My Most Useful Material Purchases of 2016

We moved into an unfurnished place for the first time earlier this year. It had central heating and everything ūüôā

I’m embarrassed to say that despite my age and income, I’ve lived my life as a student/hobo until recently. ¬†I’ve always had trouble spending money on material things¬†rather than¬†experiences, (unless we’re talking about camera equipment, books, or fine wine….).

Up to now, I’ve always had few possessions. In three years I moved 14 times. I was alone and re-locating was always a nightmare. I couldn’t afford to have too many things, (literally and logistically). I still have hardly any clothes, (I need to sort that out!).

It was pretty exciting to move into an empty place. As a kid, most of my weekends were spent with my grandparents being dragged around Homebase and Allied Carpets. ¬†Back then I fantasised about the day¬†when I too would buy my own homeware. That auspicious and long awaited day had finally arrived but all I could think of was how expensive everything I wanted was. We’d been saving for a while, still – I think I have expensive taste…

Here are some of the most useful items we bought this year (excluding any experiences, courses, classes, or memberships):


Portable Charger for iPhone

How I lived without this before I do not know. The battery on my iPhone 5 is dismal and rarely lasts a full day without charging. It’s inexpensive and manages to charge my phone much faster than electricity too.

FitBit Charge

I had a Fitbit¬†One before, but kept forgetting to wear it. The One also doesn’t have a heart rate monitor. The charge does, and it’s strapped to¬†your wrist. It’s not sexy. I feel a bit like I’m on parole wearing it. (The Charge 2 looks¬†marginally better). I’ve found the sleep tracker and heart rate monitor most useful this year. It made me realise how little sleep I was getting, and how screwed up my heart rate was, (120bpm+ resting…). Being able to monitor those metrics helped me work on them. It’s been cool to watch them improve as I’ve got healthier and fitter.

Sonos Speakers

We listen to music all the time. These can’t talk to you like Alexa can, but I love how we can have music playing throughout our flat. I also like being able to control the volume and track selection wirelessly. The sound they play is pretty good.


I have hundreds of thousands of images that I needed to back up. Being able to access and work on them wirelessly without having to mess around with removable hard drives has been awesome.

Desktop/Mobile Apps


I love this app. I don’t know how people can live without it. I come across so many interesting things to read on the internet. I rarely have time to read them when I’m browsing, so I send them to my Pocket to read offline or at a later date. You can hook it up to your Buffer/social media accounts and can easily share content from it too.


I got pissed off with Keeper‘s constant harassment to upgrade and switched to 1password as a result. It’s¬†super easy to use. It’s free and can generate unique and complex passwords if you need them.

Duolingo and Memrise

I started getting back into Spanish and Japanese this year. DuoLingo is excellent for Spanish, (as well as lots of other languages). It’s really improved over the last few years. Memrise is great for Japanese and Chinese or any other language that doesn’t use the roman alphabet.


Several people recommended using Strava for recording workouts. I prefer the app’s design over MapMyRun and it has more people I know on it than RunKeeper or NikeRun+. I also like how it isn’t just focused on running.


This is a skin that sits on top of your Gmail account. I find the design a lot seeker, more intuitive and useful than traditional Gmail.


I developed an addiction to this app/website when we were trying to furnish our flat. Neither Andrew nor I had a clue when it came to interior design – this was super helpful when it came to generating ideas.

Kitchen Appliances


I bought this to make smoothies for breakfast, (check out these re-useable smoothie straws).  We were torn between the NutriNinja and the NutriBullet. The NutriBullet has a sleeker design and is more aesthetically pleasing than the NutriNinja. The NutriNinja, on the other hand, was more powerful, had better reviews and was cheaper. Both are super easy to use and clean. Decisions, decisions. We went for the Ninja.

Four Slice Toaster

Andrew had always dreamt of having one of these, (sad I know…). We don’t even eat that much bread! But, hell, when he wants to make four slices of toast, it’s imperative that they are all ready at once. We spent an inordinate amount of money on a Dualit one. The dude loves it.

Wusthof Knives

I grew up in a kitchen with no sharp knives. (To be fair, why would you need a sharp knife when you lived on a diet of cereal, and microwaveable chips and pizza?)

Neither Andrew nor I could cook anything when we met. We tried to make a roast chicken and ended up with something resembling the turkey in The National Lampoon’s Christmas movie. I created inedible things and managed to give myself food poisoning…

That changed when we were introduced to Jamie Oliver’s books. From then on we were hooked! An epic new era was dawning – one where we were not reliant on ready meals, take away, or beans on toast.

Blunt knives are dangerous and do my head in. I was keen to buy some decent ones. These are expensive but are well made, (don’t you just love Germans). ¬†We also¬†bought the Wusthof knife sharpener which keeps¬†them sharp.

Wusthof Knife Block

I love this! It looks good, doesn’t take up much space and you can clean it easily, (unlike the traditional ones that are apparently full of bacteria).

Intelligent Waste Bin

When you’re talking about the best bin to buy, you know you’ve reached a very mature stage in your life… What can I say. I love how this has a compartment for recycling as well as household waste. Genius!

Random Items

Plastic Organiser/Container

I love this. It’s nothing special and is hidden away in a cupboard as a result. Before we got this though, we had stuff scattered everywhere and it took me twenty¬†minutes to locate stuff. Now all my make up and toiletries are¬†neatly stored and I can see where everything is. What more would one want?

Swimming Goggles

I joined a gym with a pool this year. I love swimming, not that I go often. These must be the most comfortable goggles I’ve ever worn. You can get tinted ones which are useful for sunny locations as well as clear ones.

Eye Mask

The blinds in our bedroom aren’t great. I read¬†about how disruptive light can be when you’re sleeping and started wearing this mask. Usually masks irritate my eyes. This one’s great, as it’s shape means that your eyes doesn’t touch the surface of the mask. I think it’s made a difference to my quality of sleep.


Super King Mattress

I’ve slept on cheap old mattresses for most of my life. Having a decent bed to sleep in was a game changer. Super King is basically a king size bed as far as the rest of the world is concerned. ¬†I like how it’s big enough for us to both sleep comfortably and not bother each other if one of us gets up.

Nice Sheets and Pillows

OMG – I love silky soft sheets and comfortable pillows. LOVE them! We bought a cheap set of sheets and an expensive set, (I can’t remember where from). I don’t like sleeping on the cheap ones. They feel so rough compared to the silky softness of the expensive ones, (first world problems).


We’ve lived for years with cheap hard couches and were desperate for something comfortable. ¬†The first sofa searching outing was fun. The 87th less so.¬†I’m not sure what we were looking for but we found something reasonably¬†comfortable in the end.

Desk and Chair

I spent months working from home on a wooden chair hunched over a¬†tiny table. Now we have room, I was keen to invest in a proper chair and desk. It’s still where I spend most of my time and has done wonders for my back, (I do need to chill out more though!) A¬†wireless mouse and keyboard and a decent monitor and sound bar are also worth buying.

TV and Sound Bar

I was adamant that I wanted the biggest and best quality television I could find. ¬†The last one I had was an ancient 20 inch behemoth that worked for 10+ years. ¬†It conveniently broke just before we¬†went travelling and I was looking forward to replacing it. Andrew dragged me down to earth when he saw the prices. We don’t even watch much TV. I still think bigger is better though ūüôā

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