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I recently saw a blog post from my buddy Rhett Reisman which struck me as a great idea. Rhett wrote about his favorite purchases of 2020. I’ve spent a lot of money while online shopping, especially during the pandemic. Though I do review many of the products I buy and occasionally write dedicated blog posts, organizing my top picks into a single post gives me a chance to think more critically as I assess the year as a whole

My Beloved GPS Watch

Garmin Forerunner 45S: Purchased in June for $160

Even though I ran many miles in high school, I never could justify the expense of a GPS watch. They were like… $400, took a long time to find satellites, and there was nothing you could really do with the data. Maybe there was. But Strava didn’t exist back in 2011. We just used it for pacing and overall distance calculation and it was treated as a precious tool. Nowadays, we’re completely overloaded with technology to the point that some people will run with multiple GPS units.

Typically, when we ran as a unit, one guy had the GPS watch which might have been borrowed from someone else. When I ran alone, I’d go home and plug the course into MapMyRun. That was how I calculated distance, which seems so antiquated today.

Anyway, this basic watch was on sale right around the time that I moved home with my parents for the summer. The GPS is awful in the dense city center of Chicago (it’s recommended to supplement with a Stryd Pod, which is not compatible with this bare-bones watch). I racked up a ton of miles and gathered insights that I never previously had. With segments and everything, it gamified my exercising, which added a new element of motivation.

The 45S, as far as I’m aware, is the entry-level price point for linking GPS data to your outdoor activity. It also has a heartrate monitor. People love to complain about the accuracy of the heart rate readings, but it has never once glitched out on me. It always provides me with sensible readings.

All cellphones have GPS capabilities these days, but buying this watch provided a more sleek way to track my activities and heartrate. In terms of bang-for-buck, this is hard to ignore.

The Perfect Steak Knife

Wusthof IKON Steak Knife, 4.5″: Purchased in April for $138

I knew I was going to be eating a lot of steak in 2020. In 2021, I’m still eating a lot of steak. It doesn’t make sense to be using basic serrated knives all the time. In fact, it’s disrespectful to the meat. This was a hard purchase for me to justify because it’s, conceptually, outrageous. How much different could it be if the knives are made of steel?

Well, it turns out, quite a bit. This wasn’t a secret to me. Nearly every steakhouse I frequent in Chicago has nice knives. They have a more balanced weight when held, they cut more precisely, the aesthetics are pleasing. When I realized that I’d be using the knife every day and that it’d never see the insider of a dishwasher, it helped psyche me up to press that button.

Wusthof knives are legendary for their quality but many people have been surprised to learn that they make steak knives in addition to the more popular carving knives and chef’s knives. I purchased the IKON knife as their top-of-the-line utensil and I’ve taken extra-special care of it. It’s added an element of excitement in my kitchen, which doesn’t produce a particularly wide variety of meals.

Beard Trimmer

Philips Norelco Mens Grooming Kit: Purchased in March for $55

I got one awful haircut to start quarantine (in my opinion the most fit-for-Yelp review I’ve ever written) and decided that I’d take matters into my own hands. I started buzzing my hair and became rather adept at it. The benefits of doing this, and doing this at home, cannot be discounted.

The most awful part of paying to get my hair cut is that it ruins my night. I’m braindead from working all day, then I have to walk somewhere, wait a little bit, make small talk, pay, tip, then go home and wash my hair again anyway. It’s awful. In 2020, I greatly simplified this and saved tons of money. I cut my hair every 10 days with a sharp, tight buzz. No fake, nothing crazy.

The major benefits of this haircut are that it keeps me cool while working out and it never needs to be washed. My hair is never in the way and my shampoo/conditioner costs shrunk to basically zero. There’s no such thing as a bad hair day. a 2mm – 5mm buzz is the most efficient haircut, even more efficient than shaving your head completely as that requires skin care and daily attention to maintain.

Beyond the shampoo and other annoyances, how much money did I actually save? In real life, I never would have got my hair cut every 10 days, that would have been insanely expensive and a huge drain on time. More realistically, let’s say I got my hair cut every 18 days for $20, which is insanely cheap but let’s work with it.

Between receiving my trimmer on April 1st 2020 and the end of the year, December 31st, there were 274 days. 274 / 18 = 15.2. We’ll round that down to 15. That’s fifteen haircuts at $20 which would have cost $300. That number would have scaled up wildly if I was actually in Chicago getting my hair cut, not to mention tens of hours wasted that I could have spent doing something else.

In terms of return on investment, this was the best purchase I made in 2020 by a long shot.

My 3 Most Worthwhile Purchases of 2020
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  • Rhett Reisman

    I respect too many people who shave their own heads to not consider it a strong long term option. I might need to have a -3 sigma haircut first to get me there though.