Since it’s nearing Chrismas, i.e. “Consumermas”, we’re all swiping our credit cards like there’s no tomorrow. If you’re going to spend all your hard-earned money, at least use it on high-quality and good value stuff. I’m obsessive about the intersection of quality and value. I am totally fine with spending tens of hours researching the best products, obviously negating a lot of that value. Nevertheless, let that be my cross to bear, so that you may enjoy a confident purchase that you will enjoy for years to come.
Why quality? Well, I was quite young when I first heard the phrase “the poor man always pays twice” from my uncle. He would always buy the best quality items, and then use them for at least 10 years. Shoes. Cars. Coats. Whatever. It’s stuck with me, and so I strive to not be poor and pay twice like a fool. More than that, there’s a sustainability issue here. Cheap crap made from recycled crap is still just crap. It’s adding to the problem by creating demand for recycling. I believe the more ethical route is to buy a high-quality item and keep it for life. That way, you’re not adding to the junk pile. Less is more.
Disclaimers: None. I have absolutely no interest of any kind in any of the products listed, nor am I using any kind of affiliate links, i.e. this is just stuff that I love for the quality and value of the product itself. Enjoy. Oh, and for stuff you can order online I’ve added links to the prices.
#1: Macbook, $999+ — In 2019 this almost seems like a bit of a gimme, as so many people are on Macs, but when I switched almost 15 years ago, that wasn’t the case. The value proposition remains the same and continues to delight me on a daily basis. A lot of my life revolves around my Macbook. I can think of few products where the complete customer experience is more refined. The hardware that just works. The software that never glitches. The tactile feel of the materials. Light. Compact. The meticulous details of the industrial design. It just oozes quality. While iPhones and iPads are engineering marvels in their own way, the Macbook is like the 911 of productivity. It’s still the best.
#2: Nest Protect smoke detector, $119— This is a product that was almost ahead of its time. It’s like a predecessor to the Alexa but just focuses on one task: detecting smoke and fire. No wonder Google bought them, but it has that feeling of an Apple product in how well crafted the whole experience is. In one word, it’s reassuring. I simply sleep soundly knowing there’s a Nest in my home, especially when I’m traveling.
#3: Lamy Safari fountain pen, $18— I grew up with technology and computers, and have always valued the latest and greatest tech. Maybe its because I’m approaching middle age, maybe its the tangible unsustainability of decades of electronics consumerism, but I’m suddenly increasingly attracted to old fashioned tech. The Apple Pencil is another miracle object from Apple, but when you hold a fountain pen there’s a timeless charm that this kind of tool has refined through generations in the hands of millions of people.
#4: African Black Soap, $17 — This one may seem a little random in the context of all this tech, but when you try this soap you’ll just throw away all that cheap nasty ick you used to have. It’s not how the soap feels in the shower, but how your skin feels after you’re done. It’s a vibe. Oh, and iHerb is my go-to site for all things health and wellness related.
#5: Nespresso coffeemaker, $2 per day — I’m from Finland which is the #1 coffee drinking nation on the planet, so I’m going to invest in my brew. Having gone down the various avenues of drip, press, and espresso makers, at the end of the day if you want the best coffee experience with the least amount of hassle, you want a Nespresso machine. It’s A LOT cheaper than Starbucks. My favorite is a double Volluto made into an Americano. Plus, if you learn to enjoy coffee black as intended, then you can just get the smallest and cheapest machine.
#6: Fitbit Inspire HR, $99 — If you care about your health, you really need a wearable tracker. These fifth-generation devices are way beyond steps now, and in terms of an overall value package, Fitbit’s Inspire HR is the best. You get automatic sleep, exercise, activity, and heart-rate data. Five days of battery life, a best-in-class app, and swim-proof. If it measured HRV it would be perfect. Garmin may have better hardware, but the app is literally worst-in-class, borderline unusable.
#7: Oura Ring, $299 — If you do want to measure HRV, then your options are between the Apple Watch and Oura. Obviously Apple Watch is a wrist computer, and Oura is just a ring. But for some people, that’s exactly why you want the ring. You get a few days of battery life and clinical-grade data for HRV and sleep. It’s the perfect data source for the Healthzilla app.
#8: Shure 215SE earphones, $99 — Staying within consumer electronics, I’ve always had a thing for audio gear. Don’t even start with your AirPods, bro. In terms of wearing comfort and audio quality for the money, I feel this is where it’s at. Shure oozes professional quality all over, from the detachable cables to the materials.
#9: Lems Mesa shoes, $125 — One of the first anti-technology obsessions I had was leather. Leather anything. Well, except pants. That’s a no-no. But shoes, belts, wallets, bags, whatever. I just love the tangible quality of a nice leather product. The smell. The feel. The finishes. The edges. The stitching. It’s just a wonderful thing. Why am I talking about leather so much, when these aren’t even leather shoes? Cause I’m weird like that. It’s how I got to appreciate shoes. But when it comes to walking, Lems Mesa is the champ. It doesn’t actually feel like a shoe on your foot. More like a diving boot, or compression sock. It may not be for everyone, but worth a look. They also do boots. In leather. Just putting that out there.
#10: Swatch Sistem51 watch, $150+ — If you thought that was getting weird, we’re just getting warmed up. Mechanical watches are the antidote to technology. They are obsolete. You don’t need one. You have a phone. A fitness tracker. They’re synced to atomic time on a GPS satellite. Contest over. Which is why I love them so much. You can choose to participate in a tradition spanning half a millennia, of craftsmen devoting their lives to the pursuit of mechanical precision and beauty. It’s the ultimate marriage of engineering and design. The irony is that Swatch nearly killed all that with the advent of the quartz watch in the late 1960s. Instead of letting these beloved brands die, Swatch just bought them. Kept them alive. So now we can cherish them. In a nod to this history, Swatch has now started offering mechanical watches again. It also happens to be the world’s only entirely robotically manufactured mechanical watch. The most high-tech way to produce the most low-tech product. Great way to get into collecting. If you insist on going to the depths of the abyss, there is no rational reason to ever go beyond Rolex or Grand Seiko ($5K++) when it comes to quality and value.
#11: Perlon watch straps, $10 — I live in Singapore. If you haven’t visited, it’s like living in a steam room. Standing outside for more than 5 minutes will break a sweat. So nice leather straps aren’t a thing. Metal bracelets work, but for color and flair, I go with Perlon most days. It’s super comfortable, infinitely adjustable, and cheap. Winner. The best quality is Eulit at around $30, but they do limited colors.
#12: OneStarLeather wallet, $99 — Y’all thought I was finished? More leather. Yes. Horween is one of the great tanneries in the world, creating proprietary leathers through patented chemical treatments. The big one being Shell Cordovan from horse butts, but it’s super shiny and super expensive. Chromexcel has a lot of that same buttery character and amazing patina. This wallet is large and flat and fits your passports inside. Works with pants and jacket pockets, and develops one hell of a patina. Did I mention the patina yet? #patina
#13: OneStarLeather belt, $70 —I’m pretty sure this is the last leather item on the list, but I’m making no promises. This is also Horween Chromexcel, as you do. Not only does it patina beautifully around the edges in use, but this object will outlast you. Your grandchildren can wear your belt on Mars, while that $1,000 iPhone of yours is obsolete next year. There’s something to be said of that.
#14: Filson backpack, $225 — I know what you’re thinking. This guy’s a massive douchebag. Who spends this much on random stuff that you only use for a while? That’s the point. This stuff lasts your entire life. Quality is sustainability. Don’t buy a backpack every year. Buy one, and done. This is that backpack and that company. Lifetime warranty. Lifetime. You’re not getting that from Amazon or Nike. Who’s the douchebag now?
#15: Filson laptop sleeve, $150 — I lied about the leather thing. Sorry. Not sorry. Why leather and not neoprene or something? Again. Lifetime guarantee. It looks nice. It smells nice. It feels nice. It will look and feel even nicer over time. Every time I take the sleeve out of my bag I feel good. That’s worth something to me.
#16: The Spice Tree whisky, $70 — Many people buy alcohol as a gift, and usually it sucks. The worst thing is that even cheap whiskey is expensive. So what’s good value? Two Scotch brands: Johnny Walker and Compass Box. Both are blends, but even connoisseurs of single malts will appreciate these. A good blend is better than an entry-level single malt, but sadly there are very few good blends. With JW just go Black and forget the rest. Available, affordable, good. Compass Box has a wide range of price points, but The Spice Tree is a classic profile that just tastes way more interesting than $70 should allow. My favorite daily dram.
#17: Anker iPhone cables, $15 — I don’t know if the conspiracy theory forums are full of Apple cable myths, but at best they are some kind of inside joke that we’re part of but don’t find funny. They seem to self-destruct on cue around 12 months. I’ve owned probably 10+ Apple cables and zero have survived to this day. Yet a $15 cable from Anker I bought two years ago doesn’t even have a scratch on it. These things are built to last and just work.
#18: InnoGear essential oil diffuser, $18 — I used to think essential oils were for new-age hippies and homeopaths. There are two benefits. One, your room/home smells nice. Like wildflowers, tea, or a pine forest. Two, they have some minor positive effects on mood and health. Why not?
#19: Triggerpoint Grid Foam Roller, $40 — I’ve had a few foam rollers, and tried many at gyms. This is the best. It is sticky and doesn’t slip on any surface, and just has a way of delivering a deep force into your tissue without being painful. It’s like a portable massage. Works for me. Mileage may vary.
#20: Uniqlo EZY Jeans, $39— If you live in a warm and/or humid client, most types of fabric just don’t work. They don’t circulate air and stick to your skin. In fact, moving to Singapore, I had to throw out almost all my trousers and shirts that worked great in Finland. Since then, I’ve come to accumulate most of my wardrobe from Uniqlo. Made in Asia, for Asia. My personal favorite is the stretch colored jeans that come in many colors and an elastic waist you can use without a belt.
#21: Uniqlo Low-rise Supima Cotton Briefs, $7 — Sometimes in life, you think things are the way they are, and you have to deal with it. Most underwear is uncomfortable. Facts of life. These are not. They are superior and may change your view on life. That’s a good deal.
#22: Sofsole socks, $5 — Most socks also suck. They get sweaty. They move around in your shoe. These do not. I randomly bought a few at a sports good shop some years ago, and now my family uses them exclusively. They also work great for hot climates.
#23: Sonos One, $199 — As a minor league audiophile, I would gawk at integrated speakers. Surely, you must have passive speakers with high-quality thick wires and a dedicated amp. No, there’s no wireless, because… quality matters. Gold plated plugs all around. Well, Sonos One changed the game. It’s no-compromise audio quality with a class-leading user experience of wireless setup and playlists over wifi. Plus you can combine any variety of them into groups and rooms. Oh, and it is super compact, and beautifully designed and built. Just do yourself a favor and get a set of two to start. You’ll thank me later.
#24: Playseat Challenge, $249 — Nerd alert. Fun fact: Singapore is the world’s most expensive place to own a car. That makes me a sad car guy having parted ways with my beloved Subaru WRX. So to satisfy my petrol fever I must settle for a virtual car. The next best thing is a Playseat with Logitech G920 attached. It feels like a real car in many ways. The Challenge model is the one that is compatible with a spouse, i.e. is not a permanent fixture of the living room and can be folded away into storage until said spouse is out with friends. #driftking
#25: Redbubble custom t-shirts, $20 — If you have very low social skills and desire street cred in the form of occasional nods from other weirdos, then look no further. Rather than dress fashionably, you can choose to represent your favorite brands from Lucasfilm, Atari, and Weyland-Yutani to obscure Anime references. The nerdier the search phrase, the more rewarding the t-shirt, says I.
#26: Fuji X-E1 with 35mm F1.4, $750 — Yes, we’re firmly back in bourgeois hipster territory with the luxury swag. Mind you, you can add another zero if you go Leica. I’ve had this exact camera and lens for 7 years, and I love it. Yes, your iPhone XRSPro+ whatever has more pixels, but not it’s not the quantity but the quality of the pixels that counts. In broad daylight taking random snaps you won’t see a difference really, but get into ambient indoor light and this thing comes alive. Again, most people buy phones every year for this price, so once a decade isn’t too bad for a nice camera and lens? Honestly, the tactile feel of those milled aluminum switches on the die-cast magnesium body is worth it alone. Oozes Japanese quality. Built to last.
#27: Apps I love: While you could do something around an iTunes gift card, I’m just putting these in here because I do spend a good amount of time with them and I think they add some meaning to my life. You will not find Instagram on this list just to make that clear.
- Waking Up — If you want to get serious about meditation, then this is the right resource. There’s some free stuff, but the $10 for the 50-day course is an investment into yourself. From there you can do your own thing or use other free apps as a refresher.
- Dashlane — If you’re still managing passwords using your browser, time to step up. Yes, you have to pay to sync across devices, but having all your credentials in one place that integrates well on desktop and mobile is such a time saver.
- iHerb — I didn’t get into all the stuff I buy on here regularly from groceries to supplements, but the prices are good, lots of reviews and ratings to help choose, and they delivery globally for next to nothing.
- VSCO — If you’re into photography, then you need this app. The jpeg photos that come out of my Fuji camera are superb, but sometimes you want to communicate a certain mood or vibe. It’s the subtlety that sells here, compared to in-your-face Instagram filters.
- Healthzilla — Yes how lame I put my own app on here, but I legit use it every day and it’s a big part of my routine. It helps me keep track of my healthy habits and motivates me to do more.
- Google Photos — If you love photography and aren’t using Google Photos, I think you’re missing out. The UX is superb, and high-quality photo storage is unlimited for free. Yes free. The best feature is the A.I. powered search, no more manual tagging!
- Google Tasks — If you’re on Gmail like pretty much the entire planet, then the ability to sync from app to desktop is worth the download. It’s simple, but effective across multiple accounts and lists with notifications to boot. All you need, really.
Well, that’s all folks. I hope you found something interesting there, and if you did buy something off the list, just ping me a comment just for fun.
Ho, ho, ho!