The holidays are quickly approaching and that means shopping season is in high gear. Good luck going to a mall. It's too crowded for my taste. I'll be getting almost all of my gifts on Amazon and Ebay. For the rest, I'll pick up gift cards from the local drugstore. I know some people hate gift cards, but I got the feeling that my mom is going to love her Netflix subscription - especially as this writer's strike continues.
While I appreciate DVD box sets as much as anyone else, I thought I'd consider something productive for the ones I love this year. There are lot of ways to classify productivity or efficiency, and many would include items that save time or money on that list. I'm adding items that save space as well. It's often overlooked, but the more space your possessions take up, the bigger home you'll need. This leads to a direct expense of having to buy a more expensive home, paying more property tax, and having to heat/cool all that extra space. Since a home is typically everyone most expensive purchase and savings here can translate to thousands of dollars compounded over time.
Here are my picks:
5 Products that Save Money
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb - Every personal finance writer recommends these. They can save you tens to hundreds of dollars a year in energy costs. The only catch is that you have dispose of them specially since they contain a tiny bit of mercury.
Filtered Water Pitcher - Billions of dollars are spent every year on bottled water. It's been widely acknowledged that it's no healthier than filtered tap water. With these filters, the price per gallon is just a little more than 14 cents. I recommend to you save your old bottles and just refill them - you'll help the environment as well.
The Entertainment Book - This has been around for years. I remember my parents getting the Entertainment book more 20 years ago. Each time we went out to dinner, I was amazed by the savings. Often we would save $12-15 per meal covering the cost of the $25 book many times over. At the time, it didn't occur to me that there's a downside to the Entertainment Book. It's easy to be tempted to go out to eat more often which can get expensive quickly - even with the savings.
Rechargable batteries - Doesn't everything seem to require batteries nowadays? Rechargeable batteries can be used over and over again, sometimes hundreds of times. They cost a little more in the beginning, but they'll pay for themselves after just a few charges. As with the filtered water pitcher, you'll be doing the environment a good service as well.
FoodSaver - I've written about the FoodSaver before, but I've determined it can indeed save you money by preventing your food from spoiling. However, it will take some time for this benefit to truly pay off due to the upfront costs. I recommend the one that folds vertically to save counter space. I tend to make a big salad and eat it over a couple of weeks. It saves a lot of time when compared to making many small salads. While on the topic of saving time...
5 Products that Save Time
Automatic Shower Cleaner - There is a 98% chance that this product will save my marriage. Let's just say that cleaning the shower isn't a chore that a Lazy Man like myself enjoys. We've been using this for about three months now and have only needed to clean the shower once. Bonus tip: Don't by the expensive refills, but refill it yourself.
Harmony Remote Control - For years I've had to deal with many different remotes to control a home entertainment system. You can try the 7-in-1 programmable remotes, but they always seem to lack a critical function. Even if you are lucky to find on that has all the functions you require, you still have to press power on the TV, Receiver, and Cable Box to watch TV. If you are going to watch a DVD, you have to change the TV input as well. Have you ever tried to teach a guest how to use your TV? It's a nightmare. I know it sounds like the ultimate in Lazy and perhaps it is. Enter the Harmony Remote. You select your devices with the included software and download the codes from the Internet to do everything. I just press, "watch TV" and the TV, receiver, and cable box go on. If I change the volume the receiver responds, not the TV or the Cable box - just as I want. If I change the channel, the cable box responds, not the TV - again perfect. Few pieces of technology actually make our lives less complicated - this is one of them.
George Foreman Grill - You may be surprised to see the quintessential As Seen On TV product here. You shouldn't be. It simply works well. By cooking from the top and the bottom at the same time, I can prepare a meal very quickly - less than half the time it would take my stove or barbecue for example. It used to be very difficult to clean the Foreman Grill, but with the new removable non-stick plates, it's extremely easy.
GPS Navigation - I've spent too much of my time lost. A map is helpful, but only if you can read the names of the streets. With a GPS system, I get where I want to go without hassle. Last year this product was hundreds of dollars, but the one I've linked to here is currently under $150 - including shipping.
Roomba Vacuum - (Full-featured - Basic) - Not long ago people would push a vacuum over their rugs to clean them. Now a robot does the work. In fact, my Roomba is vacuuming the floor while I write this. Since it doesn't need a handle it saves space, which brings me to...
5 Products that Save Space
Travel Space Bags - You may have seen Space Bags on late night TV. The product had always intrigued me, but I would dismiss it because you needed a vacuum. I'm much too Lazy to dig out a vacuum each time I want to use these. However, with these bags, a vacuum is no longer a requirement. You simply push the air out of a one-way valve.
Printer, Scanner, Copier, Fax - This is one of my favorite items as it combines 4 similar products into one. To buy each item separately would cost a lot more. You always sacrifice some advanced features when you get 4-in-1 items like this, but it does the basics quite well.
Collapsible Kitchen Items - I'm in love with these items. I wish everything in my kitchen collapsed - well maybe not everything. With three types of colanders (over the sink, free-standing, hand-held) how I decide on just one? We own multiple sets of this collapsible food storage set. There's also this measuring cup set and matching 2 cupper. I almost forgot this whisk.
Blender/Food Processor - Like the printer/fax/copier/scanner, this is a combination product. It does the job of blending and food processing in half the counter-space that separate devices would require. Counter-space is at a premium for us, so it's worth every penny.
Flat Screen Television - This might not be the most productive item on the list, but it can save significant space in your home vs. older CRT televisions. I hesitate to mention flat screen televisions, because too many people go into debt getting them. This is by the far the most expensive of the list - take great care in purchasing it. If you have any high interest consumer debt, I wouldn't even think of clicking through. If you have all your finances in order and you can properly budget for this purchase, then think about whether you really need one. I'd wait a month or two and see if I was still interested in one and then, only then, would I go through with the purchase.
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