Ask HN: Most life changing things that you bought?

Ask HN: Most life changing things that you bought?
41 pointsbyggregoire4 hours ago|hide|past|web|favorite|118 comments
Just reading about air purifiers and wondering what other things like this I completely missed in my life.

Personal recommendations: kindle, rice cooker.

Edit: It’s so obvious to me now (and to most people I guess) that I forgot about my washer dryer. To other young adults reading this, if you can afford it and have the space in your apartment, just get a washer dryer ASAP. Even if you live 5 minutes away from a self-service laundry. It’ll actually change your life.

Yes to the air purifier. People living without them are insane. Also, buying and running an air purifier destroyed my marriage! My wife said she didn’t like the sound of it. So I bough a new, super quite one. Then she said she didn’t like the “frequency” not the volume of the machine. One day I came home and she had unplugged it and we got into an argument. I told her to please just “shut up” and that was when she attacked and literally tried to kill me. I got away but later she went to the police and told them she had been “assaulted”. Nothing happened but she filed for divorce.

I still love the air purifier though!

She didn’t leave because of the purifier. She left you for other reasons.

You’re most likely better off anyway.

Apple Watch –
Allows me to view my blood glucose at any time.

Dexcom CGM –
This is the best way to constantly measure your blood glucose, though it is a bit expensive.

Rileylink –
This is an open source hardware device which intercepts BLE packets from my continuous glucose monitor and sends reverse engineered 433mhz communications to my insulin pump. This has a companion app (Loop) which tells me projected blood glucose on my Apple Watch and automatically administers insulin accordingly.

To a lesser extent, AirPods – it’s pretty cool to be able to say “hey Siri, what’s my blood sugar?” while I’m Riding my bike.

When I first got the Apple Watch + plus rileylink setup it was like Xmas every morning ; I got to wake up and look at how my blood sugar had been successfully controlled by the system through the night. Taken together, this open source loop/rileylink system was probably the first legit artificial pancreas used by diabetics in real life. All the other data like insulin on board and active carbohydrates was so exciting to have directly modeled and displayed on my watch since I had spent years trying to estimate those variables in my head throughout the day.

That’s so cool. I’d love to read a longer post about the Rileylink and how you use it if you’re interested in writing one.

Tickets to cart racing for the second date with my wife (back then future wife). I did not know she does not drive, and she does not drive now, but she carried through this with such a poise and good attitude that I realized she just might be the one.

Books – some of them were free, some of them bought, about mathematics, physics, chemistry, programming that got me hooked on these subjects.

Computers. Sinclair ZX Spectrum clone when I was in secondary school and my own PC that I assembled myself in university.

Contact lenses. I am myopic and used glasses. Contact lenses required some time to get used to, but ultimately gave me the great feeling of freedom.

Anything to support shared experience with people I love. It could be a ticket to the movies or a museum, meals in restaurant or for a picnic etc. The exact expenditure is not really important and it may be a good movie or not, but what matters is time spent together.

>Contact lenses. I am myopic and used glasses. Contact lenses required some time to get used to, but ultimately gave me the great feeling of freedom.

Have you thought about LASIK? (I am myopic too but it’s very recent, about 2-3 years)

Edit: there are 2 other comments about it here:

Thank you for the link! Yes I have, but my near sightedness is not strong so within the confines of home it is OK and there are days during this pandemic when I do not wear lenses at all, but for going outside and for sure physical activities and driving.

As for LASIK – I read that they essentially cut the top layer and just put it on top and that strong head impact may separate it from the eye. Not sure how true or relevant it is for modern methods – need to do my research.

Chair. Never understood why somebody would pay for a chair more than 50-60 bucks. Something you can get in staples/wallmart anywhere…
My friend bought Herman Miller for ~$1000 and I called him a donkey.
Then started a job where we had these chairs in the office. Noticed it. Even back when I was broke, rented a room and didn’t want to buy anything that would be potentially a problem to move, I still decided to buy it. I use it 6-8 hours a day. Worth it.

2) Higher quality kitchenware. knifes and frying pans. I actually had to go over few iterations cause even though I got more expensive ones they still didn’t work well. Now, though, it significantly improved the quality/cooking of my food

3) High quality headphones/ear buds. Something about great quality sound makes it so much better to work out. I can run longer with proper soundtrack.

4) car that I really wanted. I get behind the wheel and literally enjoy holding it my hand. comfortable/fast/smooth. looks sexy. It is an esthetic pleasure.

5) Very good laptop and widescreen curved screen. using them for work everyday – makes total sense to go with top of the line.

 I think it would very cool to have washer/dryer in unit. I don't have that. carrying a bag of underwear to another building in 2020 seems unnecessary.

P.S coffee maker. ~$700… I feel like it payed for itself in first month. I love coffee – it makes it itself. no standing around holding a cup of milk.

>Herman Miller

I always see that brand mentioned in the comments but they have a lot of different models. Which one do you recommend?

The Aeron is the tried and true classic. The Cosm is an ‘updated’ version with different back heights, and The Mira is an easier to clean plastic back version. I swear by my Aeron that I picked up at a used office supply store for $400 along with a new desk.

I moved to the US from a developing nation. For the first 5 years I was not aware of the dishwasher in my apartment (was using it to store utensils). I was familiar with washer dryers though.

One day one of my friends told me what it actually does and taught me how to use it.

Mind. Blown.

I hear you. I knew it is a dishwasher, as I could clearly read it. But I didn’t care 5 years to figure how to use it. It is also that they cannot clean after every type of cooking..

Lasik eye surgery. It cost about $4k per eye USD due to how bad my eyes were. I went to a super reputable place and now have perfect vision. I can barely remember what it was like before.

Even better, I paid for them using money I made from my first indie game release. Was a huge emotional win for me.

I second this. The cliche you hear when looking into LASIK (“my only regret is I didn’t do it sooner”) is 100% correct. I can’t believe I didn’t do it 10 years earlier. I am 2 years post-op and I still find myself breathlessly looking at a vista shocked at the clarity.
I think the price has come way down since you paid, and no longer varies based on amount of correction. It should be around $4k flat for both eyes.

Extremely bright, high-CRI lighting for my home office.

I have extra lights I can turn on in the early morning to simulate daylight. This is far and away the most powerful tool for manipulating my sleep/wake cycles.

Even without seasonal affective disorder, an early morning dose of extremely bright light improves my energy and mood throughout the day. It also makes it easier to fall asleep at night because my circadian rhythms are further entrained.

>Just reading about air purifiers

I also bought multiple, large HEPA air purifiers for the house. I can’t say I noticed any real differences. I keep them for peace of mind, though. I had better results with those adhesive strips that you put on your nose to open your breathing passages at night.

Therapy. Best use of money in my life.

You don’t need to have a “big problem” (like depression) to visit a therpist.

The “trick”, if you’d call it that, is to get it covered either by your insurance or your employer, whichever is possible where you’re from. It’s fairly easy to make the case that you’ll be a lot more productive if you get professional help to deal with the stress your work causes you.

A pressure cooker. I originally bought it because I wanted to grow mushrooms and needed to sterilize the substrate, but ended up using it mostly for cooking. Lots of meals that usually take too much time are suddenly very reasonable to cook. I especially use beans and other legumes a lot more than I did before.

I discovered pressure cooking just a few years ago, via the Instant Pot. Ended up switching to a real pressure cooker, and use it all the time. The real pressure cooker is just even faster and takes up less space. edit: Aided by an inductive stove which is just insanely fast. I have a pasta dinner that’s pressure released before the IP is even up to temp.

Possibly my Patagonia down jacket. I didn’t grow up in a family that could afford nice winter jackets and always had a used ski-style winter jacket, which is really hard to move around in and not very warm. I didn’t know it was possible to be comfortable in cold weather until this past winter.

* Nintendo Wii with Wii Fit Plus game and balance board: usage has been on and off, but I still enjoy the combination of exercise with games. Using it for yoga and strength training, even with its limited variety and how it measures things, has meant that it’s a lot better than doing nothing. It’s no home gym though. The Wii Sports Resort game can also make one pant and have a good enough cardio workout.

* Apple Watch: yes, it’s quite easy to cheat and close the activity rings for standing, exercise and calories burned, but it still helps. Not having the phone around to see what a notification is about (and acting on it) is another plus. I can’t wait for sleep monitoring that’s coming in watchOS 7 (to be released in a few months).

Additional mentions: washing machine (for clothes), a powerful blender (like Vitamix), pressure cooker, and a stovetop with four burners.

Can you explain what the air purifier does and how it has made such a big impact? Most of the ones I have seen seem to make claims that sound more like snake oil, or placebo effect at best.

At least for perspective alteration: Plane tickets.

The gut answer, though, is a pair of snowshoes. Much of the best of my life can be traced to that decision.

A cheap aluminium road bike (since replaced with a full carbon Felt).

At the time (10 years ago) I was 240lbs (been working stupid hours for nearly 2 years and pizza was easier on the way home) and the doc had just found I had stage 2 hypertension which he wanted to medicate, I asked him to give me a couple of months and if no improvement I’d take his advice, stopped in Halford’s (bike chain in the UK) and bought their cheapest road bike for 400 quid, I resolved to go out every other day and fix my diet which I did gradually increasing distance/pace, at the end of the two months I was down over 10lbs and blood pressure was heading the right way and I’d got addicted to cycling, I signed up for a 200km overnight charity ride at the end of the summer (this was late spring time) and set about training for itproperlyworking up to 80 then 100 then 120 mile rides until I was confident I could do it.

By the charity ride came around I was 190lbs and decided to treat myself to a nicer bike (I was too fat for the nice bike at the start, I mean literally too fat, it had a 100kg max weight limit recommended…).

In terms of return on investment that 400 quid bike was the based deal I ever made.

– Audible/Overdrive/LibriVox (I get through a lot more books per year listening to audio books as I do the dishes, etc.)

– Trash poker (Neighborhood/hiking trails are so much cleaner now, since I bring it with me wherever I hike and pickup trash)

Never heard the term trash poker. Is it more than carring a trash bag and collecting trash? Sounds very promising, I‘ll give it a try.

Think of fireplace pokers. These are used to pick up trash. Some have prehensile ends some just a sharp end.

For me, it was the VR game Beat Saber. I built my first desktop and got a VR headset just to be able to play it. I took 3 weeks off work December last year and lost ~10lbs (155lbs ->145lbs) playing 2-3 hours every day. It’s been great for me since I’ve been sitting in front of my computer all day for years and never really enjoyed exercising.

A document scanner.

I had many years of old paper tax returns, and I wanted them in PDF format. Paid $400 for an Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 and absolutely love it. Put a stack of documents in the top, hit “scan”, and a PDF appears on my computer. Zero hassle.

Anything that I get in paper form gets immediately scanned, backed up, and shredded.

Not intended as a criticism, but since it’s not something you can really ask in person—-

Doesn’t it get tiring to listen to music all the time? It’s not that I have anything against music, but I can’t imagine myself listening the majority of my days from waking to sleeping.

Yeah I think it would. I don’t use them literally all the time, but multiple times a day yes. Also, just having noise cancelling on with no music playing is a nice experience in the supermarket for example.

I use mine almost exclusively for listening to books – when you have a chore that you know how to do without thinking like putting away the dishes or mowing the lawn it can turn it into something enjoyable. For me, mowing the lawn doesn’t engage the brain enough so I avoid it by itself.

Besides music I’m listening to podcasts, white noise and audio books. Sometimes I only turn on the ANC to block out the noisy surroundings.
It helps me a lot to stay focused but it’s different for everyone of course.

I’m using NC-25 headphones by a brand called Srythm. Bought them on Amazon for around 50€.
I’m wearing them every day for at least 6 hours.
The earpads are a downside though because the stitching breaks after 6 to 9 months. (you can replace them yourself and they are relatively cheap – around 12€)

I prefer the Bose QC3 but depending whom you ask it’s great or it’s bad.

One thing is the non user replaceable battery, even if it fails during warranty Bose will try to get you to pay up.

AirPods Pro

The original ones were awesome, but these ones are even better. Absolute game changer.

I’m really interested in getting a pair. If you don’t mind, I have a few questions:

1 – If you put regular non-Apple earbuds in your ears and talk, does your voice sound different and off-putting?

2 – Do the Airpods Pro do this, and how are they for phone calls in general?

I’d really like to have them for phone calls and Zoom meetings, but regular earbuds make it hard for me to talk without being super conscious of how it sounds. Regular Apple earbuds don’t have this effect, but they hurt my ears so I don’t think regular Airpods would work for me. I don’t think everyone has this problem though.


*acquired – not purchased.

I’ve been through many game changing OSes (I’ll skip pre-Windows) NT, OS/2 and Windows 3.11, then Win95 and finally – arguably the last decent OS from MS – Windows 7.

Then I discovered Linux (debian and ubuntu flavours mainly) and it’s been a game changer! I haven’t had an anti-virus clogging up my system nor required running registry cleaners. I feel like I’ve regained control over my computer vs. it controlling me!


– blackout curtains, blackout rod, and white noise machine.

– latex hybrid mattress. I settled on Luma’s version of this.

Exercise: Mini home gym settup

– Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells with stand. Power blocks would be equally good, these were just on sale at the time.

– Cheapo belt-drive indoor bike

– Pull-up bar

– Bench if you have extra space.


– Ergo mouse and keyboard (I use Freestyle 2 for keys and Evoluent vertical mouse).


– Kindle with buttons. Used the old keyboard one until it died, then switched to the Voyage.


– Honda Fit. Incredible value in this car. Parks anywhere.

– Roof rack w/cargo box. Turn your subcompact car into a station wagon.


– Instant-read thermometer

– Vintage cast iron pan. They cost about the same and have a much nicer surface. Best I’ve found is Griswold.

– Forged knives with decent steel. Best value here is probably something Japanese (e.g. Tojiro Gyuto)

– Japanese water stone for sharpening. It’s a fun skill and doesn’t take long to learn – or just pay for it regularly. Sharp knives are life changing.

– Tri-ply pots/pans. I went for All-Clad, but Cuisinart seems to do fine for much less $$.

– Panasonic IR toaster (FlashXpress). Compact, super-fast , bulletproof. (I’m on year 10 of consistent operation).

– Moccamaster or knockoff version – I use the “Motif Essential” which sporadically shows up for $50. 85% of the flavor of pour-over, 20% of the work.


– Battery-op electric lawnmower/blower/trimmer. No more gas fumes, low maintenance, quiet.

– Cordless drill

– Basement dehumidifier. No more funky smell.

– Color tunable light-bulbs. Bright blue in the morning, orange-y in the evening. It’s flux for your house.


– allergies: sublingual immuno therapy. Same benefits as allergy shots, no shots.

– IR thermometer. Especially if you have kids.

Most pleasure per dollar: My 2008 Jamis Aurora touring bike. I don’t get to take it on tours very often, but my local rides are instant euphoria. At the moment I’m sidelined because a new tire is on order…

Most useful small ticket item: a 12″ x 18″ erasable whiteboard lap desk. I like to do writing in an armchair and this is just perfect. Years ago I went into an educational supply store with my wife. While she was looking for something for the kids, I found the lap board.

– Cast Iron pan (one pan to do it all)

– Crockpot (cook while you work)

– Good mattress (you spend 30%+ of your time there)

– Roomba (clean while you work)

– Ninja blender/food processor

– Noise Canceling air pods

– toaster oven (cheap and you can cook everything)

If you live in a cold climate, a heated mattress pad is a game changer. It lets you sleep more comfortably and also reduce energy use by turning your central heating further down at night. They are pretty ubiquitous in Korea (probably from a legacy of under floor heating and sleeping on mats), but not commonly used in the US. They should be!

The Dash Pros

[RIP Bragi. You could probably substitute any other good wireless earbuds, though.]

This means I can learn and discover during activities where this was previously not possible.

Podcasts and audiobooks are available during commutes, flights, runs, bike rides, misc chores and errands etc.

The fact that they’re entirely wireless, have very good noise cancellation (in-ear seal), a powerful touch interface, and are sweat/water proof, makes them especially useful. (e.g. skip song with double-tap while biking)

(Of course, use your discretion; shutting out the world and being always on the receiving end of information without time to process your own thoughts and letting them wander I think comes with a cost.)


I’ll echo what others have said as well: bikes!

Probably tied for first place is my bike which I bought off CraigsList in queens back in 2014. The decision to bike somewhere rather than driving/taking the train/walking means: new forms of exercise, new ways to discover a city, and it’s fun 🙂

A Herman Miller desk chair.

I spend at least 10 hours everyday in front of my computer and the investment was well worth it.

Herman miller chair

Good pair of shoes (reliable)
HQ clothes
HQ breathable underwears
Weight scale

Atari 400 computer in 1980.

More recently 3 pairs of $1 reading glasses from a dollar store. More expensive ones start at 1.25 strength and 1.00 suits me better for computer distance. Will be updating with blue-blocking ones–they feel so relaxing.

LG G6 (and later G8) phone + JVC HA-FXD80 earphones. I had lost interest in music until I got good enough quality to ‘feel the vocals’.

Apple Watch Series 5 – I am exercising more than ever.

Intelligent Investor – I read this book around 15 years back and I am at a better place financially, partly due to it.

Road Bike – Bought one around 5 years ago. Best way for me to exercise and feel-the-wind-in-my-face. Finally, wife agreed to get one as well. Now we are Riding together. Best feeling.

A Home – It’s a double edged sword. Spending tons of time working on lawn and garden. Great way to connect to the roots. On the flip side, it’s easy to get sucked into projects and not have time to pursue side projects.

The one benefit I did not expect from an ereader was the freedom to flip between any and all of my books at any time.

My usual routine is to fall asleep while reading my Paperwhite at night. It is small enough to carry in my pocket when traveling or doing anything outside the home.

Yes, I could do all those things with my phone, but the e-ink makes reading all so, so much more pleasant.

I don’t know if it’s life changing or not, but seeing as you listed a rice cooker…

We have a Zojirushi water pot/boiler that I pretty much can’t live without today. Also, a portable (battery powered) bidet.

Hydro Flask pint glasses. They look great. They’re insulated, so they keep your drink cool longer and, even better, you don’t have to deal with condensation. They’re pleasantly textured for a better grip, and if youdodrop them, they don’t shatter into dangerous fragments. Much more expensive than glass, but way, way worth it. If price is an issue, I believe there are similar designs from others.

Reverse Osmosis water filter. It’s turned me into a water snob and I never want to go back. It improves the quality of a lot of things that I cook including like coffee and pasta and it automatically/effortlessly improved my hydration because water just tastes good now. I’ve used Brita filters and the like and they just do not compare.

A Garmin watch. Having your health data easily available makes healthy decisions (take the stairs, or walk a bit more, or hit the gym…) a lot easier.

Frankly those should be defaults, not decisions you take based on data.

I see this quite often with people using smartwatches. “Oh I’ve hit my calorie burn target for the week, I can skip workout today”. It’s not just about calories but also about toning and stamina and establishing daily routine.

They should be default, but we always underestimate how much we eat and over estimate how active we’re.

Having hard data in my wrist and setting up reminders and gamification helps me to remain on track.

I have daily goals that reset at midnight, so when I walk twice as much yesterday, I still have to walk my daily quota today.

It was very effective for me.

I know that’s a Reddit meme, but not buying software that you use shouldn’t be a joke. Especially if you’re a developer.

A small (~4qt) water boiler for the kitchen. Having on-demand hot water makes tea as available as a glass of water.

First benefit: tea is a beverage hobby with some stunning depth (think wine, beer, scotch, etc).

Second benefit: Lots of flavor diversity means you won’t have to reach for sugary or alcoholic drinks as often to fight off boredom.

Zalto wine glasses. $60 per, and well worth it if you enjoy wine.

A honyaki chef’s knife and a vinyl cutting board to go with it.

A used bicycle for commuting, Riding around the city and traveling. It’s a racing bike of the 90s, fast, light and reliable.

It has always been various forms of recreational exercise equipment. When you fall in love with cycling, rowing, weight lifting, etc, you can see a dramatic improvement in general lifestyle health and mood.

– Sleeponlatex mattress and Ecosa pillow

– Magnesium L Threonate, Vitamin D, B12, Zinc and Krill Oil

– Headspace

– Electric toothbrush

– Deep Work by Cal Newport

– Minimalist home work area: MPB, airpod pro, magic keyboard touchpad and monitor

– Leetcode premium, and free guides on engineerseekingfire landed me 2 FAANG offers

– Fitbit tracker with heart rate monitor (the model I have is the Fitbit Charge).

– Cordless drill/screwdriver.

A house. I do basically all the maintenance on it, and it’s been a great learning experience and opportunity for growth. The largest single project being the kitchen remodel, down to the drywall and subfloor.

A pair of dumbbells, a chin-up bar (the kind that you attach inside a doorframe) and a yoga mat.

Please elaborate on your experience. I have been looking at this for a while but have yet to see one in the wild or know anyone with one.

im wondering, is the device a good PDF reader?

most ereaders have bad PDF support, and this device seems perfect as a device for study.

Mobility scooter. I have heart problems and arthritis, and it has made all the difference to my ability to get to shops, chemist. doctors etc.

All around my 40’s, almost at the same time

Fitbit tracker
Books, audiobooks services
Cast iron pan

So… Exercise, mind and eating get a boost

KVM Switch – i used to pull all my cables out and swap monitors and have 2 mouse and keyboards on the desk now i just flick a switch. Actually started to get infuriation switching between my mac and pc for work

chromecast or in general any device that lets you use your phone as a remote for streaming services.

Yes to Air Fryer. I got the Cuisinart toaster over/air fryer. Calling it a “fryer” is a misnomer because it’s really just a high-speed convection oven, but it makes french fries crispy with minimal oil, so I love it.

Although I’ve been using YouTube since it first appeared, I did not expect to use YouTube 95% of the time on my Shield TV. It has quite effectively replaced regular TV as both primary source of entertainment and as background material while doing something on the computer or mealtimes.

We just had our first child, and at multiple friends’ recommendations acquired a Snoo bassinet.

It’s such a revelation that I can’t imagine raising a newborn without one.

Most of my friends bought theirs used, then sold it after 6 months when it was no longer needed, recouping most of their purchase price.

We’re renting ours through their new rental program.

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