Thought it would be fun to share useful things that I’ve bought for myself, as inspired by Andrew Connor, Alexey Guzey, Vitalik, and nudging from Vivek. Many other lists online are also quite comprehensive and I have taken many things from them. Most stuff is from Amazon or eBay, but I’ve linked to the cheapest place online I’ve found it.
This alive document will be updated every time I buy something incredible or use wonderful software.
Table of Contents
Molly’s Suds Laundry Detergent Pods - $20. Cheaper than tide pods. A little worried about normal detergent inflamming my allergies/EoE so I decided to move away from standard detergent.
Heated Japanese Kotatsu Table + 300W Adapter - $200. Imagine a table with a heater inside and a comforter around it, but a flat surface to work on. It’s incredibly warm and cozy, especially in the winter. Takes a few weeks to ship from Japan, but is totally worth it.
Chromecast - $30. Only really useful to keep TV on ambient mode, flipping through Google Photos albums of me and all of my friends.
Mint Shampoo and Conditioner - $23. Spent way too long finding hair products that were SLS-free, EWG-approved, and smelled good.
Body Wash - $9. Cheap and smells good, doesn’t have SLS in it.
The Softest Bathroom Mats - $20. High pile and insanely soft and plush.
Snail Trail Bee Venom Face Moisturizer - $25. Feels super smooth even with just a little. Reddit recommended.
Double Line Floss Picks - $3. These make flossing fun and are useful on the go – it’s super easy to grab on your way out, and you can see all your tooth gunk stuck between the two strings. Normal floss cuts off circulation to my finger and so I never do it, and water flossers are too annoying to refill and carry around. PFAS-free too.
Sekkisui Face Sunscreen - $20. Non greasy, nice smelling, easy to apply sunscreen from /r/AsianBeauty. Half price in any convenience store in Asia.
Biore UV Sunscreen - $15. I use this as a body and face sunscreen, since more comes out per squeeze than the Sekkisui. Half price at any convenience store in Japan. Recommended by Andrew Connor.
Travel Toiletry Kit(Cheaper 3 Pack) - $15/$6. I dump shampoo/conditioner/bodywash in here before I travel, since I prefer to use my own.
Stannous Fluoride Toothpaste - $15. Stannous flouride and hydroxyapatite has repeatedly been shown to be more effective than normal toothpaste at cavity prevention. This Crest toothpaste is basically the same price and texture so should be a no-brainer toothpaste replacement. Thanks to Rob Wiblin for the rec.
Aluminum Shower Caddy with Tension Rod - $45. Most “rust free” products on Amazon are all made with stainless steel that does rust, and the reviews reflect that. Since this is all aluminum, it can’t rust, and all the reviews confirm that it never rusts. Bought “like new” so it was 25% off.
Water Bottle Cleaning Tablets - $8. Put into your water bottle for 15 min to clean out the gunk.
Dishwand - $4. Basicallly a sponge with a handle. Put dishsoap onto it to clean dishes without having to touch a sponge.
Kitchen Torch + Fuel - $16. Way more fun than a lighter or matchbox for all things fire.
Ramen Bowls - $40. Sparks joy, useful for most soupy foods.
I also use Athletic Greens each morning and have gazpacho in the fridge for a quick breakfast. I hate cooking and use a rotation of microwavable frozen food delivery services to eat (I promise it’s less depressing and more tasty than it sounds).
Oura Ring - $300 + $72/year. Due to the subscription, I recommend people buy the subscription-free Ultrahuman Ring Air which is otherwise identical. I bought the Oura to feel comfortable consuming caffeine; I don’t want to lose access to my own body’s tiredness signals, but Oura’s recommendations for sleep substitute them well. The sleep staging is research-level accurate. I have a number of gripes, however. I wish their timezone tracking was better; it often screws up data when flying, which is when I most want the data. I upgraded from the gen 2 ring before the subscription, so I don’t have to pay; with the subscription, it’s likely better to get a subscription-free secondhand gen 2 off of eBay instead for ~$170 (note that gen 2 uses the previous algorithm so sleep staging accuracy is closer to 60%, vs the gen3 accuracy is closer to 80%). I wish the app could do regression analysis; i.e. I mark if I lucid dreamt or it records the local weather, and give correlation plots with sleep like the Sleep Cycle app does. I use this Sleep as Android app for lucid dreaming cues when sleeping alone (it says “you’re dreaming” when you’re in REM sleep). I expect a long term meditation practice to cultivate higher daily awareness to cause lucid dreaming instead, but alas this is what I have for now. I also wish Oura also had a real-time API to allow developers to build lucid dreaming apps (i.e. it could then play key sounds in REM sleep).
Moisture Chamber Eye Seals - $45. My dry eye doctor recommended that when I’m on the computer a lot, to browse with these instead to maintain eye moisture. You can also just use goggles, but these result in notably more moisture for me. My only wish is that they were better-fitting.
Three-Layer Eye Drops - $30: Your eye has a mucus layer, a lipid (oil) layer, and an aqueous (water) layer. Most eye drops only give you the water layer, but this gives all 3 so leads to a lot more comfort. I use these in the mornings and carry them around to use on dry days as well.
Heated Eye Mask - $17. Plugs into a USB, very useful to use one eye at a time for dry eye. I don’t actually use it for sleep, but alternate eyes during the day while I work, max 20 min/eye/day.
Osprey Talon 22 - $160. Backpacking backpack that I use everyday. It has a few key straps that make the weight feel a lot lighter, especially above-the-shoulder and hip straps. One disadvantage is that there’s no dedicated laptop pocket, so I have to use my tablet sleeve to separate it from my other things.
Sidecar iPad Mount for Laptop - $35. Lets you mount your iPad on the side of your laptop as an extended display. Useful for traveling without a monitor. Shoutout to Vivek for the rec.
Contoured Ear Plugs - $18. Normal earplugs don’t fit me that well and usually fall out when I sleep. These don’t, are super cheap, and are softer than normal earplugs. I stopped needing melatonin to sleep after starting to use these.
Mini Sim + Cable Box - $10. Has a SIM switcher, and small adapters nicely laid out. I carry this with a few USB to USB C adapters seperately.
Beaded Laptop Wrist Rest - $20. More comfortable for wrists on laptop + I used early in carpal tunnel journey before I discovered Sarno, and now I can’t type without them.
Bose 700 Noise Cancelling Headphones - $200. Can pair to my phone and laptop at once, USB-C charging, excellent active noise cancellation. The one issue is that on-headphone taps are sometimes either too sensitive or not sensitive enough, but I don’t use them much anyways. Bought on eBay for a 35% discount, mine is an Eclipse colorway.
Cheap Apple Pencil 2 - $30. You give up variable pressure detection but and pay 5x less, still magnetically charges. Useful as a backup.
Portable Charger with Cables Built In - $20. The same price and capacity as the Anker equivalent, but comes with cables. Recommended by Sam Bowman.
Portable Credit Card Charger - $60. This is about 3 credit cards thick, and so fits in my wallet and charges my phone to 30% pretty quick. Useful backup to always have around.
I also have an iPad Air + Tablet Sleeve for notes and extra pockets, and a Kindle Paperwhite Kids for distraction-free books. I use Calibre on my laptop to format and load in arbitrary epubs and mobis from online. I also have an M1 Pro, but since Jony Ive left Apple, they’ve been getting heavier so I might grab an Air next time I upgrade.
EarOS One Concert Earplugs - $40. Developed with the MIT Acoustic Lab, this gives far higher quality audio than jamming foam earplugs into my ears. The crowd agrees with me, and one-off reviews say it’s better than the popular alternatives.
Proxmark 3 RFID Cloner - $75. Designed by the veritable and prolific Samy Kamkar. Quick to setup and it clones basically all cards I throw at it.
RFID Ring - $30. Clone any card onto this, then just tap with your finger to use it. Rumor is Oura Gen 4 will have this.
Colored Flame Birthday Candles - $7. Cheap, simple, and cool on birthdays.
Joycon Controller Grips- $10. Turn each Nintendo Switch joycon into a mini controller.
Under the Door Tool - $35. Open any door. Useful to retrofit with a hook from a clotheshanger so it works on all handles.
Extremely Small Wallet Pen - $7. This ~1mm wide, ~4 inch pen fits in my wallet and is useful in a pinch or when geocaching.
Spiderman Webshooters - -$30. Magnetically grab your keys from your couch (after aimming poorly 4 times). Fun gift.
Pop-up Wallet with RFID Shielding - $42. Click a button, and up to 6 cards pop up in order. Pretty nifty (unfortunately I carry a lot of weird stuff in my wallet like earplugs etc so I don’t use it).
Masterworks - $500. Fractional investment into art pieces. This is mostly for fun, the money tends to stay about the same year over year.
My favorite board games are Decrypto (a word game that’s way deeper than Codenames), Smallworld (vaguely like Risk, but way more dynamic and fun), and Hanabi (team communication game). I’ve been recommended Paleo, Terraforming Mars, Forbidden Desert, Cascadia, Fort, and 7 Wonders but haven’t tried them.
Enro Face Masks - $20. Wirecutter tested face masks for filtration and comfort, and this won both hands down. It claims a PM0.1 filter, and tested consistently with that claim. It also maintains high filtration for a few washes (but becomes half as effective at 50 washes; I usually lose mine before 10). I use it in any place with asbestos risk as well; it’s not a cure-all but it’s better than any other mask for that.
Prescription Glasses - $20. Turns out you can get prescription glasses super cheap on Amazon. These are a good fit for my slightly slimmer face and have blue light blocking, so I use them at night and as a backup travel pair.
Carsickness Glasses - $15. These look ridiculous and alien-like but two of my friends (and half of tiktok) swear that it works for bumpy car rides and carsickness, by aligning your sense of motion to your eyes.
Shirt Stays - $13. Connect your dress shirt to your socks. Critical for formal dress shirts for me, to avoid it bunching up and look bad.
Neck Gaiter - $15. Tighter and smaller than a scarf, critical in cold weather.
Favorite brands include ASOS Collusion, AliExpress finds, and Emma Atterbury’s hats.
Small PC Build
32GB DDR5 RAM - $80. Standard RAM.
Mini ITX Motherboard - $200. This is what will determine if you have a small (ITX), medium (ATX) or big PC.
SF750 Power Supply - $165. Enough to comfortably run a high end GPU with everything else.
i5 12400F IBM CPU - $160. You are optimizing for heat; the bigger and later gen CPUs run hotter, and this is extremely fast, better than lower tier i7s, and doesn’t need any extra cooling.
2TB NVMe - $140. Faster and cheaper than an SSD.
I also use a 3060TI and a Dan A4 Case. Build video and more detailed part breakdowns here.
Mullvad VPN: Cheap at $5/mo, and the VPN that all my privacy-conscious security expert friends use. They are committed to not logging data, and have successfully resisted search warrants in the past.
Bitwarden: Free and open-source password manager. Has pretty good UI and integrations, and one-click switching from any other password manager. Has never been hacked.
Privacy.com: Make one-time burner credit cards with limits. I use this for automatically billing subscriptions, or sketchy sites that need credit cards for signup, since then I don’t need to remember to cancel.
Typio Reboot: Save form history in Chrome when a tab closes or refreshes.
Copyclip 1: Saves all clipboard history in an easy-to-copy place. I use it daily. Avoid the bloated newer version of the app.
Tempus: Timed Youtube Comments: Pop up a sidebar on your YouTube where comments with timestamps appear at that timestamp.
Bypass Paywalls Chrome Clean: Read paywalled articles.
Get Off Those Sites: You predict the expected time on your site and it’ll turn it black and white after that time, and also log the actual amount of time that you spend on that site.
Tactiq: Takes automatic transcripts of any Google Meet or Zoom meeting in browser along with AI actionables and summaries. No weird agent joins your calls or calendar meetings, it just messages the chat and is fully in the background.
ShareGPT: Share your ChatGPT conversations.
My List of Software Ideas: I put all my extra software ideas here, and currently pay bounties on each one from old internship money. Help donate to it via Github Sponsors or Venmo me! About 15/100 have been built so far.
I enable these chrome flags to name windows, fill PDF forms, and save passwords with two phase login.
chrome://flags/#window-naming chrome://flags/#pdf-form-save chrome://flags/#username-first-flow
I have various smaller bash settings, brew packages, and Chrome experimental flags that are really useful on my dev setup Github repo as well.
Things I Want
These are things I’ve stopped myself from buying so far, but they seem intriguing…
Olfactory Water Bottle - $25 + $6/15L. Emits a smell near your nose, so that it feels like you’re having flavored water. 3-pack pods only last for 15L of water, which is why there’s the added unit cost.
Space Saver Compression Bags - $13. These bags have a one way vent when you compress them, so are useful to tightly pack clothes in suitcases. Good gift for people who travel a lot.
I also want Kava powder as an alternative kickback substance.
These did not work for me.
Hair Clipper with a Vacuum - $40. I hate cleaning the sink every time I shave. Recommended by this post. It only vacuumed 30% of hair for me, was useless.
Travel Battery Electric Toothbrush - $20. Lasts for 180 brushes per AA, doesn’t require traveling with a bulky toothbrush charger. Did not rotate like Oral-B, vibrated instead, which was more uncomfortable and not useful for cleaning.
These are Amazon reflinks, but I will still link to a different site if it’s cheaper there.