As I compile all of my financial stats for this weird and messed up year, I find myself reminiscing on some of the best purchases I made in 2020.
Now, best is subjective. Was it the best deal? Was it the purchase that provided the most joy? The one that proved most useful? In this case, best is some combination of all of those. The ones that I deem the best for the whole year were great deals, provided a lot of joy or satisfaction or easing of anxiety, and were used frequently.
Also of note.…. in years past, I don’t think I would’ve done a best purchase roundup of the year post, simply because I wasn’t buying a whole lot of things. I gave myself permission to break free of the “must save every dollar and spend little to retire as early as possible” mindset this year, and what a gift that was. Now, I’m not going crazy, but my different spending habits have been noted enough times by friends to give me the label of being a “spendypants” and I’m 100% A‑OK with that.
Ok, let’s go!
1. My new car!
I went into exhaustive detail about it in the post I wrote at the time. I have had Carmen for 3 months now and I love her dearly. She drives like a dream, is fun to drive, responds effortlessly, is very comfortable with my heated seats, able to haul things around, and the music sounds great through the Bluetooth connection. I’m also no longer worried about being stranded somewhere around town like I was as part after part started to fail on my old car. I agonized and delayed on buying a newer car for over 5 years, so to actually have the new car now feels wonderful. Delayed gratification at it’s finest!
So far I have paid off over $3,000 on the loan and have gotten the balance below 5 figures. My stimulus check will go towards paying down the loan. Yay for being a responsible adult.…
2. DeLonghi Magnifica Espresso Machine.
My family and closest friends were surprised to hear I bought a coffee machine. I have been very vocal about not liking coffee in the past. It’s bitter bean water that lies to you. It smells sooooo good and tastes absolutely nothing like it smells. Gross.
However.…. I discovered that I did like lattes. Add enough milk and flavoring to coffee (to the point it barely tastes like coffee) and I LOVE IT. So yummy. As long as it’s decaf because caffeine makes me hyper and jittery.
But with Covid happening, suddenly I wasn’t at the office coffee bar every day getting a latte. Suddenly I couldn’t sit in the local coffee shop and write a blog post while sipping on a tasty warm drink. Suddenly the local shop closed down for a while as they tried to figure out a new strategy while complying with local regulations.
So I bought an espresso machine from a guy on Craigslist for $300. This machine retails for $700 so I saved $400 right off the bat. I estimate with as many lattes and drinks made with this machine that I’ve already broken even on all the money not spent on having someone else make it for me. Plus, I don’t need to tip myself when I make myself a latte. I’ve been able to experiment with different flavorings, creamers, and milks. So far, I’m a big fan of caramel lattes made with Lactaid milk. I think I’m becoming intolerant to lactose so this helps my body without sacrificing any taste.
Having such a fancy machine does mean I need to do upkeep on it. While that’s a pain, I feel like it’s worth it to have as many lattes as I want. I have to descale the machine every so often, empty out the puck collector, and run steam through the frothing wand to make sure there’s no milk chilling in there trying to spoil. I am not the best at chores to begin with, but the incentive is strong to keep this machine running in tip-top shape.
2B. A related best purchase would be those clear organizers next to the machine. The top of the cart was a constant mess but now things are easy to find! And by things, I mean I have a place to store my tea collection while also being able to access the coffee stuff easily. Can you tell I watched The Home Edit on Netflix like everyone else this summer? The organizers cost me $70 after I stacked a few 20% coupons on it and man, has that been valuable. Countertop space in my kitchen is incredibly limited so the more use I can get out of each sq ft, the better.
3. My new road bike!
I had a 2012 Cannondale Quick that I bought new from a bike store. I had ridden that bike a ton — commuting back and forth to work in 3 different states, charity rides, and group rides in different cities with friends. She served me well. But as I got more into doing longer bike rides and more into the cycling community, I realized I was riding the wrong sized bike frame. The geometry on the bike was all wrong for me, even after growing an inch in 2017. I was riding a medium-sized frame and needed a small frame. So off I went to find a small bicycle on various Facebook swap groups, Craigslist, and OfferUp. The competition was fierce and I missed out on a few bikes by being several minutes too late to comment on a post.
However, I did finally manage to get a bike. I ended up with a Liv Avail 1, which is a bike specially built for women’s bodies by Giant. The bike was sold to me as a Liv Avail 3. The difference between the 1 and 3 was about $600 worth of components so I ended up with an $1100 bike for $400. The people I bought it from had used it a few times before she decided she wanted a hybrid and didn’t like the drop handles on the road bike. So I got a nearly new bicycle for a song! My new bike is so light and easy to move. I’ve probably put between 50 and 75 miles on her since I’ve gotten her and feel great. Or I did until it got crazy hot here in St Louis and I stopped riding regularly. I’m ready to get back on the bike and slim down again. Sitting all day every day has not been great for me.
Since I didn’t buy these but still got a ton of value from them, I wanted to include a few gifts my family gave me that have proved incredibly clutch this year. My family got me a heated mattress pad for Christmas last year and it has made a ton of difference. My back enjoys the extended heat application and I can keep the apartment a little colder at night with extra help from the bed. Getting into a pre-warmed bed is literally heaven. It’s like a hot water bottle, but EVERYWHERE. (The only problem is my cat enjoys it as well and that means my side of the bed is his preferred sleep spot. It’s a battle every night for my foot space!)
My family also gifted me a new convection toaster oven. My old toaster was $10 from a thrift store last year in DC. The catch to hold the lever down broke, so if I wanted to toast something I had to hold it down. Not the most efficient way of toasting anything on busy workday mornings. It’s also probably a fire hazard or something. I’m excited I can toast all the things and make easy things like tater tots, melts, and chicken nuggets without having to wait for my ancient slow gas oven to kick in and heat up. I’m incredibly grateful for my family and make sure to send them updates on how awesome said thing is when I get particularly tickled with it.
It will be interesting to look back on this post 365 days from now. I have a strong feeling my best buys for next year will be things like a dishwasher, robot vacuum cleaner, and water sensors for pipes. Buying a house changes your definition of best, for sure.
What was your best buy this year? Anything you want to espouse the virtues of? Sound off in the comments below!
Just wanted to say as someone who also has a bit of trouble with dairy — I personally drink milk and the like from time to time because dropping it too much from your diet can actually make the lactose intolerance worse!
Love the blog, Gwen! Wow – 2 of your 3 favorite purchases help you get to different places. Seems like a sign that you love to travel! That Espresso machine looks glorious! Glad you spent on things that you enjoy. Keep up the great work!
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If you haven’t bought it yet, I would skip on the robot vacuum cleaner. I had a Roomba, and it never was able to pick up all my cat’s hair, and after about a year the vaccum motor stopped working. Instead, I would buy a Dyson V8 Animal cordless vacuum. It cost about the same but is way more reliable and powerful. That thing is amazing at picking up cat hair and just about anything else. It is bagless so you just open the base to empty it. The only downside to it is that the battery life is pretty short on turbo, and it takes about 4 hours to fully charge. But still way better performance than a Roomba.
Hmm, I am definitely contemplating a coffee machine nowadays because I no longer want to drive to work for the free barista coffee…
I love black, bitter coffee in the morning – I tried quitting and stopping caffeine but yeah that’s physically impossible for me lol. My current setup is just instant coffee and/or pourover coffee where I use a manual grinder to grind the beans. But having a machine seems like a really efficient way to make good-tasting coffee much quicker.