basis: Phone, Smart Watch, Headphones, external phone battery, iPad, etc..
It gets more complicated when every device probably requires a different type of charger.
Is it too much to ask that I only need one type of cable? But nooo…those capitalists at Apple refuse to adopt USB-C into all their products. 
It’s a pain to organize all your devices and cables and make it look sexy.
Well, I found an elegant solution using a bamboo charging station. 

Not only does this look beautiful, but it means fewer fights with my lady over who needs the iPhone cable more. 

  1. The Charging Station
  2. Here’s the charger that I use on the inside.

2. Food Thermometer

I take food safety seriously.
Not only am I against E Coli and Salmonella, but I’m also against dry, overcooked meats.
The cow didn’t suffer and die so that your Father in law could cook that ribeye well done.
It’s hard to tell when the meat’s ready if you’re not a professional.
Some people say you can tell by “touching” the meat.
Other people give a formula like sear it for 2 minutes, and then put it in a 300F oven for 10 minutes.
Those are always going to be inaccurate because there are way too many variables involved.
The only guaranteed way to know when something’s ready is to use a meat thermometer along with a temperature chart. 
This is the meat thermometer I use & recommend.
Stick it in your meat to know when it’s ready.
Bonus: How do you know when your pan is hot enough to sear meat? You can use a Temperature Gun

3. InstantPot Sous Vide

If you cook at home, then this is a game-changer. Even if you “don’t cook” this is a device that can fool your dates into thinking you’re a fucking pro.
It’s called a “Sous Vide,” and it’s a big secret of the restaurant world. Think about how much money they would lose if they overcook a piece of Wagyu. The Sous Vide is a way that guarantees meat will be at a perfect temperature.

It’s a device that allows you to cook food by submerging it in heated water.

  • I grab a ribeye steak.
  • I season it however I want. I usually do salt/pepper/ garlic powder
  • You put the meat in a bag. I have a vacuum sealer, but you could use a sandwich bag if you want. You don’t want the meat touching water, obviously. 
  • You turn the device on with the right temperature and time. For ribeyes, I like 3 hours at 135F.
  • Over the next few years, the water is “cooking” your steak. Here’s the significant part, you can’t overcook it. The meat can’t physical overcook because the water temperature max is set at 133F, which is medium-rare.
  • Take the meat out of the bag. It’s going to look disgusting. Use a paper towel and dry the Ribeye.
  • Now you have to SEAR the steak. The
    Browning sear is what makes it delicious and looks appetizing. Charcoal grilling is preferred, but searing it in good carbon steel or cast iron pan is excellent. Use Avocado oil and finish it off with some butter. 

Here’s why I love sous vide:

  • It’s scalable: this seems like a lot of work for a single piece of steak. But imagine the systems you can use. My girlfriend is getting into meal prepping. You can cook a batch of 20 chicken breasts at once. Anytime she wants chicken breast, she can defrost it and sear it. No more dry, 4-day old chicken.
  • It’s beautiful with tougher cuts of meats. The sous vide’ ing means you could cook something safety for two days, which gives it time to break down those tough tissues/tendons.

4. Weighted Blanket

I’m always looking for ways to improve the quality of my sleep. 
One item that has been trending over the past few years are weighted blankets. The theory of it is that having weight on you while you sleep feels as if the blanket is hugging you.
I don’t know the science of it. All I know is that I sleep better because of it.
There are several popular ones out there for $200. I use this one that I found on Amazon for $70.

The weight should be around 10% of your weight. I’m 140lbs so I use a 15lb blanket. 

5. Life Insurance w/ Ladder

I’ve been thinking about various ways to make my finances more “robust.” I only cared about myself in my 20’s. I took risks and only cared about making more and more money.
Now that I’m in my 30’s, my values have changed. I care about preserving the money that I do have, and I also have to think about what happens if I were to pass away unexpectedly. 
It’s scary when I see someone dying of cancer online at the age of 30, and realizing that I’m older than they are.
I started doing some research on Life Insurance, and holy shit it can get confusing.
Be careful because most life insurance people operate on commissions, and aren’t going to tell you what’s best for you.
Look, I’ve researched for you. Get yourself a term life insurance policy. This is the best thing for 97% of people. 
Mine is for like 25 years, a million bucks, and costs around $37 a month.
My thought process is I’m going to have kids in a few years. Twenty-five years is enough time to cover them until they’re adults and can be independent. 

6. Dash Cam

There are some fucking crazy drivers out there. If you’re ever in an accident, then that can become a “he said, she said” situation.
And if you end up losing, it can cost you several thousand dollars down the line with increased insurance costs.
That’s where a dash cam comes in. I remember the average dashcam costing around $500 several years ago. They’ve really gone down in price lately and there’s no excuse not to have one.

AUKEY Dash Cam ($69.99)

7. Live Plants

I use to go to WeWork every week to do some work. It was a way for me to get out of the house, but I also felt more productive there because of the environment.
I love how WeWork decorates the offices.
I wanted to mimic some of the designs that they use for their own homes. When I looked closer at WeWorks, I realized that a big part of the feeling is the number of plants they have in the offices.
They make your place look better, they purify the air, and you feel better around them. Now I have plants in every single room in my home.
Some recommendations:

  • Snake Plants
  • Spider Plants
  • Weeping Fig
  • Broadleaf Lady Palm

I’ve bought most of my plants at either Pike Nursery, or a local nursery.
Make sure that you upgrade the pots to make your place look grown and sexy. 

8. Dry Eye Compress

I went to get my yearly eye exam, and my optometrist told me that my eyes are abnormally dry.
It’s from a combination of wearing contacts every day and staring at screens so much.
His solution is simple: use a warm eye mask compress.
I found this on Amazon.
I microwave it for around 30 seconds, and I lay down. I use to try to multitask by listening to a podcast too. But I realized that this is a pleasant 10-minute break in the middle of the day from stimulation.

9. Electric Kettle

One thing that affects how great your coffee and tea turns out is the temperature of the water. Japanese green tea should be brewed at around 165F, while coffee should be brewed at about 195F.
You can imagine how much of a pain it is to get the temperature exact if your kettle only has an on / off switch.
I found this electric kettle on Amazon that has multiple settings for various temperatures. They also have it easily labeled.
It’s stylish too – it lets me guests know that I’m well beyond my red plastic cups as kitchenware phase. 

10. Baron Fig Squire Pen 

I’ve been writing physical more over the past few years.
I have a physical journal, I write my daily to-do list down, and I prefer brainstorming with a pen and paper.
Physical writing helps you remember things more than typing does, and I’m way less distracted than I would be with my laptop.
Anyways, I figured that since I’m writing so much that I would treat myself to a nice pen.
I don’t know too much about the pen world, but I already knew I didn’t want to spend $500 on a Montblanc. They have to be overpriced if they can afford all those fancy locations.
I did some research and came across Baron Fig – Squire.
Or for something cheaper but comparable, check out the Zebra Sarasa .4mm.


Have you bought anything awesome this year under $100? Let me know in the comments
Featured Image by Serg Poznanskiy

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                The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

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