Cheap Products That Can Improve Your Life

Minimalists who get by with as few creature comforts as they can sometimes make everyday activities more difficult than necessary. Some small splurges more than pay for themselves with the way they make things easier.

Thousandaire nominates these buyer’s remorse-proof things:

* A rubber spatula. Food gunk tends to stick to plastic and metal spatulas. The rubber variety is much easier to clean.

* A second monitor. If you like to watch videos while you work, or compartmentalize your business and play operations, a second monitor can be far more convenient than the old minimize/maximize routine.

* Cleaning sponges. Little sponges that come pre-loaded with cleaner make it simple to eliminate stains or clean things quickly.

Cheap Things That Make Life Easier [Thousandaire]

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  1. ThatTastesTerrible! says:

    Thanks for the tip.

  2. Dallas_shopper says:

    Filed under “DUH!”

  3. pop top says:

    You have to make sure to get different sizes of spatulas too. You need a small one for Nutella jars, a medium one for peanut butter jars and a large one to scrape bowls.These things are nice to have too: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/3538188/

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      That’s where I got my silicone spatulas (Williams-Sonoma). I’ve had them for 11 years and they’re just now starting to split and wear out. Not too shabby.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Are worn out spatulas a problem for people? We do a lot of cooking and I don’t think I’ve ever had to throw one out.

        • PHRoG says:

          We cook several times a day, everyday…I’d say we go through a spatula at least once a year.

          Honestly, I believe the dishwasher is responsible for the most wear and tear on them. But, even after groveling on my hands and knees not to wash the good knives, pans and other things in there, I’ve considered the battle lost and given up. :P

        • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

          You probably don’t use them for hand to hand combat, then? This can add quite a bit of wear and tear.

          • Thassodar says:

            You going to Spatula-Con 2012? Last year someone made a seven foot spatula, needless to say everyone tried to take him out when the LARPing started.

            • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

              In the midst of a 5 year ban, unfortunately. Stupid lawyer couldn’t win either of the appeals.

      • selianth says:

        By far the best spatulas I’ve ever owned are these: http://www.amazon.com/Chefn-Switchit-All-Purpose-Silicone-Spatula/dp/B00276BXQ0

        It’s all one piece, so there are no cracks for food bits or water to get up into to get moldy or loosen the head. It also means I can throw them in the dishwasher and not worry about them getting ruined. And the smaller end is perfect for Nutella or peanut butter jars. I am slowly getting rid of all my other spatulas and replacing them with these.

    • umbriago says:

      Williams-Sonoma? They said cheap products.

      • pop top says:

        When I typed “spoonula” into Google, that was one of the hits that best illustrated what I was talking about. It was that or Rachel Ray’s set-of-3 on Amazon, and I knew that someone would whine about whatever linked I posted either way, so I just picked the lesser of the two crybaby-inducing links. But thanks!

    • PHRoG says:

      Personally I’m a fan of SPATULA CITY!!!

    • Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

      Darth Vader spatula fTw !

  4. and_another_thing says:

    The article illustration looks like two BSODs at once.

    • ThatTastesTerrible! says:

      Wow! They DREW that!?

    • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

      I remember reading a story on some site, maybe it was dailywtf, where the person took a BSOD image and made it into his screen saver. One day he was giving a presentation and the screensaver kicked in, so he excused himself and pressed a key and dismissed it.

      Well, the people he was presenting to thought he figured out how to get back from a BSOD and started talking about how he’s a genius and how he should sell this amazing fix to Microsoft and never work again in his life.

      • Cyniconvention says:

        Oh, that’s clever.

      • kobresia says:

        Sysinternals had a BSOD screensaver, I don’t know if it’s still officially available since MS assimilated them though.

      • ClemsonEE says:

        One of my favorite old office pranks was to set a BSOD image as a desktop, autohide their taskbar, move all of their icons into a folder and put it on their C:/, and hide the trashcan. Typically they were so pissed and shocked they never noticed they had a mouse cursor (which I would leave in a corner). Was always an enjoyable prank.

    • vliam says:

      Unfortunately, I can only get my BSOD’s to appear on my primary screen. The secondary just goes black.

      I have to replace this stupid failing hard drive some day.

  5. PsychicPsycho says:

    Not sure how a spatula a sponge and a computer monitor fit in the same price category.

    • kc2idf says:

      They don’t, but both can be inexpensive.

      Just for the record, though, my Mom has a computer monitor that I bought for her for $17 at a thrift store. It is an LG, 17″, 1280×1024 LCD, perfectly functional and reasonably up-to-date. I must assume that the person who donated it to said thrift store probably upgraded.

  6. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    Not exactly “cheap” but we spent about $30 on a cast iron pizza pan and it’s proven to be incredibly handy in the kitchen — Making tortilla chips, carrot or sweet potato french fries, or just using it on the burners as a skillet. Plus, it makes some absolutely incredible pizza crust.

  7. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    “Cheap”

    rubber spatula = cheap

    second monitor /= cheap

    • Bodger says:

      Actually, a ‘rubber’ spatula that is useful, i.e. one which will not melt the first time you use it with food in a hot pan, is not really all that cheap. What you need is a ‘silicone’ spatula and even a small one from the Rubbermaid commercial line (the good stuff that won’t fail quickly) will run $10 to $15. The good thing is that these are essentially indestructible in the home environment an will last a decade.

      • CubeRat says:

        I’ve been looking for new Rubbermaid spatulas. My current ones are dying and I can’t find any in the stores here (Pasadena CA). I’ve had these for about 15 years, so even @ $10-15, they’re cheap.

    • kobresia says:

      I have a second monitor I would love to give away, FOR FREE! Nobody seems to want 15 year old 17″ CRT monitors, though.

      • Not Given says:

        I’ve got a 17″ CRT hooked up to a Win98 machine, it has come in handy a couple of times when my LCD screen wasn’t working for my current computer. DH uses the old one to read manuals and figure ballistics, etc.

    • kc2idf says:

      As I mentioned above . . . I spent $17 for an LG 17″ LCD at a thrift store and gave it to my Mom as part of a replacement for a computer that got destroyed by hurricane Irene last year.

      My current second monitor is even better — I picked it up on Freecycle, a 17″ Samsung LCD.

    • thesalad says:

      If you work from home / use a desktop 2 montors is great.. $100-120 to save quite a bit of tiem is worth it..
      You can clean area rugs by taking them outside and beating them with a stick.. $100 for a special machine to clean them seems crazy. Also it was that a decent monitor (even CRT) was 200+ for a small one.. so if you havent shopped in awhile you may not know that a 2nd monitor may be “cheap”

  8. BettyCrocker says:

    Um – those magic eraser sponges don’t come pre-loaded with cleaner. It’s the material they are made of.

    • Kensuke Nakamura says:

      I hate when I see people using those magic erasers as a regular sponge (soaking it and using dish soap). They’re paying a premium for better sponges that work great if you use it right, but it ends up deteriorating much faster for a job that a regular sponge will do just as well and last longer.

    • shepd says:

      No, they’re made of Melamine Foam. Really.

      They’re basically a mild abrasive with the ability to suck in the particles being rubbed off.

      What that means is that repeated use of one of those will, over time, remove shine/paint/whatever and on very soft materials, will leave scuff marks.

  9. kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

    Toilet paper

  10. menty666 says:

    The monitor thing doesn’t factor in the potential cost of an extra video card, time and trouble to install it, whether another monitor will actually fit on your desk, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree since I use two myself, but it’s an unmentioned pitfall.

    With a laptop it’s a lot easier to hook up a second one.

    • TakingItSeriously is a Technopile says:

      I haven’t had a pc video card that doesn’t have a second video out in at least 6 or 7 years

    • Kuri says:

      My video card has two DVI cables on it, and almost all the ones I see have additional ports.

    • Carlee says:

      My computer has a DVI port and a VGA port. Hooking up the 2nd monitor took about 2 minutes. On the other hand, my coworker was trying to hook up a 2nd monitor to her computer and couldn’t decipher the ports – so she decided to ask me instead of googling it herself. That took a few minutes and then we figured she didn’t have the right cable (it being a Dell, and requiring a different/proprietary cable).

    • OutPastPluto says:

      You don’t need another monitor to organize your work. You just need software that allows you to organize your work. Another monitor is more of a fallback when you are unable to find software of that kind for your particular operating system.

  11. Buckus says:

    Why is it that the only picture you can come up with for a dual-monitor setup feature double blue-screens of death?

  12. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Ummm… er – okay.

  13. Sparkstalker says:

    Why buy a second monitor? VIrtuawin is free, and you don’t lose desktop space for the second screen:
    http://virtuawin.sourceforge.net/

    • Total Casual says:

      The point of two monitors is increasing your screen ‘real estate’ so you can view more documents, shells, etc. at once without engaging human memory. Having one screen with virtual desktops doesn’t give you that kind power.

      You can even have multiple desktops with two monitors!

      • Not Given says:

        My son has a second monitor to plug his laptop into at work. He said I’d be lucky to find a 2nd video card that would work with my desktop.

        • The Slime Oozing Out From Your TV Set says:

          Unless it’s an old Dell with no AGP slot, getting a video card that will work should not be hard at all. If it has an AGP slot, Ebay may be the best place to get a card, though.

          • Harrkev says:

            Another option is a simple USB-to-Video adapter. They can be found for around $40, and will work with ANY relatively recent computer with USB 2.0

            Note that these are NOT for gaming or movies, but fine for simple web browsing and spreadsheet work.

    • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

      Because sometimes actually being able to see two things, full screen, at the same time is incredibly helpful?

  14. chizu says:

    I’d suggest a silicone spatula over a rubber one. You could easily get high quality silicone spatulas for a few dollars at stores like TJMaxx and Marshall’s. Especially if you think you’ll ever use it with warm/hot product. I snatched up 1 medium and 1 small Le Creuset spatulas for something like $3 a piece, they could withstand heat up to 475 degree F, and they last for a long time.

    • yurei avalon says:

      Seconded. Silicone spatulas are the bomb and Le Creuset makes a great product. I especially like the silicone brushes for BBQ sauce or butter, etc. Much easier to clean with a little hot water and they don’t “shed” like the bristle brushes do.

    • dangermike says:

      I would recommend against them all. Plastic is ok if you’re careful with it (and requisite if you cook on teflon) but I’ve found that good old stainless steel is hard to beat. They last forever, are easy to clean, are just springy enough when made right, and best of all, they don’t pick up off flavors or odors and transfer them into food.

      My mom loves those silicone spatulas but her dishwasher seems to have imparted them with some weird soapy, moldy odor that, in turn, gets transferred to any food they touch. The fattier the food, the more thoroughly it gets ruined. One of the worst things I’ve ever had was soapy moldy scrambled eggs. There does not exist a condiment adequate to drown that out. I think I actually ended up with more sri racha than scrambled egg on my plate, and I still couldn’t palate more than 3 or 4 bites.

  15. j2.718ff says:

    Spatula City!!!!

    • BryDawg says:

      hahahaha!!! this was on my mind, too! I popped UHF in last night, so very funny you mentioned this. It’s such a classic.

      “What would RJ Flecther Sr. say if he were alive today?”
      “Help, let me out of this box…I can’t breathe”

      “Supplies!!!”

  16. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    One of the more interesting semi cheap things I’ve considered is to start using terminal services for additional computers in the house.

  17. daveinva says:

    I’ve always wanted to run a second monitor but I never got around to it, usually bypassing it by getting larger *first* monitors instead.

    That said, one of my top ten consumer purchases EVER was the $2000 I spent back in 2004 to buy a Dell 24″ rotatable flat-screen monitor. Sure, I was an early adopter and paid the premium for it, but I’ve never made another purchase that was so revolutionary, that made such a noticeable difference in an activity that I spent waaaay too much time doing.

    Alas, that old monitor is sitting in the attic collecting dust while I work from a 27″ iMac…. still, that was one of the few seriously expensive things I’ve ever bought that I never regretted, not even for a second.

  18. emyaeak says:

    Yes on the dual monitors!! I have them at home and work now, and while at home it is merely a convenience, at work, it has made me more efficient and reduced paper waste. (I work with spreadsheets and reports all day, lots of data entry, so instead of printing and manually entering things, I set them up split screen and voila!) Many of my coworkers, who didn’t think to ask if there were any unused monitors laying around, are extremely jealous.

  19. southpaw1971 says:

    Latex rubber gloves for washing dishes. I love them, didn’t have them for 39 years. Don’t know why I never bought them earlier!

  20. aleck says:

    Toilet Paper!!!!

  21. Razor512 says:

    If you don’t have 2 monitors then get a second monitor, Once you do it, you can never go back, it is just too productive.

    PS you can also watch anime while gaming :)

    Also another recommendation, buy an extra hard drive and backup your data.

    Also make sure you have at least 1 4GB flash drive (very cheap) and 2 blank CD’s (also very cheap)

    Have a bootable linux OS on the flash drive and also on the CD.

    Also get a gaming mouse even if you don’t game. Extra macro buttons are very useful for a wide range of tasks and they also have much better tracking so they are great with programs like photoshop.

  22. KDO says:

    Spend a little more an get a silicone, heat proof spatula. It won’t melt like the cheap ones do, so it will last a lot longer.

  23. Darkneuro says:

    I would like to point out that food gunk sticks to most anything, but comes off really easy if you soak it in water for just a little bit. Also, if you’re using your silicone or rubber spatula to stir fudge, be prepared for the head of it to STICK to the fudge in the pot and come off into the fudge and create one really big holy-hell mess. IMO and experience, a large metal spoon is best for fudge…and a large wooden spoon is best for mixing dough (without a mixer).

  24. Kuri says:

    Ok, I’ve been resisting the idea of a second monitor, and you go and make it look like a great idea.