When I set up the poll question on Instagram asking people if they were interested in my best purchases of 2023, I was not sure if they were only interested in appliance/gadgets/tools that one can buy. I actually have been thinking about this post for the past couple of weeks and even walked around the house looking for items I bought this year. I hope my final list does not disappoint you because they are not all items you can walk into a store and buy because they serve a purpose or make your life easier. They are a mix of purchases I made that either made my life easier because they help do a task or better because they brought joy.
I added honorable mentions at the end of the post if you are interested in smaller but practical items as well.
#5. Flight (Little) Upgrades (~$50)
Earlier this year, I made an upgrade offer for the 13-hour leg of my Asia trip (YVR > HKG). I got a really good deal on the flight itself so I thought the extra $1,200 would be well worth it. I was thinking in term of cost per hour and $92/hour for the extra comfort was extremely tempting (especially because I have never flown business class). Unfortunately, my offer was not accepted as the business class cabin was sold out. There was a chance my $1,200 offer was never going to be accepted even if the cabin was not sold out as others might have made a higher bid. Oh well. I saved $1,200!
However, that experience did not deter me from paying for added comfort or happiness regardless of how small they were. While I did not try to upgrade to business class again (the other flights I had been on were all shorter in duration), I paid for in-flight internet and emergency row seats for the first time this year. In-flight internet was mostly for boredom as I can never sleep on the plane (~$30 to $45). Emergency row seat was purely for space ($30 to $50). The cost per hour was < $10 so I thought they were worth every penny as well.
#4. iRobot Roomba j7/j8+ Self-Emptying Robot Vacuum (~$900)
We got our iRobot Roomba j8+ (Costco version of j7+) at the end of Janurary when it went on sale from $1,000 to $800. It has gone further down in price since and the lowest I have seen is $650 (which makes this a really good deal, imo). Eric had been wanting a robot vacuum since we moved in and I finally got on board after getting pretty tired of my long hair on our white bathroom floor. We opted for the j7/j8+ because of their PrecisionVision navigation technology. It is basically a camera with object avoidance ability. We don’t have pets and we keep our floor pretty clutter-free but Eric thought it would be nice to have that extra feature.
If you followed me on Instagram, you likely already know that I named our vacuum Bobo. Well, Bobo is scheduled to vacuum our bathroom floor every day (< 5 mins job to get rid of those awful hair) and most rooms of the house three times a week. Initially, it took Bobo a couple of weeks to properly scan our floorplan. I was admittedly disappointed in the beginning as I thought the smart vacuum was not smart after all. Patience paid off though as it had little to no problem navigating ever since. Since it self-empties, the maintenance is minimal as well. We have changed the corner brush once, dust bags twice and filter three times in the last ten months (your milage might vary depending on usage). Eric also cleaned the vacuum itself at least every other month.
I think Bobo is worth every penny because I went from vacuuming about once a week (which was nowhere frequent enough to keep the house clean but I was too lazy to do it more often) to vacuuming once a month. The floor is kept pretty clean (and no more hair on the bathroom floor) and I only have to vacuum places Bobo can’t reach and the top of our crown molding manually. I don’t think it can replace vacuuming completely but I personally think it is close enough.
#3. Philips 3200 Fully Automatic Espresso Machine w/ LatteGo (~$800)
I used to get Starbucks every day on my way to work so I had no need for any coffee maker. The only coffee at home I had was instant coffee. Then, everything changed when I started working from home. I stayed with instant coffee for a while before I got the Braun BrewSense Coffee Maker. It looked alright and it was on sale for less than $100. It never made great coffee (likely also because of my grocery store beans) but it served its purpose. I even got a burr grinder after I tried it at my friend’s so I can have freshly ground beans. But finally, after close to three years of working from home full time, Eric convinced me to just get the machine I truly wanted (he had told me to just get the one I wanted to begin with but I never listened).
My wishlist for my coffee maker was simple: built-in grinder and milk frother and as close to one-touch operation as possible. I was not looking for one of those beautiful espresso machines where you need to tamp the coffee yourself. I enjoy coffee but I am definitely not a coffee connoisseur.. The Philips 3200 checked all my boxes and it even came with a slot for decaf ground coffee (which I have not used but appreciate). It went on sale from $1000 to $700 on Prime Day in the Summer so I got one.
I have been using it twice a day during the week (usually a macchiato in the morning and an americano before noon) and sometimes on the weekend. I am still using my grocery store beans but the quality of the coffee has improved a lot. It also was a lot less work than my previous coffee maker as well. I turn it on, let it heat up, add milk (except for Americano) and hit the drink button. The Philips 3200 also does a pretty good job frothing dairy milk and an acceptable job frothing non-dairy milk (e.g., soy).
#2. Jeans (Or Clothes) That Fit Perfectly (~$120)
When I went to Tokyo last time, I bought a jacket from this little clothing store inside of a department store in Ueno. We went back this time and originally had my eyes set on the dress on the mannquein. I tried it on but it did not look great on me. I was a bit disappointed when I spotted a pair of jeans in the fitting room. I believe they were left there intentionally for people who were already trying items on to try on as well. I already loved how they fit but the associate said they had more sizes as well. They looked and felt so right but I was hesitant as the jeans were $120 (tax-free because tourist). I mostly wore Levi’s until then so they were all under $100 on sale. On top of the price, I for some reason thought I was in Asia to find the best deals. So I hesitated because I thought I can easily find jeans that fit back home if I was willing to pay up to $120 for a pair. I changed my mind when Eric convinced me with the famous Chinese saying , “千金難買心頭好.” Per ChatGPT, it literally translates to “a thousand gold cannot buy a heart’s delight.”
This was a pivotal moment for me as I had always struggled to buy clothes at regular price. If I knew it might go on sale, I will just wait and foget about it completely later. But that experience reminded me the benefits of buying one thing that fits over two cheaper options that either don’t fit as well or not as good quality. Quality over quantity. The whole experience was about more than a pair of well-fitting jeans. They made me feel more comfortable and confident which I now learned is hard to put a price tag on.
#1. My Asia Trip to See Family (~$16,000)
This was going to be my favourite purchase of 2023 whether it was $2,000 or $20,000.
Before I went back this year, I had not seen my mom and one of my sisters since 2019 and my other sister for even longer. Out of my six-week trip, I spent five of them in Hong Kong where my family lived. I stayed at a hotel that was connected to their apartment by a shopping mall so I was able to work without distraction while staying close to them. The care home my grandmother was in was also only 30-minute door-to-door so I got to visit her with my sister plenty as well. This trip was unlike any other vacation since Hong Kong was both my childhood and second home. Instead of visiting attractions or participating in activites, I just worked and hung out with my family.
As you know, there is plenty on my shopping list for 2024. However, I know that if I have to cut down on spending, it will be anything but family time.
Muji’s PET Refill Bottle Foam Type (~$8)
For the longest time, we were using a mixture of these foaming refillable bottles from Muji and random foaming soap dispenser we got from the store. It might seem trivial but we loathed the non-Muji ones because they were not as aesthetically pleasing (in my eyes anyways) and they were smaller and not as durable. The smaller size meant I had to refill the soap more often. They were out of stock in Canada for a while (we got the original ones in Japan) so when we saw them back in stock, we changed all of them in the house.
G.U.M Professional Clean Flossers (~$7)
I tried so many brands of dental floss as I was flossing A LOT when I was going through my Invisalign treatment. These GUM ones are my favourite. It cleans well, is thin enough to slide between teeth at ease and is durable enough to not break easily. You might not think the brand makes a difference to flossing but they really do!
I experienced the worst jetlag ever when I went to Hong Kong this year. I had not slept a wink on the plane ride there but that was nothing new. I was unsure why it hit me extra hard this time. I was basically awake most of the night for the first several nights. I finally took my friend’s melatonin advice half way though my first week. I am aware that it might have just been a coincidence as my jetlag was going to get better at some point with or without the supplement. However, I refuse to travel without it now. I have not used it every trip but it is now my “just in case.” My own research has told me that it is generally safe to take melatonin short-term but I strongly urge you to consult with medical professionals before trying.
Disposable Self-Heating Eye Masks
Since I got Lasik done in February, I have been doing warm compress with my re-usable, microvable eye mask every night. However, it is not always easy or possible to heat it up when I travel. These disposable self-heating eye masks are perfect for travelling (on the plane ride or at the hotel before bed) as they are individually packaged and do not require any heating source. I stocked up when I was in Asia but they sell them on Amazon or some Japanese stores as well.