Christina X. Wood

50 cheap products that make life so much better

I ask Amazon's Alexa to make my coffee every morning, and she does. Then, I drink a delicious smoothie that costs almost nothing. After that, I shower in a spa-worthy tub. Overall, I sleep well. My path is always well lit. My coffee is always hot. My phone always has a charge. My sink drains perfectly. I always have a straw. I'm warm, but not too warm. My clothes are unwrinkled. And my house is tidy.

You're probably thinking that I'm about to tell you about the futuristic utopia I've discovered — but I live in the same world as you.

I've simply invested in a few tools, gizmos, and accessories from Amazon that make my life even better than before. None of them are expensive, either. In fact, they're all quite affordable. Since I've been trying these cheap Amazon products that help make my life run smoother, and I'm here to report — from my own inexpensive utopia — that my life is significantly easier because of them.

In case you're curious, here are the must-have products that could make your life so much better (and won't totally break your bank).

1. This Smart Plug That You Can Control With Your Voice

This little Gosund Mini Smart plug will change everything about the way you live because you can link it to an app or Amazon Alexa for easy control via your phone or voice. When I use mine, I just say, "Alexa, it's dark in here!" Then, all the lights come on. You can also schedule the plug to control bedtime lights, vacation lighting, and more. My favorite routine, though, is the one that activates my coffee machine so I don't have to in the morning. These plugs fit neatly into any outlet, and they also come in a three-pack (which is what you'll want once you start using them).

2. This Stainless Steel Coffee Mug That Stays Hot For Hours

First, lock this insulated travel mug. Then, carry it around, toss it into your bag, or jam it into your car's cup holder. Your coffee will stay hot for five hours (and your iced beverage will stay cold for 12). Since it's leakproof, none of it will spill onto the other gear in your bag. You can also put the parts in the dishwasher — and since it's made with stainless steel and comes in tons of colors, it also looks pretty darn good. What else do you want in a travel mug?

3. This Echo Input That Connects To Bigger, Louder Speakers

Being able to ask your Amazon Echo to play music is terrific — but sometimes, you might prefer louder sound. This Echo Input puts Alexa into your own stereo, so you can use the smart device through your own powerful sound system. Whether you have big floor speakers or a compact tabletop system, she'll sit beside it and externally spin your tunes. You can even ask Alexa various questions, and she'll figure them out; you never have to do a thing. It's available in two colors: black and white.

4. These Bulbs That Change Colors When You Ask Them To

Whether you need bright light to wake you up in the morning or a warm glow to help you wind down around bedtime, just ask these smart light bulbs to create the mood you want. There's no need to rewire anything; simply screw these smart WiFi bulbs into your ceiling fixtures, connect them to whatever home smart system you have (Amazon Echo, Google Smart Home, or the app that comes with them), and your lights will come on when you say so. They'll also change colors at your command and follow a schedule. You can have morning light, evening light, a romantic glow, a rainbow pattern, or whatever you want.

6. A Cozy Blanket That Has Holes For Your Hands

Most blankets end up on the floor in a heap when you need to get up and complete a task (like answering the door or getting a snack). However, this fleece Snuggie keeps you warm while freeing up your arms and hands. Therefore, you have the freedom to do whatever you need to do while staying cozy. It even has pockets, which means you can keep your must-have items by your side at all times — even when you're relaxing on the couch.

5. These Strong Magnetic Hooks That Hold 60 Pounds Each

You can easily hang your dish towel, hot mitts, keys, or the dog leash, with one of these magnetic hooks. If you have a metal surface in your house, car, boat, deck, garage, or RV, these hooks are the simplest — and cheapest — ways to keep everything within reach, because they attach with ease. Plus, they're super strong and will hold 60 pounds each. One pack comes with six hooks that you can place around your home.

7. This Key Ring That Has A Built-In Light And Bottle Opener

Your keychain is essential because you can't go anywhere without it (because being locked out is no fun). Therefore, your chain is the perfect place to keep a couple of useful tools. This keyring does exactly that without adding any bulk to your ring. It sports a tiny LED light, so you can see the lock while using your keys at night. It also has a bottle opener and organizes your chain into two sections. Plus, the entire unit clips onto your belt loop. Overall, it adds almost nothing to your pockets while improving everything about carrying keys in the first place. Brilliant.

8. This Outdoor Smart Plug That You Can Control From Inside

The outdoor lighting you installed in your yard has vastly improved your ability to enjoy outdoor living. That is until it's midnight and you're wearing a bathrobe while realizing the pool lights are still on.

If those lights were plugged into this outdoor smart plug, that wouldn't be a big deal. You would just say, "Alexa, turn off the pool lights," and then go to bed. That's because this plug can be controlled with your voice or through an app on your phone. Even better? You can set a schedule so the lights come on at sunset and go off at midnight. You'll never have to think about them until you want to go swimming in the middle of the night. Plus, this one outlet will control two fixtures.

9. A Magnetic Strip That Keeps Your Kitchen Knives Within Reach

I remember when I stored kitchen knives in a wooden block on the counter. It added clutter, and I never knew what knife I was getting. I also always imagined that it was full of dirt, which wasn't great. Then, I moved to this slick magnetic wall strip and discovered that life in the kitchen could be easier and cleaner.

After using a knife, I hang it back up and it dries right on the rack (thanks to the magnetic surface). Plus, I never worry about dulling the blade or injuring myself while reaching into the dish rack or drawer. Now, my knives — which are beautiful and cost a lot of money — are displayed on the wall, looking gorgeous all the time. These stainless steel strips work for tools in a workspace, too.

10. These Stick-On Lights That Detect Motion In The Dark

Sticking these motion-sensor light pucks inside closets, bathrooms, dark hallways, and staircases might seem like the smallest life upgrade — but they make a difference. They light up in the dark when they detect motion, and they shut back off after 15 seconds of stillness. They're also easy to install (thanks to the included adhesives), and they last a long time. The lights also require three AAA batteries each, which are not included with the purchase.

11. The Motion-Activated Light That Sits Above Your Keyhole

Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best — and this is one of those. Stick this motion-sensitive light directly over your dimly lit entryway, and it'll add brightness to your lock. In fact, it only lights up your lock and key, and it'll activate when you attempt to open your door at night. You don't have to install better lighting or turn on a bright light that'll wake people up; just install one of these. This thing will last for years, completing the one simple job that it was intended to.

12. This Bluetooth Headset That Lets You Make Hands-Free Calls

I don't know about you, but I hate holding my phone close to my face and doing nothing else while I make a call. That's why this Bluetooth headset is a necessity for me. It lets me get up and do the dishes, clean a closet, take notes, or walk around the block while I talk. It's tiny enough to keep in my pocket when it's not in use, and it's comfortable enough to wear for long calls. And since the device is less than $25 (and made by the legendary Plantronics), there's no reason to endure another call that isn't hands-free. It'll supply 11 hours of conversation time on one charge.

13. A Cleaner For Germ-Filled Phones, Screens, And Glasses

If you don't want to get grossed out, don't think about how dirty your cell phone is. (It's slathered in bacteria.) Thankfully, this alcohol-free screen cleaner and wipe combo can help your germ-filled situation. Just keep the set handy and wipe your screens regularly. Not only will they become a bit cleaner, but you'll also be able to see the screen better without all those fingerprints. This works for computer screens and eyeglasses, too.

14. The Screwdriver That Combines 6 Tools In 1

Maybe you have a box full of tools, or maybe you don't. Either way, you need to own this six-in-one screwdriver, because it's the simple tool you'll reach for over and over. It includes different tips that can be used for various projects. Simply pull the screwdriver out to reveal the nut driver, and then explore other uses for the piece. Life just goes smoother when you have the right tool handy — and most of the time, that will be this screwdriver. One customer wrote, "This is one of the best tools in my tool bag."

15. This Shower Head That Feel Like Calming Rain

I didn't think I needed a new shower head. Then, I read the reviews for this Sparkpod, which apparently feels like a calming rainstorm. The shower head is easy to install, and it's inexpensive. The attachment delivers exactly the right combination of pressure and rainfall effects, and it boasts easy-to-clean silicone nozzles. Plus, almost 4,000 people adore it. One customer wrote, "Makes waking up in the morning even better than getting that paycheck."

16. The Phone Stand That Also Holds Your Charging Cable In Place

Every night, it's the same: You wake up wondering what time it is and then fumble around looking for your phone. Then, your alarm goes off and the hunt for your phone starts all over again.

Thankfully, this aluminum phone stand organizes your phone and its charging accessories. It puts your device where you can easily glance at it, tap it, and see who's calling. It also lets you watch videos hands-free or pace around talking on the phone with a headset in one ear. Plus, thanks to its non-slip padding, your phone stays protected. Put one on your desk, bedside table, or your kitchen counter.

17. This Cheap Phone Mount That Sits In Your Car Vents

If you need a car mount for your phone, look no further. Thousands of people have tried this inexpensive, universal in-car phone mount and love it. It clips into your car's air vents, has a ledge for your phone to rest on, and uses side arms to hold it in place. The unit also rotates, so you can get your phone at the right angle. Plus, one button releases the phone when you want to get out of the car. All this for less than $15? I'm all for it.

18. These Stainless Steel Straws That Collapse For Easy Carrying

Do you feel a pang of guilt every time you use a plastic straw with your drink? Well, you don't need to go through that anymore. These collapsible stainless steel straws come in slick cases that attach to your keyring, which makes them super easy to transport. They even come with a collapsible straw-cleaning brush that you can carry around. If you make this kit part of your daily routine, you'll never have to worry about your straw usage affecting the environment again.

19. An Easy-To-Use Bidet With Adjustable Water Pressure Settings

This bidet costs the same as a big pack of toilet paper, but it gets the job done in a different way. Complete with adjustable water pressure and a self-cleaning option, this addition will elevate your bathroom experience. Plus, it's super easy to install and boasts a thin design that fits underneath your toilet seat without leaving an uncomfortable gap.

20. This Handheld Immersion Blender For Quick Smoothies And Salsa

What's the difference between a bowl of peppers and tomatoes and a yummy salsa? An immersion blender, like this one. Just stick this blender into a bowl, and then press the side button to make salsa. It'll help you transform a pot of vegetables into a creamed soup, or make a glass of frozen fruit and juice into a smoothie. It's similar to a larger blender, but there's no jar to clean you're done using it. It also comes with a whisk and milk-frothing attachments, so you can even use it for making cookie dough and whipping up lattes.

21. A 3-Pack Of Charging Cables So You Always Have A Backup

How much time have you wasted in recent memory looking for a charging cable for your phone? Be honest.

You know what would change everything? Having so many charging cables that you can always find one. That's where these iPhone charging cables come in. They're made from a strong, flexible braided nylon, so they'll last a long time (and look good doing it). Plus, this is a three-pack, which means you alway have a backup. You can use one near the bedside table, in the car, at work, in the guest bedroom, and the kitchen.

22. The Sturdy Shelf That Fits Right Over Your Outlet

Where are you going to park another Echo? And where are you going to put your tablet when it's connected to the outlet? There are tons of gadgets that need to be charged — and most of those require surfaces to charge on. This shelf can be installed into an electrical outlet, giving you a place to rest your phone while it powers up. It holds up to 15 pounds, too — so don't be shy when you decide to lay your devices on top.

23. This Clog Dissolver That Prevents Backups In Your Drain

If you've already tried everything and that drain still won't clear up, then you need this Green Gobbler clog dissolver. Maybe the clog is too far down the drain to reach with a plastic snake, or maybe it's too big to melt with another product. Before you call the plumber, try this. It sinks through water and eats up everything from hair debris and toilet paper to grease. Be careful and give it some time to work. When used correctly, it could save you the hundreds of dollars that a plumber would charge.

24. A Natural Supplement That Helps You Sleep At Night

Without a good night's sleep, everything seems irritating, difficult, and inadequate. However, waking up rested gives everything some clarity — and this Genius Sleep Aid helps. It uses .5 milligrams of melatonin and other natural supplements to help aid sleep without creating a dependency. According to the thousands of Amazon customers who have discovered the product, it's a simple solution that helps you "slowly drift to sleep." Those reviewers have also written that you'll "wake up feeling alive and ready for the day!" Consult your doctor before using this at night.

25. This Colander That Fits Right Onto Your Can

Draining the liquid out of a can is the kind of act you do a million times without thinking about it. Thanks to this can colander — which hugs the rim of your chosen container — it can be even easier. Just snap this tiny colander onto the opening, turn the can over, and press down. Then, the liquid will be drained without a mess. You can keep it in the cupboard with your cans to make meal prep so much simpler.

26. These Color-Coded Mesh Grocery Bags With Drawstrings

Every trip to the grocery store results in more plastic bags that you have to reuse, recycle, or throw out. These mesh bags are a simple solution to that cycle. Sure, they help you carry your groceries home — but they're also made of fine mesh to prevent your vegetables from rotting. They also seal with a drawstring, so nothing will roll out during checkout or transport. Buyers have written that the bags are, "durable, light, easy to clean," and "a wonderful reusable resource."

27. A Rugged Boot Scraper That Prevents Dirt In The House

Sometimes, a simple doormat won't cut it. Instead, you need this coir boot scrubber by your door to clean clean debris from shoes before they enter your home. The coir gets into treads, and the edges wrap around the sides of shoes. Then, the dirt drops through and stays outside. "It removes about 99% of dirt and debris from the bottom/sides of our shoes," one reviewer wrote. Keep one in the car, too, when you go to the beach if you want to keep sand out of your car.

28. This Pasta Strainer That Clips Right Onto Your Pot

A regular colander is usually bulky, unwieldy, and demands an empty sink as a landing spot. This clip-on strainer, on the other hand, lets you tip the pan to strain excess water, leaving the pasta in place. It saves multiple steps and storage space (especially in the sink), since it fits easily in a drawer and in the dishwasher. One Amazon customer wrote, "I do not know how I lived without this. Now, I can get rid of 20 kitchen items!"

29. A Silicone Mat That You Can Clean Your Makeup Brushes On

Stick this "nifty little gadget" (as reviewers call it) into the sink, get your makeup brushes wet, add a little cleanser, and agitate the brush over the bumpy silicone surface. The mat will clean your bristles and leave them looking like new. One reviewer marveled, "I cannot believe how much stuff came out of my brushes and how clean they came!" The cleaner comes in three colors: green, black, and pink.

30. These Reusable Grocery Bags Made With Rip-Stop Nylon

These bags are not only adorable (complete with different designs), but they're also sturdy and made with durable nylon. Plus, each machine-washable tote can carry up to 50 pounds. "I like the built-in storage pouch, finished edging on the visible seams, and the fact that it is made of rip-stop nylon, so even if it gets a puncture, it won't catastrophically fail on you," one reviewer wrote. They each have a large capacity, but can fold up very small. You can also get them in plain colors.

31. This Roll-Up Bath Mat That's Made With Eco-Friendly Bamboo

This bamboo bath mat is nonslip, and it looks modern while giving your bathroom a spa-like ambiance. Plus, unlike fabric mats, it never has to go into the wash. Air circulates around your feet as you step out of the shower, and grippers on the bottom keep the mat from sliding around. This is especially handy if you have an outdoor shower, too. The mat even rolls up when you're done using it, so storage is really easy.

32. The Ventilated Food Savers That Will Keep Your Produce Fresh

These produce saver containers have mesh floors to keep produce dry and vents within the lids to keep the interior from getting too moist. These BPA-free containers do wonders for keeping produce fresh longer, and they're safe to use in the dishwasher. "This thing already paid for itself in a month," wrote one reviewer. "I am tossing less food."

33. This Drying Rack That You Can Roll Up And Keep In Your Drawer

Sometimes, dish-drying racks take up so much room — whether they're empty or full. However, this roll-up drying rack solves that issue. When it's not in use, it can be rolled up and stored in a drawer. When it needs to be used again, it can be placed over the sink so damp dishes can drip through it. The result is dry counters and more kitchen space. It's a win-win.

34. A Light-Up Essential Oil Diffuser That Also Humidifies The Air

Adding this tiny essential oil diffuser to your bedroom or office is a great way to improve the atmosphere. You can add a bit of moisture to the air (thanks to the humidifier aspect), and fill the room with a scent of your choice by adding essential oils. It also doubles as a small night light. "My staff has been extremely happy and less stressed since we started using these diffusers," wrote one of the 4,500 reviewers who gave it high marks.

35. The Amber Light Bulb That Can Help You Sleep Better

Sometimes, the blue light that's emitted from certain bulbs and screens can make you feel awake. If you switch your bedroom lights to these amber bulbs — which emit a warmer glow — your body could produce more melatonin, which can ultimately help you sleep better. These bulbs are also highly efficient, because they should last up to 30,000 hours.

36. A Small Power Bank That Easily Fits Into Your Pocket

It's always helpful to have an extra phone charger at hand, in case you start running out of power and need to make a call, use your navigation, access the code to your Airbnb, or send a text for help. This Anker Powercore is the perfect option, because it fits in your pocket or bag. It also has enough power to fully charge most high-end smart phones. The compact device comes in four shades: black, blue, red, and white.

37. This Hamper With 2 Sections For Sorting Your Laundry

Dirty laundry is one of life's inevitable annoyances, but you don't need to have it strewn across your room. This popup laundry hamper provides a space to sort your worn clothes before carrying them to the washing machine, and nearly 6,000 people have deemed it perfect for the task. The openings are wide, and it's lightweight. The hamper even folds down small when it's empty, so you can stash it away when you aren't using it.

38. The Leakproof Water Bottle That Opens With A Button

There are a lot of good water bottles in the world, but how many good water bottles cost less than $5? Well, this leakproof Contigo Jackson container does. It has a pop-up lid that's activated by a button, and it'll clip to a backpack easily with a built-in loop. The bottle also has a wide mouth that fits ice cubes in, and it holds 24 ounces of water. Choose from different colors — and if you want a larger bottle, opt for the 30-ounce.

39. This Narrow Brush That You Can Easily Clean Bottles With

Picture this: You put some juice into your water bottle. And now, there is a stain and hardened debris at the bottom that can't be reached with anything but this bottle brush. It lets you wash a narrow container without reaching your hands inside, and it can even get the coffee stains out of a thermos. However, you can also use it on food bowls. It easily reaches deep into containers and scrubs them clean, all while keeping your hands clean.

40. The Milk Frother That Lets You Make Pro Lattes At Home

This simple, inexpensive tool for making frothed milk at home is so wildly popular on Amazon. Whether you want hot chocolate or a frothy latte, you can heat your milk and froth it before adding it to your drink. The handheld devices works to mix salad dressings, too. When you're done, just rinse it off and put it back in the stand. It currently boasts over 10,000 reviews (for real) — and it's offered in a variety of shiny shades.

41. These Blue Light-Blocking Glasses That Help Prevent Straining

Yes, these blue-light-blocking glasses look great when you're wearing them — but they do more than that. If you stare at your phone all day (or right before bedtime), they'll reduce the amount of blue light within your view, which can help prevent headaches and straining. The shockproof shades have comfortable nose pads and come in a ton of different colors and designs. Some of those include brown, beige, leopard, and more.

42. A Bluetooth Car Transmitter That Also Charges Your Phone

This Victsing Bluetooth transmitter connects to your phone and lets you listen to Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, and more without the extra cords. Plus, it's incredibly simple to install; plug it into your car for wireless connection or utilize the AUX cable input. Then, your calls will come in through your car's sound system and your music will play through your stereo. The device connects to your phone automatically when the car turns on, and all the details are displayed on a bright screen. Thanks to the USB port, it can also charge your devices.

43. These Microfiber Towels That Dry Your Hair Quicker

Once you try wrapping your hair in this microfiber towel after showering, you'll never go back. Microfiber pulls water out of your hair and holds it, drying your hair super fast. This makes for perfect curls and zero unwanted frizz. This three-pack is only $10.90, which means you can have a collection in the bathroom without going broke. And apparently, people who have bought this set love it. One customer wrote, "These towels are made of magic!" Another proclaimed, "Perfect size, light weight, absorb like crazy and the button detail keeps them super secure so I can get done whatever I need without it constantly falling off."

44. The Tiny Umbrella That Also Protects Against UV Rays

The day might hold rain — but it might not, too. The best way to be prepared is to bring an umbrella. This tiny umbrella is the one you'll always have with you, because it's small enough to drop in your bag and forget about (until it rains, that is). It's cute. It's light. It's tiny. It comes with it's own case, so you can store it permanently in your backpack. Plus, it also protects you from the sun (thanks to its UV-blocking film).

45. This Yoga Mat Strap That Can Be Carried Over Your Shoulder

There's no need to get a special bag to carry a yoga mat. This strap turns that unwieldy, rolled-up mat into an easy-to-tote item. It's simple to slide your rolled mat into the loops and then throw it over one shoulder. The strap also makes it easy to hang your mat from a hook so it's ready to go for your next class. It even comes in plenty of colors and sizes to suit the look and thickness of your mat. Plus, it's so sturdy that you can use it as a stretching strap.

46. The Tool That Turns Shampooing Into A Spa Experience

Not only does this scalp massager feel great, but it also gets your scalp super clean. Thanks to the pointed bristles, it elevates the shampooing experience and helps increase blood flow. One customer wrote, "I cannot explain how good this feels." The handheld bathing accessory comes in three colors, and each one has a handle to guarantee a sturdier grip amongst the bubbles.

47. A Stainless Steel Coffee Mug That Stays Hot For Hours

I go through a great deal of trouble to brew myself a terrific cup of coffee — and thanks to this Yeti Rambler, my coffee stays hot for hours. It doesn't spill in transit, either, thanks to the included lid and easy-to-grip handle. And since it's made with stainless steel, it's extremely reliable. Yes, there are a lot of travel mugs out there — but this one is the Cadillac of thermal coffee mugs. And when it comes to coffee, details matter. This mug is available in over 10 colors, all of which are dishwasher safe.

48. This Clothing Steamer That Runs For Almost 10 Minutes Straight

This garment steamer makes the task of ironing so much easier (without the actual iron, that is). This thing gets the wrinkles out of clothes that are displayed on a hanger, because it emits hot steam for a straight nine minutes. Just plug it in, wait 70 seconds, and then point it toward whatever wrinkles you're trying to remove. It's so small that it can sit in a closet or travel with you in a suitcase.

49. A Himalayan Salt Lamp That Creates A Soothing Atmosphere

Have you ever sat in a salt cave? If so, you know that the light diffused through pink Himalayan salt is beautiful and calming — and guess what? You can have a pink Himalayan salt lamp in your own home for a lot less than it costs to spend an hour in a salt cave. This salt lamp is lovely, and it comes on a wooden base. It's also dimmable and makes a calming lamp, night light, or warm light source in general.

50. The Water Pitcher That Lets You Know When To Change The Filter

This Brita Metro Pitcher is a great alternative to constantly buying plastic water bottles, because it provides filtered water whenever you want it. After the top compartment is filled with tap water, it filters out unwanted flavors (from chlorine, copper, mercury, and more). It's the perfect size to keep in your fridge, and it's easy to keep refilling. Plus, the indicator on top of the lid will let you know when it's time to change the filter.

Inverse may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently of Inverse's editorial and sales departments.

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