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Five Cheap Purchases That Have Helped Me Through the Pandemic

Five Cheap Purchases That Have Helped Me Through the Pandemic

Laurie Ulster

This is not the time for major financial indulgences, is it? Even though we’re lucky enough to still have jobs, my husband and I are both dealing with some budget cuts: He had to get by on a reduced salary for three months, and I lost two of my biggest freelance projects when things shut down. Plus, we have teenagers, and one of them is headed to college next year.

If you’re like us, you’re trying to keep your purchases to a minimum these days, knowing that more financial uncertainty is one of the few things we can accurately predict. But also, if you’re like us, you’re spending a lot more time at home than you used to. Given that, and the fact that I’m not spending my money on commuting, expensive NYC lunches, or movies and concerts, I decided it was okay to make a few purchases that would improve quarantine life, as long as I kept to a reasonable budget. Don’t we all need something to make our days (after days after days after days) better?

Portable Bluetooth Speaker $40

These are gloomy times. You know what helps? Playing music no matter what room you’re in. Having music with me as I work in my office, clean up, fold laundry, read a book, or just sit and stare out the window has been a game changer. It connects to my laptop or my phone via Bluetooth. Get one with a bit of a bass boost… you deserve a bass boost.

Unlimited Music subscription ($15/month for the family) 

Do you still have shelves full of CDs? I do, but I don’t play them much. I also have a big digital music collection from back in the day when I used to convert them to mp3s, but investing in a streaming service has exponentially increased my options when I’m deciding what to listen to.

And it doesn’t have to be Amazon, it can be any streaming service. We ended up with Amazon because they had a good deal on a family plan (where we could all have separate accounts, sparing me from my husband’s Pink Floyd, my daughter’s Glee covers, and my son’s Sabaton, a Swedish heavy metal with songs about historical events and wars).

Thanks to Amazon, I’m calling up all the stuff I listened to at age 15 (hello there, Julian Lennon, haven’t seen you in forever!), the music I’ve loved my whole life, and whatever new discoveries come my way. It’s all at my fingertips at a moment’s notice. My latest adds: The Fugees, Frank Sinatra, Death Cab for Cutie, and Tina Turner. Why not? My current playlist is at 548 songs and growing.  

Saucony Originals ($60-ish)

Are you walking less than you used to, but also more?

With no more commuting and a lot fewer errands, I spend most of my working day in a chair. Coffee runs are to the kitchen down the hall instead of to a Starbucks a few blocks away. When I want to go walking, it’s a conscious plan and can take anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour.

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I love my Converse and my Vans, but they weren’t cutting it, so I picked up a cheap pair of Saucony Originals, the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned.  At under $60, they’re a steal. (Just don’t get the Low Pros, they have a lot less support.) And it doesn’t matter that they’re not cool and funky; I’m hiking in the park, not strutting down the streets of Manhattan. At least for now.

Even Nerdier T-shirts ($!5)  

As a certified Star Trek nerd, I don’t buy a lot of Trek T-shirts—I tend to work in very casual offices but I’ve still only ever had one job where it wasn’t social suicide to wear a Star Trek shirt there. (When I worked on After Trek, the Star Trek: Discovery aftershow, we ALL wore Star Trek T-shirts, but that was a delightful anomaly.) Since I’m working from home these days and will be for quite some time, I’ve thrown a few bucks at some new nerdy shirts, all of which put a smile on my face in the morning (and some side-eyes from some of the members of my embarrassed family). Revel in the T-shirt nerdery! I got mine at TeePublic. (And I usually go for the deep cuts.)

Patreon support ($3/month)

I don’t like to pay for things I can get for free, but I do like contributing to projects I believe in and enjoy. For a few bucks a month, I’m supporting a podcast I love (and getting to hear some extra interviews) and a networking newsletter that feeds me opportunities for writers. Since I’m supporting the work of other people, it feels like a good deed even if it’s a selfish act at the same time. Pick something you like! There’s plenty to choose from. And when you need a bigger splurge, and you can afford it, go for it. My latest splurge was a bottle of Empress 1908 gin. It’s a lovely indigo color, turns pink when you add a citrus or carbonated mixer, and is so smooth I can’t even taste it, which is exactly what I’m after. Cheers!

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