My 5 best purchases under $100

I recently read Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, where he interviews entrepreneurs, athletes, writers and many others. One of the questions he asks often 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?”. I really enjoyed the replies, so in this post I ask myself the same question, with a bit more flexibility on the time of purchase and price. I recommend these for yourself or as gifts – for more gift ideas for academics see here and here. Now on to my 5 best purchases under $100.

1. Pullup bar ($20)

A great reminder to do at least a bit of exercise every day, which is of course good for you.

I actually found mine next to a dumpster, so it was free – but you can get one for as little as $20.

2. Soda stream ($80 and up)

A great way to stay hydrated! I really like sparkling water, so I drink more water when I have it. I used to buy bottles at the store, but dragging that much extra weight (I don’t have a car) was a pain. Plus, the Netherlands has really great water just from the tap.

Now, I always have as much sparkling water as I’d like, I save money AND it’s more sustainable.

3. Wake-up light ($50 and up)

Great for waking up refreshed! I’m definitely a morning person, but before this purchase, I would still have days where I was uncomfortably woken up by my alarm.

This is no longer the case since the wake-up light! It emulates the sunrise by starting with a dim red light, which slowly turns into a brighter yellow light within half an hour, at the end of which there are some nature sounds. I typically wake up somewhere in the middle of this cycle. I still do have a “backup” alarm on my phone a few minutes later, but I dont remember ever needing it since the purchase.

I have a model from Philips which currently costs $130, but there are other (also Philips) options available from $50, or less if you go for other brands.

4. Fitbit ($85 and up)

Great for walking more, sleeping more, and just general keeping track of your health. I would recommend a model with heart rate monitoring, since I find that the most insightful feature.

I have a Fitbit Alta HR, which is great for small wrists and costs $125, but other models like the Charge HR start at $85.

5. Comfortable shoes

Spending just a little bit more on shoes has been a life changer. It’s not that I always had impossible shoes with high heels that I couldn’t wear. My choices were actually quite reasonable – often flats or boots with a medium heel. But they had to “look good” and I had to have several different types and colors. As a result, each pair had to be “affordable”.

In the end I had a lots of shoes, but none of them were very comfortable – I couldn’t just decide to go for a long walk in my “normal” shoes. This was quite limiting during conference travel, because I would always have to think ahead what I would be doing later that day, or go back to the hotel to change, and so forth.

Since I bought my first pair of Ecco shoes (around $100 for new), I have downsized my collection quite a lot, only buying REALLY comfortable and versatile shoes. I also buy used shoes more often know, since I know what brands to search for. In the end it’s cheaper than what I used to do! But the most important benefit is that I’m no longer wasting energy on an issue that’s not really important.


What do you think? What things have you bought in the past year that you would recommend to others?

9 more gift ideas for academics

9 more gift ideas for academics

Following the success of last year’s gifts for academics post, here are a few more fresh gift ideas for academics!

9 more gift ideas for academics

9 more gift ideas for academics

1. A poster of a city

For those academics who move cities or even countries for a new job, this could be a simple way to remind them of their favorite place or city. Create your own or get one via Mapiful or Axis Maps (h/t @mdekstrand)

Gift ideas for academics: poster of their favorite city

2. A book holder

For more efficient reading and writing, as seen on @raulpacheco‘s Twitter

Get one at or go for one of the options from Amazon:

 Gift ideas for academics: book holder

3. Travel containers

I swear by HumanGear GoTubb and GoToob:

Gift ideas for academics: travel containers Gift ideas for academics: travel containers

Perfect for conference travel with a carry-on! If you want to be nerdier, get some test tubes for the same purpose, as recommended by @babyattachmode.

4. Tile

Tile is a Bluetooth tracking device, great for keeping track of your keys, bag or the even your stapler that somebody borrowed “just for a second”.


5. Codenames board game

It’s the best board game ever! I found out about it through Felienne and am obsessed with it. There are different versions, but I really like the “pictures” one.

Gift ideas for academics: Codenames board game

6. Clothes with pockets

For your academic friends who wear dresses and skirts.  It’s a conspiracy I could just start believing, but it’s very difficult to find women’s clothing with pockets. Luckily more and more businesses are realizing this, here are a few options:

7.  Wineglasses

Good for wine, but also good for feeling like a real adult, when you have a whole set of matching wineglasses that maybe are even not from IKEA.
If you want to splurge, try these Tenure wineglasses spotted by @doc_becca:

8. Gift of Headspace

Although I was skeptical at first, Headspace has been very helpful for me – I would definitely recommend it to anyone dealing with any sort of stress. You could just get a month subscription to start with to see if the recepient of the gift is into it.


9. On Writing Well

Because we all should be writing.




More gift ideas? Check out my previous post on gift ideas, and these lovely ideas from AcademiaObscura.

9 gift ideas for academics

9 gift ideas for academics |

It’s December! I’m looking at a Christmas tree, drinking glögg and I just received my first gift – a box with food, tea, and a blanket – from my employer. I don’t really exchange a lot of gifts for Christmas, but I know it’s a big thing in other places. I do enjoy coming up with gift ideas, which I know can be difficult, especially now that most people have too much stuff. So this time I thought I’d try a different kind of post, and share a few inexpensive gift ideas for academics!

9 gift ideas for academics |

1. A domain name

Because many universities still treat emails and websites like they did 20 years ago. It’s easy to buy a domain name yourself, and then transfer it to a different owner. Setting up a website is not required – it’s possible to forward the domain name to an existing website, or use it for multiple email addresses. If you are in the Netherlands, I recommend Versio.

2. A paid subscription to a service

Because there are a lot of great services out there. Despite the monthly cost of about 2 cups of coffee, many people are hesitant to pay for apps, and settle for suboptimal solutions instead. Let them experience how helpful these services can be and buy them a paid subscription for Evernote, Dropbox, or Headspace. My most recent subscription is to focus@will.

3. A voucher for a day at the spa

Because we all need this from time to time. I get mine at Treatwell.

4. Getting things done

Because everybody needs to read this book. An updated edition recently came out, so it’s a good gift even for those who read it already. To save trees, get the electronic or audio version.

5. A wireless presenter

Because when I got one as a PhD student, I felt like a real scientist. I like the ones with a built-in timer, but I have this more affordable version:

Gift ideas for academics #5: wireless presenter

6. A snuggie

Because sleeves. Appropriate for Netflix and grading papers.

Gift ideas for academics #6: Snuggie blanket

7. Good tea

Because alcohol and coffee are great gifts too, but we probably are drinking too much of those already.

8. A plant

Because it can cheer up any (office) space.

9. A donation to open science

Because it’s important. A great initiative to donate to is Scihub, but if you don’t pay in bitcoins, you can try Wikipedia instead.

More ideas

If you are looking for more gift ideas for academics, check out my most recent post, and the guides by Tenure She Wrote and Stylish Academic.

Happy holidays!

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