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The best thing I've bought for under $100
I used to hate this question
Before diving into today’s story, here’s a quick update on how the paid subscription thing is going ‘round here.
As a reminder, I offer paid subscriptions as an optional upgrade. It really doesn’t do much at this point besides upgrade you from a free subscriber (which I’m super grateful about, please don’t get me wrong, and don’t feel obligated to upgrade) to a patron.
The other thing upgrading does is earmark some moolah to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation (CFP). I just submitted the first donation amount of $91.08 and it felt gooooood. The .08 at the end of that amount ties in nicely with my whole sending this newsletter at 8:08 am PT thing, which feels like a fun coincidence. By the way, the fact that it’s under $100 has nothing to do with the title of today’s story, but that’s another pretty fun coincidence too.
Sadly, it looks like the AmazonSmile program is officially over and done with now. Last I checked, my family had generated roughly $120.00 for the CFP through the Smile program over the course of a bunch of years. Meanwhile, we’re close to eclipsing that amount in less than two months. Let’s get over that hump!
Okay, onto today’s story.
A few years back, my wife Allison was fascinated with life on the prairie. I’d be talking about buying something I didn’t necessarily need—like, say, a new pair of jeans because my current ones were developing a tiny hole in the knee—and she would say, “You know, back on the prairie they would just sew a patch on them.” It became a running joke. It was also her way of saying that we didn’t need certain modern luxuries. And she often had a point. But while a family on the prairie often shared their once-per-week bathwater, just the other day we paid a guy $150 to swap out the water and clean our hot tub because he had the tools to do it roughly six times faster than I could.
And yet, she has had a positive influence on my spending habits. I’m way less materialistic than I used to be. Take the hot tub, for example. We had wanted one for years, but we didn’t pull the trigger until we received a generous amount of cash from my parents in lieu of presents for Xmas a few years back. I was tempted to deposit the money straight into one of our index funds until I realized that it was my parents’ not-so-subtle hint to just buy the damn hot tub and treat ourselves already. In the past, I probably would’ve splurged and bought the hot tub sooner—and likely way over-extended myself.
All this is to say, we’re generally quite frugal—opting to save rather than spend, barring the occasional experience like going on a writer’s retreat.
Because of our thriftiness, I tend to cringe when I come across this oft-tweeted question: What’s the best thing you’ve purchased for under $100?
I get why people like the question. It can reveal surprising answers. It’s low stakes. It gives you a small glimpse into what’s important to someone else. It also perpetuates consumerism culture, which has bankrupted countless people and overran our landfills with so much utter crap it’s hard to fathom.
But, if I’m being honest, I was mostly annoyed with the question because I never really had a good answer.
One day last spring, I was having an annoying bout of allergies. I had a runny nose and was sneezing here and there. But the thing that was most irritating was that my left eye wouldn’t stop watering. I would try to dab it with a tissue or the sleeve of my t-shirt. I had previously tried various eye drop brands with mixed results—one of which caused the skin around my eyes to dry out and freaked me out until I figured out what was going on.
But then I remembered something from my childhood. My mom had this oval-shaped shot glass-looking eyewash cup. It’s a simple thing, really. You fill it with tap water, lean down and cup it over one of your eyes, tilt your head up, blink your eye a few times in the water, and then do the same thing with the other eye.
In a flash, on that day last spring, I flashed back to using the eyewash cup as a kid and joking with my mom that it was the opposite of fighting fire with fire.
So off I went to CVS to find one. No luck. I tried RiteAid. But all they had were overpriced cheap plastic ones. Instead of driving to some other drugstore (and probably striking out again), I resorted to what so many of us do these days: ordering on Amazon. And within seconds, I found exactly what I was looking for—for only $6.99. Two days later, it arrived on our doorstep. I was weirdly excited to try it—that nice memory with my mom coming to mind. I didn’t have a watery eye that day but I gave it a go anyway. And I loved it.
Now I use it basically every morning. I’m a night owl and tend to be a bit groggy in the mornings. The eyewash cup is like a mini cold plunge for my eyeballs. It helps wake me up and feel a tiny bit more refreshed in the morning than I used to.
As much as I love the thing, and it’s especially great for those times when I have allergies‚ I know using it every morning is a bandaid for my poor sleep fitness.
And so I’ve been taking some baby steps to improve my sleep of late.
I bought an eye mask for the first time in my life—another recent purchase that was under $100. It has been a nice addition, especially since we need to sleep with a video monitor on to make sure my daughter Em is safe while she’s sleeping.
I’ve also been trying mouth tape to reduce snoring, which my buddy Jonny Miller recommends:
The mouth tape is kind of weird at first, although that’s probably because I used to mostly breathe through my mouth when I was sleeping before. I’ve only been using it for a couple of weeks so far, but I’ve also noticed my nose getting less stuffed up. And Allison has certainly appreciated less noise coming from my side of the bed too.
My sleep fitness still needs more reps, if you will. I’m a side sleeper. Or, I should say, I want to be a side sleeper, but lately, I keep ending up on my back and waking up repeatedly throughout the night. I’d rather not strap (or ingest) some other sleep aid, or remedy, or device onto (or into) my body in order to improve things. But it might come to that.
I’ve mentioned in recent posts how I’m trying to get more in tune with my own body. It’s all part of me trying to be more plugged into my emotional state, increase my feeling of aliveness, and generally feel healthier. Shifting to doing part-time freelance work while pursuing my new creative coaching practice falls in this bucket too. By the way, I was able to buy the domain lyle.coach a couple of nights ago—another purchase for under $100—and I’m pretty stoked about it.
One of the things I’m most excited about when it comes to this new focus on understanding my body is attending Jonny’s upcoming Nervous System Mastery (NSM) program. It’s a five-week boot camp where I’ll get set up with “a personalized toolkit to cultivate calm, upgrade resilience & increase aliveness”, and sleep is a big part of that (hence, the mouth tape he tweeted about). NSM definitely doesn’t fit into the purchases-under-$100 bucket. But if you’re going down a similar path with this stuff as I am, I’ve heard nothing but great things about it.
I realize that all of these things are way outside the purview of what people back on the prairie worried about on a daily basis. They were too busy making sure they could grow enough crops or raise enough livestock to feed their families while simultaneously hoping they wouldn’t contract cholera or typhoid or whatever.
But I don’t live on the prairie. I live in the suburbs. And I’d actually like to continue living—truly living—here for a lot longer, thank you very much.
Thank you for reading. It means a lot to me.
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