February 15, 2023 | Daniel Swift

People Share The Best Products You Can Buy For Under $20

Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of things you can still get for $20 or less. Just ask anyone about their best purchase in that price range, and you'll likely get an earful. While some of the things here became worth it for strictly sentimental value or very personal reasons, many of them are objectively useful; items which anyone could likely go out and pick up for themselves for a similar price. They range from items bought on a whim to carefully planned purchases. The truth is, you never know when a purchase is going to change your life until you take the plunge and buy it.

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#1 The Earbud Was The Missing Link To Happy Multitasking

I bought a Bluetooth earbud on Amazon to listen to audiobooks at work. I’m a cake decorator and I work directly next to my coworker who will not stop talking even after I told her I like to focus and work quietly. I wear this earbud and let her know I’m listening to a book so she mostly leaves me alone now. Bonus, I’ve listened to so many books I’ve never got around to reading and I look forward to going to work to continue my book. Best $20 ever spent!


#2 How To Make A Wisconsin Winter A Little Better

Windshield ice scraper with a brass blade. Brass is softer than glass, so it won't scratch. Makes Wisconsin mornings before work 10x more tolerable.

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#3You Can Buy Love...With Donuts

Two dozen donuts from a local shop on the way to work this morning for my kitchen and front of house crew. Little things like that make a long awful day (like most Sundays in the restaurant industry) a bit more bearable. Saying, “I appreciate you” every day only goes so far. Buying their “love” helps show that I really do care about them... and obviously treating them right and doing all that I am able for their quality of work life.


#4 The Invitation That Won His Heart

I bought a $5 invitation and gave it to the handsome debonair new neighbor, inviting him to my cookout. He accepted. We now have four adult children and have been married 35+ years; still as much in love as ever. Best under $20 I ever spent.


#5 The Surprising Best Thing In Ibiza

I was on holiday in Ibiza. One day, I strolled down the coast and came across a wooden shack which thankfully turned out to be a bar with a view. It overlooked the sea and cliffs and had a diving platform. I grabbed a drink, sat down for 30 minutes and noticed then that they had a marina that was either $3 or $5, I can't quite remember.

I paid to have a look not expecting much and walked into a cavern with a large-sized pool and buzzing with all sorts of different marine life. Further along, were tanks full of smaller fish and also tanks with white sacks which I read to be shark eggs which I'd never seen before. Genuinely amazed, I went back up and asked the bar staff what this place was about.

Turns out, there was three bar staff who took it in turns on the bar, but they were all marine biologists. They would find injured marine life, get them back to the cavern and nurse them back to health. The bar and the entrance fee were there just to generate income but it was genuinely about 1/8th of the price of anything else to do in Ibiza.

#6 Never Underestimate The Power Of A Bubble Machine

I bought a bubble machine in Walmart for like $10. I used to turn it on when out on my balcony, watch the bubbles fly all over town and look at how confused people would be at seeing the bubbles. Cheap entertainment for me and it also seemed to brighten up other people’s day.

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#7 Money Well Spent Is When You Make Someone Happy

My dad isn't very technologically savvy, and he doesn't really use the internet for anything more than checking emails. I introduced him to the concept of online streaming services because he loves documentaries but he doesn't have cable or anything like that. He seemed pretty overwhelmed by it but I spent $20 on someone's secondhand Roku box (with a really simple-to-use remote) and set him up with a subscription to a streaming service so he could watch stuff on demand. He was so chuffed he called my aunt and invited her over to show her his 'amazing new telly box' and they watched gardening stuff all afternoon.

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#8 She Found A Purse That Might Last Forever

A black leather backpack, secondhand for $18. It's still going strong after five years. I hope it lasts another five or more. I use it every day.

#9 The Pocket Knife Worth Way More Than He Paid For It

I once bought a brand new pocket knife for work at a pawn shop for $5. I loved that knife and knew it was worth at least $20. I looked online and it was $175 from the manufacturer. Somebody later stole it from me. Sometimes I still think about that knife.


#10 You Never Know How Good Your Couch Is Until It's Gone

I bought a couch from a Goodwill for $10 when I was 21. I finally got rid of it this month. It remained a good and loyal fcouch for 10 years.


#11 Playing The Guitar Is Much More Fun Now

A guitar tuner that clips to the head of the guitar and displays the note being played from vibrations. I've dealt with using an old school tuner that had to be plugged in and also tuners that are apps on my phone. For $15, this is a huge quality-of-life change for my hobby.


#12 Fun All Summer Long On The Water

My university offered a student summer pass to the boathouse they owned which had a bunch of small sailboats. The pass was insanely cheap at $15 for the entire summer and gave you unlimited rentals. I used that pass so much and was out on the lake sailing three to four times a week. It was one of the best summers I’ve had.


#13 She Banana'ed Her Way Into His Heart Again

My now-husband and I were going through a major fight in our relationship, like dealbreaker stuff. He and I took a break for a couple of days to clear our heads. Both our families were telling us that this could be a clean break, and it might be good to end it. After two days of not eating and trying to make sure whatever decision we both made was the right one, we were both miserable.

We decided to meet up at a local bakery to talk and make a decision moving forward. He was as much a wreck as I was. He was even shaking from lack of food. I went into the bakery and bought a banana for $1. During that meeting, we decided to give it another go and clear up what we had been fighting about. We put our parents' opinions behind us and ended up getting married. I could never imagine another partner. I found out recently that the moment he knew he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life together with me was when I bought him that banana. Best $1 I ever spent.


#14 The Kindness Of Strangers Is Priceless

I was in Hollywood and saw a very old homeless man searching in trash cans. I gave him a $20 and he was absolutely stunned. I’m like, “Do whatever you want with it, man,” but he just could not believe it. He kept saying, “Are you sure?”


#15 Caribbean Vacations Don't Get Better Than This

I found a price mistake on Expedia and got a round-trip flight plus a five-night hotel stay from Denver to the Bahamas for $12 after tax. So, that was not bad.


#16 Saving The Tuition Money For Better Things

I spent $20 to test out of a college course. I studied all summer for that test, and it saved me three college credits (plus whatever tuition that equates to). It was even cheaper than the $86 that AP tests cost back in high school.


#17 Is This Some Kind Of Backpack Pyramid Scheme?

Bought my first backpack at an estate sale for $15. It was a brand new Gregory Denali Pro. I used it for three years then sold it for $300 on eBay. Then, I bought a $200 Granite Gear pack and used that for about 10 years until it ripped where the straps were attached. I emailed Granite Gear and they sent me a brand-new Crown 60. I used that for two years and then sold it for $60. Recently, I just got a brand new Granite Gear Crown 2 for $120. Altogether, I have gotten 15 years of backpacking and am still up $25.


#18 Heat Your Monthly Cramps Away

A heating pad. As a female, those cramps sneak up on you every month. It’s nice to just plug in the thing, plop it on top and sleep in comfort.


#19 That Milkshake Sure Did Bring The Girl To His Yard

A $3 Oreo milkshake I bought in my senior year of high school to share with a girl on our first date ended up being one of the most special things I've ever purchased. Here I am, over 10 years later, married to her.


#20 Concerts Are Even Better When They Don't Break The Bank

I paid $5 to watch a local concert series one summer. Best $5 I've ever spent. I ended up buying a T-shirt from the merch stand afterward since I felt bad paying so little for such a great show. I've had the chance to see probably 30 to 40 concerts and they were definitely top three.


#21 Wheelin' And Dealin'

I once picked up a guy walking down the side of the interstate who was headed to get onto a bus. He was leaving town to go live with his mom and his SUV had broken down on the way there. I asked what he was going to do about it and he said he didn't know—he was hoping someone would meet him at the bus station and buy the SUV for $600, but he wouldn't be able to get it there.

I offered him $20 for the vehicle and he laughed at me. I responded, "Hey man, it's ugly, but it's going to get towed and by the time you can come back and get it, you'll probably owe well over $500 just to get it out. You can be out of a truck, or you can be out of a truck and have $20." He said no again and asked if I couldn't possibly come up with more money. I couldn't... I didn't even have enough in the bank to take out $20.

He said he just couldn't do it. When we pulled up to the bus station, he told me to go ahead and write out the bill of sale. The next place I went, I told someone what had just happened and he told me that he has an actual GMC truck that was the same year, and of course, they use a lot of the same parts. I sold it to him for $250 as a parts vehicle. I bought an SUV for $20 and sold it half an hour later before I had ever even seen it.

#22 Public Transportation Isn't Even As Cheap As His Truck Was

My great uncle was getting rid of his old Toyota truck. He planned on giving it to me for free, but my mom told him that he can’t give things away for free and to make me work for it. So he sold it to me for $1. That little thing lasted me four years and it never needed serious repairs.


#23 The Car Seat The Kept On Giving

When I was pregnant, I picked out an infant car seat at the Military Exchange. It was my third kid so I didn’t give a heck what it looked like; as long as it was safe. I got the cheapest one, on clearance for $40. The next day, my husband went to pay for it, but overnight they put up new signs stating all clearance items were an additional 50% off!
We got that sucker brand new for $20 and no sales tax because it was bought on base! Once my daughter grew out of it, her big sis used it for her dolls, and a few years later, the baby was old enough to drag it around and play with her baby dolls too! Then I gave it to my friend for her kids to use it for their baby dolls. That $20 infant seat cycled through four kids for like eight years and they enjoyed it so much!

#24 She Found A Lifetime Hobby For Less Than $20

My first cross stitch kit. It started a super fun, fairly cheap hobby that I love dearly.


#25 Classy Doesn't Always Mean Expensive

I worked at an outlet discounted store. It was Labor Day weekend and all the standard clothing was on sale for only $3. I saw an evening dress that was placed on a rack that qualified for the sale. I decided I wanted to buy it when I got off of work. One of my coworkers at the time said that it didn't qualify for the $3 sale because it was supposed to be placed in the wedding dress rack. It was misplaced by a worker, but since there was more than one dress of the same style misplaced there, she said that I could talk to my supervisor to see if he would honor the discount. He did. I got a dress for $3 that was supposed to be sold at over $700. It is a Vera Wang evening gown.


#26 The Best Way To Spend A Penny

I used to work in retail at a sporting goods place. During the winter, they put the summer water sports stuff in the back. At some point during the spring, what we had was brought out and just put on the shelf. I noticed a super old tag on a really nice wakeboard—nothing crazy, just a body glove board but almost $200. I scanned the barcode at one of those convenience scanners at the end of the aisle. It read $0.01. I went to the computer and did an item search in our system. It was still $0.01. At the end of the night, we do employee purchases and the moment of anticipation had finally arrived. I scanned and paid one penny. No tax. That's right, $0.01, for the win. Thanks, Abe.


#27 The Most Affordable Scooter Ever Sold

There was a guy on my street pushing his broken-down moped. I asked if he needed help. He said, “If you give me a ride home, you can have the moped.” I drove him two-miles up the road and spent about $16 on parts for it. Nowadays, I drive that bad boy everywhere. I had my girlfriend run the plates on the scooter as soon as I got home from dropping the guy off. It was not stolen. It even came with the ignition key and the key for the trunk case.


#28 The Junker At The Police Auction Was Not Actually A Junker

This was when I was in high school, back in the late '80s. I didn't have a car and I was always looking for something after I got my license. I decided to go to a police auction that was in my town at the time. I was walking around and started to check out the city cars and trucks, but all of them had descriptions of what was wrong with them. As I was walking, I came across the city emergency vehicles.

All kinds of people were milling about down that way but I noticed that not one person was looking at the blue Gran Fury at the "bad" section of the line. I walked down that way and there was a really nice looking 1980 Gran Fury patrol sedan. I looked around some more and didn't really find anything so I sat down and decided to wait or the auction to start.

It was almost two hours long. I was about to leave when they called up the number for the Fury. So I sat there and waited for a little longer. Bidding started and no one bid on the car. The price dropped until it was down to any offers. I said $15 and to my absolute amazement, It was sold to me for $15 plus sales tax. My first thought was to haul it to the auto lab and scrap it out.

So I got it down to the lab, tossed a battery in it, hit the key, and what do you know—a loud metal-on-metal bang. I got what I paid for. I tossed it on the hoist and started to check it out. I started seeing stuff like torsion bars that were as thick as my forearm, and everything under that car was as HD as a car could get. My auto lab teacher started to look it over and decided to call one of his buddies to come in.

Turns out, this was the last of the city's highway interceptors. So both the lab teacher and his buddy were checking everything out on the hoist and yapping about how much I could get for this or that. I was pretty happy.


#29 They Do Say The Blue Light Of A Screen Will Keep You Up At Night

A sleep mask. Now if I wake up a couple of hours too early, I put that thing on and sleep like a baby.

#30 Being At The Scene Of A Crime Can Be Expensive

I spent $5 a month on renter’s insurance. My wife was questioned by a police officer about a child who was hit by a car in a park by a speeding idiot. Parents of the child sued the idiot, and the idiot countersued my wife for being at the park and being an adult in range of the child. That renter’s policy for my tiny apartment covered about $15,000 in legal fees for some bogus lawsuit because it provided personal liability coverage. And the bigger bonus: the kid turned out just fine.

#31 The Magical Exotic Feline Rescue Program Was A Hoot

There is an exotic feline rescue program that will take you on a tour of some of their cats about 30 minutes out of my town. It's $15 a person, but it all goes toward feeding all the cats. A group of us went and it was magical.

#32 Paid Online Dating Sites Might Be Worth It After All

I met my husband 13 years ago on Yahoo Personals. It happened within two days of signing up for the service, which was $19.99, so that's all I paid.


#33 He Finally Gave In And Got The Phone Mount

I bought a phone mount for the car so I can easily read driving directions. Easily the best $10 I spent.


#34 That Good Ol' Tinder Boost Couldn't Have Worked Better

I paid for a boost on Tinder for about $2 or something and I think I've met the love of my life. It's only been four months but I've never had a connection like this and I'm in my 30s.


#35 Helmets Really Do Save Lives

My old bike helmet. It cost me like, $15. I smashed into a car once and went through the windscreen, but my head was totally fine after. Now I tell everyone they should spend much more money on a helmet... If a $15 helmet was able to save my life, imagine how much more secure you would be with a higher quality one.


#36 A Gift For The Owner And The Dog In One

I bought a kind of dog brush called a de-shedding blade. I bought it from Petsmart for around $15. My dad is the kind of man that complains about everything. He even complains about having nothing to complain about. The only thing this man has never complained about is that de-shedding blade. My parents no longer have dogs to use it on so my dad now uses it on the cat.


#37 He Knows When To Fold 'Em

I spent $1 on the poker machines once (first time I ever played) and got $50 straight away. That's a 5000% profit. I've never played again because I'm ahead and that's a small victory.

#38 The Soap You Can Wash The Neighborhood With

Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure Castile Soap. It's a huge bottle of concentrated soap and it is lasting me forever. Listen, folks, you can clean your face, your dog, your body, your hair, wash your clothes, wash the floors and the bathroom, wash your dishes, wash the whole freaking neighborhood with that soap. It's organic, it's cruelty-free, vegan, fair for life and it's pretty cheap considering you got to dilute it every time. It's $17.99 for 32 oz. And it's the best thing I've bought as an adult.


#39 Rice Cookers Are For Much More Than Just Rice

A rice cooker is honestly the best. You can cook so many different foods with it. Rice, pasta, soup, vegetables, etc. Bought mine for about $15 and I used it throughout college.


#40 I Was Blind, But Now I See

At a farmers market, a guy stopped me and asked if he could clean my glasses. I said, "Sure." He took them from me, applied some wax mixture to it and wiped it off with a microfiber cloth. He gave it back and it was amazingly clean. He said that since it's wax and not a spray, it helps fill in small scratches on the lenses. He sold me a small cup of it for $10 and told me it would last almost a year.


#41 Dogs Make People's Lives Better

When I was about 10 years old, my parents and I were in our backyard clearing out a ton of weeds that had gotten out of hand. I had trouble focusing because our next-door neighbor had this really adorable puppy and all I wanted to do was play with him. We found out that they were actually going to take him to an animal shelter because their son was not taking care of him as he promised.

I decided to ask my parents if maybe we could get him instead. I was an only child and never really had anyone to play with, so the thought of having a puppy was great. My parents agreed and our neighbors offered to sell him to us for $20. I had that saved up and immediately promised to love him forever. So, he became my puppy, and after a few days of debating, I named him Snoopy.

Snoopy became my closest friend. He made me laugh, played with me, and would just hang out and watch TV with me. He was always there for me, especially through some tough times in my life where I was extremely self-destructive. He saved me from myself. He was there at my side through tough breakups, when all I ever wanted to do was lie in bed. He was an amazing friend.

He was there to see me graduate eighth grade, high school, and college. I hoped he would be there on the day I got married and maybe be around for when I had kids, but unfortunately, as much as we wish for things, sometimes they don't happen. He passed three years ago, after being by my side for almost 17 years. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him though and I know how much of an impact he had on my life. Years of friendship, happy memories, and love. It never would have happened if I hadn't asked my parents if we could have him. I don't think my life would be the same without him and even though I'm sad he's gone, I'm grateful I had him in my life.


#42 Good For The Body, The Wallet, And The Earth

A good reusable water bottle. I always have water with me and it saves a huge amount of money in the long run. Plus, being good for the environment is a bonus.


#43 He Played The Cryptocurrency Game Well

Bitcoin, about three years ago. I thought I’d throw some money into it, and see what would happen. I sold it when one Bitcoin was worth about $10,000, and yeah, I made a decent profit there.


#44 Worth It For The Stress Relief

Money management app for $9. Now I can know without much stress when I can eat a decent meal and when I have to eat a cup of noodles. It's a money and mental health saver for me as a student.


#45 Turning Her House Green

Houseplants! I got a maranta (prayer plant) at my grocery store for $2.99 about eight months ago. Now it’s huge and flowering. I hope by spring I’ll be able to propagate it for gifts.




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