Not too long ago, I was a gadget hound – dropping money on all sorts of stuff, both useful and, well, not useful. I’ve found over the last year or so that some of them I use almost every day, while others I rarely use at all. In hindsight, I don’t regret the money spent on the more useful items, but I do regret a lot of the less useful ones. Those wound up getting sold on eBay at a rather painful loss.
So what items did I find useful? Here are five gadgets (for lack of a better collective term) that I use over and over again. Notice two things about this list: the items have a lot of utility and are really inexpensive, and some of them lead directly to saving money themselves.
Swiss Army Sportsman II pocket knife This is a $10 Swiss Army knife that does 95% of the stuff I want such a device to do. It has only a single blade, but it also includes a can opener (useful while camping), a bottle opener (useful all the time), a cork screw, and tweezers – those are the ones I use most frequently. It also includes two flathead screwdriver heads (which I’ve used on occasion) and it’s tiny enough that it fits in my pocket unobtrusively (something I can’t say for a lot of Swiss Army-type knives and tools. I use this thing probably two or three times a day.
1 GB Flash drive I was actually given one of these at a tech demonstration and use it probably three times a week. It’s always in my pocket or hanging around my neck when I travel anywhere. Don’t spend much on this unless you need a lot of storage capacity – 4GB or more.
Honeywell 5/2 Programmable Thermostat This is one of the most expensive items on this list ($40! *gasp*), but it is incredibly useful and saves a lot of money. Simply put, you program it so that the air conditioner/furnace doesn’t run during the day, but then starts running before you get home from work, running only once during the entire day and saving on peak energy use. The one I linked to is a “middle of the road” one – the high-end thermostats are amazing as you can program separate day profiles, whereas the less expensive one has a “weekday” profile and a “weekend” profile.
Merkur Classic Safety Razor If you’re on the gravy train of using stuff like the Gilette Mach 3 Turbo for shaving – or even cheap disposables – stop. Get an actual old-fashioned safety razor and a bunch of blades. I wrote a detailed guide on how to save money shaving in the long run and get a much better shave.
Tire pressure gauge I check the air pressure in my vehicle tires regularly and for the longest time I used a really awful pencil-shaped air pressure reader that gave readings that were approximate to within 5 PSI and usually let significant air out of the tire while doing it. I eventually moved to one recommended at an auto parts store (it’s linked above) and have been extremely happy using it. I check the air pressure on the tires once a month and before any long trips and air them all up to the recommended maximum as stated on the sidewall of each tire. This saves constantly on gas mileage – every single PSI that any tire is below that recommended maximum costs you 0.125% of your fuel efficiency. So, if every tire is, say, 5 PSI below the maximum, you’re losing about 2.5% of your fuel efficiency, which means an extra mile or two per gallon that you’re losing. Over time, that’s a lot of scratch – a gallon of gas or so every time you fill up.
Soon, we’ll find out about another gadget – a barely-used KitchenAid Pro 6 stand mixer that a reader has generously helped me to find at an unbelievably stellar price (to the point where I would have been really dumb not to do it considering I’ve been saving for one for a few months). More details to come (likely when I receive it and use it a few times).