DuraScoop Jumbo Cat Litter Scoop
Amazon
DuraScoop Jumbo Cat Litter Scoop
Amazon

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 Trader Joe's treats to a Tesla, here are our favorite buys of the past year.

Sanders Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels, 2 ct.
Costco

Sanders Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels, 2 ct.

Price: $29 from Costco
Buy It
These little bits of heaven called to me from an endcap at Costco early this year, and I'm only a little ashamed to say I've bought them every return trip since then. They are the perfect balance of sweet and salty, and the caramel is luscious and buttery. The best part? They feel so decadent that I'm usually satisfied after eating two pieces (Okay … maybe three). Word to the wise: Buy them in store, where they're much cheaper — typically around $9 per jar, or even less on sale. — Saundra Latham, staff writer

Related: We Tried 15 Kinds of Chocolate and These Are the Best

AmazonBasics Underseat Luggage
Amazon

AmazonBasics Underseat Luggage

Buy on  $60.99

Price: $60 from Amazon
Buy It
Meet my new favorite piece of luggage. This little AmazonBasics carry-on fits perfectly under a seat or in an overhead compartment, plus it's got wheels and a telescoping handle. It's big enough to swallow a laptop, a pair of shoes, and a change of clothing, yet compact enough that I'm never tempted to overpack. — Scott Nyerges, deputy editor

Related: The Best Cheap Luggage

Dyson V8 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum
Amazon

Dyson V8 Animal Cordless Stick Vacuum

Buy on  $299  $499

Price: $250 from Amazon
Buy It
It's so much fun to use this vacuum. There's no cord to hinder you, so cleaning is quick and effortless. The canister is the easiest, most efficient I've ever dealt with — and I've had two Dysons before this one. It's even excellent at picking up dander from my pet bird. And since Dyson seems to be focusing more and more on cordless vacuums for the future, prices will keep dropping. — Teal Malia, web producer

Apple iPhone XR
Apple

Apple iPhone XR

Price: Starting at $599 from Apple
Buy It
At this point, upgrading to a new iPhone is basically a necessity if you want anything Apple to work. But that being said, I do appreciate the face recognition log-in, which is new to me and just really convenient, as well as the photo quality of the 12 megapixel camera. I also love not having to worry so much if the phone gets splashed since it's water-resistant. — Jennifer Magid, editorial coordinator

Ethique Eco-Friendly Shampoo Bar
Amazon

Ethique Eco-Friendly Shampoo Bar

Buy on  $16

Price: $16 from Amazon
Buy It
Sure, this probably seems like a pretty steep price to pay for a bar of shampoo soap, but this one lasts a surprisingly long time as long as you don't overdo it, and produces an excellent lather. It's also not a bad price to pay to get climate-conscious teenagers to stop nagging you about your plastic use — this comes in a cardboard box, so there's no waste. — Kris Scott, editor

Instant Pot Duo 80 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker
Amazon

Instant Pot Duo 80 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker

Buy on  $99  $139.95

Price: $99 from Amazon
Buy It
Can a mere household appliance be life-changing? Short answer: yes. We were a little late to the Instant Pot party, but we're glad we came. We didn't think we needed one (we had a Crock-Pot after all) but "instant" is the operative adjective here. Dishes that take an hour-plus to roast or longer to slow cook are Instant Pot ready in 15 minutes or less. The recipes are as healthy as you want to make them and clean-up is basically one pot. Tip: Go big. A larger Instant Pot can cook what a smaller one does but not vice versa. If you make too much, that's what freezers are for. — Pat Shrader, editor

Naturalizer Marianne Sneaker
Amazon

Naturalizer Marianne Sneaker

Buy on  $47.40

Price: Starting at $20 from Amazon
Buy It
No one is going to compliment your footwear when you slide into this basic black slip-on, but that's part of the magic. This sneaker is comfortable, sleek, and doesn't seem to hate high arches the way most so-called comfortable shoes do. I didn't realize I was wearing mine constantly, but I was — and I see no reason to stop, either. — Liane Starr, editor

ProForm Pro 5000 Treadmill
Costco

ProForm Pro 5000 Treadmill

Price: $1,400 from Costco
Buy It (members only)
"It'll end up an expensive clothes hanger," warned the naysayers. But 17 dropped pounds later, it's the best purchase I've ever made, and it's gotten more use than my gym membership ever did. It doesn't feel exactly like the machines at the gym — the belt is a bit thin and the deck is not as springy — but it's solidly made and easily handles heavy pounding at top speeds. The free year of iFit training was a game-changer, too. I don't know what you were doing last night, but I was rocking an interval run through a marketplace in Marrakech. And I kind of feel like I'm living in the future every time the incline automatically adjusts when the on-screen trainer hits a hill. Boom! — Suzanne Schneider, category editor

Trader Joe's Ketchup Flavored Spud Crunchies
Family Food Dude/youtube

Trader Joe's Ketchup Flavored Spud Crunchies

Price: $2 from Trader Joe's
Buy it in store only
These seasonal TJ's snacks sound like a gimmicky product, and they are, but boy do they deliver. I was pretty shocked by how much they actually tasted like a French fry dipped in ketchup. Being a true Cheapist, I considered stowing them in my purse when I went out for burgers. The light, crisp crunch beats 70% of the soggy fries out there. The only negative is that one tiny bag is presumably four servings … sure. — Anna Christakos, production manager

Altura Photo Rapid Fire Camera Neck Strap
Amazon

Altura Photo Rapid Fire Camera Neck Strap

Buy on  $17.99

Price: $18 from Amazon
Buy It
This sturdy camera strap allows me to quickly snap a photo by easily sliding the camera up the strap, or I can lock it in place to keep it from swinging around. The padding sits comfortably on my shoulder — rather than choking my neck as standard straps often do — and offers a convenient storage pocket to stash memory cards, my lens cap, and more. The strap has made carrying my camera around much more comfortable and convenient, and I take more photos thanks to how easy it makes shooting. If you're using a tripod, there's a quick-release latch for an easy transition, and there's an additional safety tether to help prevent accidental drops. — Danny Jensen, deputy editor

Apple AirPods
Walmart

Apple AirPods

Price: $139 from Walmart
Buy It
As someone who obsessively researches consumer products for a living, I knew these wireless headphones didn't have the best sound quality or the lowest price (and, frankly, I was annoyed with Apple for getting rid of the headphone jack on the iPhone in the first place). But AirPods are a no-brainer for iOS users, especially during Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. They last longer and charge faster than I expected, and they've sat comfortably in my ears almost every day since I bought them. — Kara Reinhardt, managing editor

DuraScoop Jumbo Cat Litter Scoop
Amazon

DuraScoop Jumbo Cat Litter Scoop

Buy on  $12.99

Price: $13 from Amazon
Buy It
This is probably the least glamorous thing I purchased this year, but still one of the best. I adopted two kittens this spring, and thought nothing of buying the cheapest plastic litter scoop at the pet store. Well, that thing lasted about six weeks before it snapped mid-dig. I thought it was a fluke, but another plastic replacement lasted about a month. After that, I learned my lesson and ordered this aluminum scoop. Not only is it sturdy and comfortable to grip, it's nice and big, which makes my daily poop-scooping duties blessedly short. — Saundra

Related: 25 Hacks to Reclaim Your Home From Messy Pets

Logitech MX Vertical Wireless Mouse
Amazon

Logitech MX Vertical Wireless Mouse

Buy on  $83.99

Price: $84 from Amazon
Buy It
After a bout of tendonitis in my right wrist and forearm, I needed to make my office more ergonomic. Within a week of using this wireless mouse, the discomfort I'd been experiencing had diminished considerably. With four programmable buttons, it's super-versatile, and its 4,000-dpi laser tracker is precise enough for gaming (after work, of course). Plus, it gets up to four months on a full charge. — Scott

Simplehuman 10 Liter In-Cabinet Trash Can
Amazon

Simplehuman 10 Liter In-Cabinet Trash Can

Buy on  $29.99

Price: $30 from Amazon
Buy It
I love that this little can keeps trash hidden, plus the lid keeps the odor of the trash locked away so you don't smell it. And while Simplehuman makes its own trash bags, Walmart sells cheap ones that are perfect for it — you definitely don't need to get the expensive ones. — Teal

Miss Fong Leather Diaper Bag Backpack
Amazon

Miss Fong Leather Diaper Bag Backpack

Buy on  $48.99  $10.99

Price: $49 from Amazon
Buy It
This is really versatile for a baby-to-toddler diaper bag. And it doesn't look like a diaper bag at all, meaning I can use it as a regular travel bag or work bag. I'm amazed by how many compliments I get on it. The faux leather actually looks quite real, there are insulated pockets on the inside good for water bottles, and you can carry it as a backpack, crossbody or shoulder bag. It's also under $100, which is important for something that's going to get banged around. — Jennifer

Simply Keto Cookbook
Amazon

Simply Keto Cookbook

Buy on  $15.22  $34.95

Price: $19 from Amazon
Buy It
Yeah, yeah, keto schmeto — but keto keeps my ridiculously delicate digestive system on the straight and narrow, and this has become my go-to cookbook for easy meals. Most of the recipes are super easy, require few ingredients, and use plenty of keto-friendly vegetables, which is something I can't give up for any diet. — Kris

Related: Paleo Diet, Gluten Free, or Keto? Eat Cheap No Matter What

Moser Roth Chocolate
Amazon

Moser Roth Dark Chocolate

Price: $2 from Aldi
Buy it in store only
Achtung, baby! This past year I've become an even bigger fan of the popular Germany-based grocery Aldi because of its surprisingly good sweet treats. The Moser Roth Dark Chocolate (85% cocoa) is cheap but heavenly: $2 for 4.4 ounces of high-quality chocolate imported from Germany, packaged in five individually wrapped bars. There are other versions, including a chili-flavored one, and one with 70% cocoa for folks who like their chocolate on the sweeter side. No matter which you prefer, they're enough to make you say, "Jawohl!" — Pat

Charisma 100% Hygro Cotton 2-Piece Bath Towel Set
Costco

Charisma 100% Hygro Cotton 2-Piece Bath Towel Set

Price: $16 from Costco
Buy It
You could get towels that are just as plush from Macy's or Nordstrom, but not for this price. These towels were nicer than expected (which hardly ever happens) and came in a variety of colors. I got four of the colors and none of them seem to bleed, and they haven't become the glorified scrub brushes that are my last set. They're so soft and luxurious my kids don't (always) throw them on the floor. I'll take it. — Liane

Fitbit Ionic
Walmart

Fitbit Ionic

Buy on Walmart  $355.99

Price: $200 from Walmart
Buy It
What do you get for the man who likes nothing? Apparently, the Fitbit Ionic. I purchased this for husband as a birthday gift, and was greeted with the usual, "Hmm, don't really need it. Will probably never use it. Why a fitness watch?" Fast forward 10 months, and he's never taken it off and is constantly bragging about his overall "fitness number." It's the closest thing to a pricier Apple Watch for a guy who doesn't care about having an Apple Watch — but does, it turns out, care about having a convenient, GPS-equipped tracker for his runs that's stylish, plays music, and is app-compatible. My favorite part, the phone and text notifications, mean he never has an excuse for missing my messages. — Suzanne

Cowin Noise Canceling Bluetooth Headphones
Amazon

Cowin Noise Canceling Bluetooth Headphones

Buy on  $49.99  $59.99

Price: $60
Buy It
As a big music fan, I've long wanted a pair of over-ear headphones, especially for travelling, but always shied away from the pricey models from well-known brands. After all, I wouldn't likely use them everyday, yet I still wanted a quality pair for when I did. Thankfully, with the Cowin headphones, I'm able to enjoy excellent sound quality and didn't have to break the piggy bank. I love that I don't have to worry about getting tangled in a cable, and the noise-cancelling feature really blocks out the background hum on an airplane. And when I'm not using them to listen to music or podcasts, I can also use them to make calls. — Danny

Tesla Model 3
Tesla

Tesla Model 3

Price: Starting at $39,490 from Tesla
Buy It
I wasn't entirely convinced by the whole electric-vehicle revolution that Tesla touted — until my husband purchased one. Forget about the fact that it's better for the environment, this thing is just convenient. No trips to the gas station, no pricey oil changes, and no need for keys. Plus you can leave the air conditioning running while you're shopping in 105-degree Texas weather. It's like riding in Captain Planet's Batmobile. — Anna

Related: 20 Electric Cars Cheaper Than a Tesla

Corelle Classic 66-Piece Winter Frost White Dinnerware Set
Walmart

Corelle Classic 66-Piece Winter Frost White Dinnerware Set

Price: $135 from Walmart
Buy It
I still love our traditional ceramic dinnerware, but let's be real: I have two boys who only occasionally sit still at the dinner table. So the more delicate stuff stays put until we have company, and these simple dishes do the heavy lifting the rest of the time. And what can I say about Corelle that hasn't already been said? It's practically bulletproof, it's lightweight, it washes well, and the pieces stack tightly, saving space in my already overstuffed cabinets. — Saundra

Bodum Brazil 12-Ounce French Press
Amazon

Bodum Brazil 12-Ounce French Press

Buy on  $14.99  $17

Price: $15 from Amazon
Buy It
I love coffee. So much so that I sometimes drink a whole pot if I've got a busy day at work — and then I wonder why I'm feeling jittery. But with this single-serving French Press from Bodum, I never, ever risk making too much coffee. Just add some freshly ground coffee and hot water, depress the plunger, and voila! A perfect cup of coffee every time, and it's dishwasher-safe, too. — Scott

Related: From Mocha to Java — The Secret History of How Coffee Took Over the World

Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

Price: $8 from Trader Joe's
Buy it in store only
One of the best things you can buy at Trader Joe's, this is perfect for busy moms (or anyone in a rush) to keep on hand for a quick but tasty caffeine jolt. I love it because it's so reasonably priced for such a versatile bottle of coffee. You can mix it with milk and zap up a cup for hot coffee in the morning, or dilute it with ice and water for iced coffee. You can make it as strong or weak as you want, but it's still good. And it's so much faster than brewing your own or stopping in the coffee shop, but much better-tasting than instant. — Jennifer

Bonaok Wireless Bluetooth Karaoke Microphone
Amazon

Bonaok Wireless Bluetooth Karaoke Microphone

Buy on  $32.99  $69.99

Price: $32 from Amazon
Buy It
I've used this on many occasions this year with family and friends, and not just for singing. It came in handy during a rousing game of "Family Feud" on a houseboat on Lake Powell as well. It comes in five different colors, is rechargeable, has some impressive LED light action. — Kris

Summit Ginger Beer
Instacart

Summit Ginger Beer

Price: $4 from Aldi
Buy it in store only
This past year, Aldi scored again with its Summit Ginger Beer. This spicy beverage is "botanically brewed" (whatever that means) and can make your eyes water — but in a good way — with its bracing dose of ginger. It's non-alcoholic, but that's easily remedied with a little whiskey to make a very memorable highball. It's also pleasantly cheap at under $4 for a four-pack of powerful flavor. — Pat

Related: Aldi Products That Taste Like Name Brands — and Some That Definitely Don't

Apple Watch 5
Amazon

Apple Watch 5

Buy on  $429

Price: $409 from Amazon
Buy It
A watch is just a watch, and a fitness tracker is just a fitness tracker, right? Well, sort of, but if you're going to get one of these, there are reasons to go whole hog with the newest model. The 5 has a more advanced processor, a bigger display, an improved accelerometer to figure out where you're going, fall detection (it will even call 911 if you want), Bluetooth 5.0, and an electrical heart sensor, which allows users to measure their own heart rate. The always-on feature burns through battery, so that's not a selling point, and I'm willing to trade this one in if the 6 has a feature this one lacks — sleep tracking — but it checks a lot of boxes. — Liane

Surpahs Over the Sink Roll-Up Dish Rack
Amazon

Surpahs Over the Sink Roll-Up Dish Rack

Buy on  $25  $39.99

Price: $25 from Amazon
Buy It
Long gone are the days of a smelly dish rag placed next to the sink collecting water droplets and mildew from the drying dishes. This silicone drying rack lies directly over the sink for easy access and more sanitary drying. I'm so glad I purchased this over a bulky drying rack that sits on the counter. It saves space and requires little to no cleaning. — Anna

Sanuk Women's Yoga Mat Flip-Flops
Amazon

Sanuk Women's Yoga Mat Flip-Flops

Buy on  $23.66  $32

Price: $25 from Amazon
Buy It
Full disclosure: I not only bought these flip-flops this year, but two years ago. And I'm ready to buy them again. Yes, they really are made from real yoga mats, and yes, they are every bit as comfortable as they should be. They mold to my feet, the soft straps don't rub, and I can walk for miles in them without regretting not putting on my "real" shoes instead. — Saundra