Best Things We Bought_cover
Best Things We Bought_cover

A Few of Our Favorite Things

At Cheapism, we're always looking for worthy buys for our readers, whether that's money-saving store-brand products or splurge-worthy items that inspire raves. In the process, we stumble on plenty of things that make our own lives better, too. Want a peek at our personal shopping lists? From sound machines to punching bags, here are our favorite buys of this unforgettable, pandemic-plagued year.

Prices and availability are subject to change.

Related: 100 Holiday Gifts Under $100

Flybird Adjustable Dumbbells
Amazon

Flybird Adjustable Dumbbells

$140 from Amazon
Shop Now

When gyms across the country closed, Americans began snapping up exercise equipment like free weights, resistance bands, bicycles, treadmills … pretty much everything. Somehow, I managed to get my hands on a set of adjustable dumbbells like these, and I use them regularly as part of my home fitness regimen. Demand for hand weights and other workout gear is still strong, so shop based on availability and price, not brand. Also, look for metal weights, preferably with a non-chip coating, which are more durable. — Scott Nyerges, deputy editor, shopping

Related: This Cheap Workout Gear Can Help You Stay in Shape at Home

Soundcore Wakey Bluetooth Alarm Clock
Amazon

Soundcore Wakey Bluetooth Alarm Clock

$90 from Amazon
Shop Now

If 2020 had you tossing and turning, join the club. With its endlessly customizable white noise, the Soundcore Wakey has been a big help in sending me off to dreamland. But it's more than a sound machine: It's also an alarm clock, a wireless speaker, and a phone charger. And because it serves so many functions, I finally have room on my nightstand again. — Saundra Latham, senior staff writer

Related: The Hottest Tech Gifts This Season

Radio Flyer 3-in-1 EZ Fold Wagon with Canopy
Target

Radio Flyer 3-in-1 EZ Fold Wagon with Canopy

$90 from Target
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Like most people, our family took a lot of neighborhood walks this year. A lot. This wagon was crucial for keeping our toddler contained, and the canopy was a nice touch during the sunny summer months. It also functioned as our germ-free shopping cart whenever visiting stores. — Anna Christakos, production manager

Related: 50 Great Gifts to Buy Your Grandkids

Peesnt Reusable Plastic Face Shields
Amazon

Peesnt Reusable Plastic Face Shields

$17 from Amazon
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Okay, maybe this was overkill. The plastic shield look, paired with a mask, is definitely doctor's office chic, but given that infection numbers around me are currently through the roof (and my kids like to pull their masks under their noses or touch their faces when I'm not looking), these shields were a minimal investment in peace of mind. Best of all? The two shields for kids in this pack of four had a rainbow design, which actually made the kids excited to wear them. — Liane Starr, editor

Related: Masks and Accessories to Make Covering Your Face More Comfortable

 Subscription Kits for Kids
ijeab/istockphoto

Outschool Online Classes for Kids

Price varies from Outschool.com
Shop Now

My kids haven't set foot in a classroom since March. Outschool has kept them occupied and me sane. I've signed them up for everything from Barbie fashion design to beginning Japanese. Options are as endless as they are intriguingly random, and the kids have loved nearly every class they've taken — a course where they made their own miniature, polymer-clay picnic food was a particular hit. Of course, for those who want to keep their extracurriculars strictly educational, there are language arts and STEM-based offerings. Prices are reasonable: I've paid as little as $10 for a full hour of "virtual babysitting." — Suzanne Schneider, special projects editor

Related: Where to Find Online Classes for Kids Home From School

Toshiba 43" Smart Fire TV
Best Buy

Toshiba 43" Smart Fire TV

$180 from Best Buy 
Shop Now

Toshiba's Smart Fire TV is a significant step forward for those of us who still have older televisions that require connecting a streaming device. Plug this TV in, and all your streaming channels are available without the hassle of having to purchase and connect a Roku. As a bonus, we can use Alexa to control the television and the picture quality is wonderful. — Mia Taylor, staff writer

Related: Hottest Holiday Gifts From Amazon

GE Frost-Free Freezer
Home Depot

GE Frost-Free Freezer

$900 from Home Depot
Shop Now

Early in the pandemic, March 14 to be specific, my wife and I got swept up in coronavirus anxiety and ordered a full-size upright freezer. The freezer side of our French-door refrigerator just wasn't big enough to hold large platters of food or other plus-size items we were sure we'd need. Naturally, we weren't the only ones buying a freezer, and supplies dried up dramatically over the following weeks. Our freezer was supposed to arrive April 21, and then June 21. It finally arrived July 24, in time for popsicle production in the summer and stockpiles of comfort food in the fall. We've been chillin' ever since. — Pat Shrader, assistant managing editor

Related: This Clever Technique Will Make More Room in Your Freezer

Mid-Rise Tapered-Leg Joggers
Old Navy

Mid-Rise Tapered-Leg Joggers

$28 from Old Navy
Shop Now

If you're living in sweatpants, you might as well make it fun. I stocked up on sweats in cute tie-dye prints, and have been wearing them everywhere from the kitchen to the couch this year, and even for exciting occasions like basic errands. — Jennifer Magid, editorial coordinator

Related: Pajamas, Sweats, and Leisure Wear Perfect for Working from Home

Amazon Eero Mesh Wi-Fi System
Amazon

Amazon Eero Mesh Wi-Fi System

$249 from Amazon
Shop Now

This system is sold as being easy to set up and use, and it lives up to the hype. I bought it in desperation after a move revealed that my modem and router were many years out of date, but I'd probably make the same choice after weeks of careful research. Setup really is almost as simple as plugging in the units, and the Eero app for your phone or tablet adds to the feeling of making high-tech living manageable for people who prefer not to think about the nuts and bolts. — Marc Levy, editor

Related: Amazon Brand Products That Shoppers Love

Tula Unisex Gardener Lattice Hat
Amazon

Tula Unisex Gardener Lattice Hat

$40 from Amazon
Shop Now

I actually bought this hat for myself and one for my son at an angler's shop in Crested Butte, Colorado, but was happy to see it's available on Amazon, too. It's a high-quality hat for a fraction of the price that you would pay for a similar style from other retailers, and it's great for keeping the sun off my nearly 50-year-old face whether I'm in the garden, on a walk, or just sitting and trying to soak up some mood-improving Vitamin D in these trying times. I also love that it's got extra SPF protection and is also fair trade. — Kris Scott, writer/editor

Related: The Best Gifts for Plant Lovers and Green Thumbs

Larch Wood Cutting Board
Sur La Table

Larch Wood Cutting Board

$90 and up from Sur La Table
Shop Now

Sure, I could've spent $2 on two sheets of polypropylene at Ikea. But this gorgeous cutting board came from a neighborhood shop and makes meal prep so much more enjoyable, especially when I'm cooking at home night after night after night. It's one of those things that will last a lifetime (with a warranty to prove it) and the end-grain construction helps knives last longer, too. You can buy straight from the mill in Nova Scotia, which has one board on sale for $70 for the holidays; you just have to pay shipping on orders under $130. — Kara Reinhardt, executive editor

Related: Practical and Purposeful Kitchen Gifts They'll Actually Use

Mifaso Outlet Extender and USB Wall Charger
Amazon

Mifaso Outlet Extender and USB Wall Charger

$12 from Amazon
Shop Now

Remember when things used to plug into the wall? Nearly every device I've bought or received this year, whether it's a handheld fan or a facial cleansing brush, powers up via USB port instead of a regular outlet or batteries. This compact outlet extender has three ports, including one for USB-C cables, so I no longer have to make a nightly choice between having a fully charged book light or AirPods at my bedside in case insomnia strikes. And it's slimmer than the brick-like Apple adapters, so it fits neatly behind my nightstand. — Melissa Cantor, senior editor

Related: Useful Gifts for All the Practical People on Your List

Sunny Health and Fitness Folding Treadmill
Amazon

Sunny Health and Fitness Folding Treadmill

$350 on Amazon
Shop Now

When you’re working from home as we at Cheapism do — and your reasons for going anywhere are limited thanks to the pandemic — it’s easy to slip into a sedentary routine. So, when my wife’s business was closed due to COVID-19 and we were both home together, we decided it was time to finally invest in a treadmill. But since our floor space is limited, we decided to track down this highly rated folding treadmill, which easily folds up and down thanks to a hydraulic mechanism. Now we can conveniently squeeze in a bit of cardio into our routine without having to mask up, dodge traffic, or worry about limited daylight hours in the winter. — Danny Jensen, managing editor

Related: Get Going With These Great Gifts for Runners

Yard Butler Twist Tiller
Amazon

Yard Butler Twist Tiller

$41 from Amazon
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I live in a part of Texas where the soil is nothing but hard clay and rocks that's next to impossible to dig up using a shovel or hoe. Thank goodness for this weed puller. Its box claws rip out grass, uproot weeds, fish out stones and debris, and aerate soil, making gardening in my yard a heck of a lot easier. Just sink, twist, and pull. — Scott

Related: The Best Things We Bought in 2019

 Bartesian Premium Cocktail and Margarita Machine
Amazon

Bartesian Premium Cocktail and Margarita Machine

$350 from Amazon
Shop Now

The Bartesian, a glorious Keurig-like machine that turns out surprisingly good cocktails in mere seconds, was a lockdown impulse buy. Well, no regrets here. Making a drink is as easy as inserting a flavor capsule and choosing a drink strength — the machine does the rest. My favorite drink: The Lemon Drop, which is just as tasty as the hard candy. — Saundra

Related: Boozy Gifts That Don Draper Would Endorse

'You Shall Not Pass' Doormat
Amazon

'You Shall Not Pass' Doormat

$33 from Amazon
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Sure, this doormat is most likely made for a "Lord of the Rings" nerd, but it could easily please a hermit, a germaphobe, or a general wizard enthusiast. The quality is incredibly sturdy and holds up well to the outdoor elements. — Anna

Related: Best Nerd Gifts on Amazon

Cuisinart Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven
Costco

Cuisinart Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven

$199 from Costco
Shop Now

I was determined to hate this thing when my husband brought it home from Costco. It meant getting rid of an air fryer and a toaster oven that were perfectly fine, plus I had no interest in sorting out the vagaries of a whole new appliance. But once I did (and burnt a few corn dogs), I discovered this hybrid appliance cooked everything faster, had more room than a standard air fryer, and took up less space than the toaster oven and air fryer combined. Consider me a (reluctant) convert. — Liane

Not a Costco member? Apply here. And here are 10 Ways Non-Members Can Shop at Costco.

Related: 40 Cheap Air Fryer Recipes to Cut Calories, Not Flavor

Ollie Pet Food Delivery Service
Ollie Pet Food Delivery Service

Ollie Pet Food Delivery Service

About $2 per day and up from OlliePets.com
Shop Now

I have a French bulldog. They're great pets — super adorable and super friendly. But these dogs have a ton of health problems. First and foremost, various food sensitivities mean, at best, constant flatulence and, at worst, frequent vomiting and rashes. But since I bit the bullet and shelled out for fresh food delivery from Ollie, I can attest that I have seen an almost miraculous decrease in the spit-ups. He's healthy, he's happy, and he cleans his bowl each and every time. — Suzanne

Related: Fun and Useful Gifts for Dog-Obsessed Humans

Echo Dot, 4th Generation
Amazon

Echo Dot 4th Generation Smart Speaker with Clock and Alexa

$39 from Amazon
Shop Now

The 4th generation Echo Dot seriously stepped up our Alexa and smart-speaker game. In addition to serving as an alarm clock, it offers a significant menu of sleep sounds that can help you drift off peacefully if falling asleep is a challenge. We also use it to play audiobooks, drop in on other rooms to announce dinner is ready or send other messages. — Mia

Related: The Most Popular Items Our Readers Bought on Amazon Prime Day

Everlast 60 lb. Punching Bag
Amazon

Everlast 60 lb. Punching Bag

$199 from Amazon
Shop Now

Before the pandemic hijacked prices on fitness equipment, I had the foresight (or dumb luck) to buy some things I'd wanted for years: a punching bag and a pair of gloves. I chose Everlast because they still make some of their products in the U.S. and because it's the brand I most associate with the sport. If you've never tried it, it's a great home workout. Crank up the music and sync your punches to the drums (personal faves of this aging Boomer: anything by The Who with Keith Moon on drums, and the "Let's Dance" album by David Bowie). After 20 minutes, your frustrations will be gone. — Pat

PetSafe Anti-Bark Collar
Amazon

PetSafe Anti-Bark Collar

$52 from Amazon
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Since everyone and their mother got a pandemic puppy, my middle-aged dog has been going a little nuts from all the canines now surrounding our house, plus the fact that people he's never seen before are now out in their yard all the time. A gentle spray of citronella gives him pause whenever he wants to give his two cents to all the neighborhood outliers. — Jenn

Related: The Easiest and Hardest Dog Breeds to Train

Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travel
Amazon

Lonely Planet's Ultimate Travel

$17 from Amazon
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I bought this book for my husband for his birthday. In a year when travel outside of our home state was severely limited, this book, which includes Lonely Planet's list of the 500 best places to see, has fueled lots of discussions and dreams for future trips. It's filled with gorgeous photos and fascinating and useful info about places across the globe. — Kris

Related: Best Travel Gifts On Amazon

Theragun Elite
Amazon

Theragun Elite

$399 from Amazon
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As someone who suffers from eternal shoulder pain and is always unsatisfied with stingy massages from friends, the Theragun is a life-saver, especially during a pandemic when you can't safely go and get a professional massage. You would think the price tag wouldn't be worth it, but considering that now I don't have to spend $70-$150 on massages, it pays itself off quickly. — Max Levitte, co-founder and CEO

Related: Best Gifts for Men Who Have Everything

Wekapo Stuffed Animal Storage Bean Bag Chair Cover
Amazon

Wekapo Stuffed Animal Storage Bean Bag Chair Cover

$33 from Amazon
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If you have little kids, you know how their stuffed animals seem to multiply every night. This sturdy cotton canvas cover makes storing them easy — just pile 'em in and zip it up — then doubles as a cushy chair while it's full. Best of all, it's so large, it will totally tame a room that's been overrun by plush friends. — Saundra

Related: Gifts for Disorganized People

Crate Expectations Gift Subscription
Crate Expectations

Crate Expectations and Raddish Kids Subscription Boxes

Starting at $20 a month
Shop Now for Crate Expectations
Shop Now for Raddish Kids

Another great option for keeping the kids occupied: subscription boxes. I've tried a bunch, and our hands-down, all-time favorites have been a monthly book box from Crate Expectations and a cooking crate from Raddish Kids. My 12-year-old son is now considering becoming a chef (I'm enjoying his cooking) and he and my 8-year-old daughter fight over who gets to read their latest book delivery first. And did I say that the book crate comes with themed gifts and activities, too? Seriously, the best money I spent in 2020. — Suzanne

Related: Subscription Box Gifts That Keep the Giving Going

Bentgo Kids Leak-Proof Lunch Box
Amazon

Bentgo Kids Leak-Proof Lunch Box

$22 from Amazon
Shop Now

Whether you're packing food for school or distance-lunching at home, getting creative with mealtime is a good way to break the monotony and motivate picky eaters. This bento-style lunch box truly is leak proof and can withstand the mighty force of a 2-year-old's tantrum. Plus, having individual compartments actually helps streamline the packing process. — Anna

Skywalker Trampoline Jump N Dunk Trampoline
Amazon

Skywalker Trampoline Jump N Dunk Trampoline

$222 from Amazon
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I jumped (pun intended) on the trampoline bandwagon last spring when it became clear the pandemic wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, which meant I had to find a way for my two young kids to get some energy out at home pronto. This trampoline has truly been a sanity saver, and gets used just about every single day. The basketball hoop is an extra bit of fun, and the size is manageable enough that we were able to put it together ourselves without outside help, plus it doesn't take up the whole yard. — Jenn

Related: Fun Gifts for the Entire Family

Lyre's Coffee Originale Non-Alcoholic Spirit
Lyre's

Lyre's Coffee Originale Non-Alcoholic Spirit

$36 from Lyre's  
Shop Now

If you're looking for something that'll help you cut back on drinking, there are lots of options out there — unfortunately, quite a few of them are disappointing. This coffee "liqueur," however, has become one of my favorite non-alcoholic drinks. I mix it in a mocktail with a splash of heavy cream and a dash of Lyre's orange sec. I've also tried it out on booze-loving friends who have also been impressed with it. — Kris

Cobra Kai Retro '80s T-Shirt
TeePublic

Cobra Kai Retro '80s T-Shirt

$20 from TeePublic
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Why yes, yes I did buy the whole fam Cobra Kai tee-shirts. While the optimist in me remains team Miyagi-Do at heart, there's no denying that the main theme of 2020 has been "No Mercy." — Suzanne

Related: Rad Gifts for People Who Just Love the '80s