5 Best Buys of 2016

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Life / Style

For whatever reason—writing more market stories for Curbed? Getting hooked on NYMag’s The Strategist? Being older and wiser about money? The KonMari/”Spark Joy” cultural takeover?—I became more passionate and intentional about shopping this year.

In contrast to a traditional retail therapy where happiness and thrill come from spending money and acquiring new stuff in themselves, my shopping M.O. now concerns buying things that work really well (ha), extend beyond the realm of clothes, and can positively change my life.

Here are 5 buys that stood out, plus one honorable mention.

1. Murad Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 30

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$48, Sephora

Everyone (mildly interested in skincare) knows you gotta wear sunscreen whenever you go outside (“even on overcast days,” says my mom.) But it’s so hard to put into practice, because sunscreen usually smells and feels like sunscreen (the greasy stuff you put on at the beach). The Dr. Jart BB Cream I use has SPF 45, but I wanted something I can put on under that, or use alone on lighter days.

This moisturizer, which I picked up after a glowing review from my Youtube fave Jenn Im, does the trick. It goes on like moisturizer, doesn’t smell like anything really, and comes in a nice-to-touch matte tube. More importantly, it gives me a SPF peace of mind everyday. I’m on my third one, with each lasting at least three months.

2. Everlane Twill Zip Tote

For a long time, I had in mind to get a minimalist black leather tote for work. All the internet articles kept pointing to this Madewell tote, but I just couldn’t bring myself to spend $170 on it, not to mention it also seemed a tad long for my petite body. Sick of browsing, I just went with an updated version of the Everlane tote I had been using (one of their first totes from ~ 2013, with a big red stripe running down it.)

$48 is very easy to swallow for something so practical. I love that this version keeps the leather straps and adds a zipper closure, which makes it feel a bit more formal. It holds a lot, and I use it every workday—think about that cost-per-wear! Just perfectly no-nonsense.

Organized chaos…I've taken @evachen212's #compartmentalization tip to heart | #vscocam #springcleaning

A post shared by Jenny Xie (@hello88goodbye) on

3. Kitchi Products Battery Operated Fabric Shaver

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$10.49, Amazon

One of my first purchases of 2016 (and just in time for the winter) was this fabric shaver—which, until I read this Racked article on sweater care, was not even a product I knew existed. But of course it exists! Because there are pills (annoying little fabric balls) to shave!

It removes pills pretty easily, giving well-worn sweaters a much-needed refresh. Also noteworthy: Pill-shaving delivers as much satisfaction as lint-rolling (maybe even more). I’ve already used mine plenty this season.

4. LOFT Sateen Five-Pocket Leggings in Marisa Fit (Petite)

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$69.50 (currently 50 percent off), LOFT

Let’s just say I liked these legging-pants so much that I started singing their praises to a fellow petite lady I met at an MIT alumni event. The length is good for shorties, and it’s so stretchy and, well, sateen-y. I first got one in black at 40 percent off and then one in plum (seen above) at 50 percent off—you know them LOFT sales. (Wore the black one two days in a row last week, shhh.)

5. Coach MINI id skinny in hologram leather

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$50, Coach

Truth be told, I only got this at the beginning of this month (a day after reading The Strategist’s Under-$50 gift guide, in which they recommended a ’30s daisy print version). But it was something I didn’t know I desperately needed until I came across that gift guide. I’d been using a really beat up, ink-stained, college-bookstore keychain wallet for the last seven years and it really needed to go.

I fell in love with this shiny design—that’s where the “spark joy!” principle comes into play—and it has almost replaced my larger “real” wallet since it has a more accessible pouch and card slots than my beat-up one.

+ A note about a water bottle… 

OXO Good Grips Water Bottle (BPA-Free Plastic) 

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$14.99, Amazon (clear version currently sold out)

I’ve gotten a lot of positive comments about this water bottle this year—I’m guessing because of its sleek, minimalist design. I came across this one by chance (an orange version was abandoned on a rack of clothes at TJ Maxx; I went online and found the clear one.)

It ticks all the boxes for me: Light, good-looking, has a big middle opening (marketed as ideal for adding ice, but for me it means easy to clean), in addition to a small top opening for drinking.

But I think some of those “good” features also contribute to its weaknesses. The light, plastic body means it’s not the most sturdy (as suggested by a number of Amazon reviews). And the helpful middle opening does create another possible source of leakage.

It’s perfectly good in my case, because it basically only travels from one desk to another, with quick in-between stays in a snug spot in my tote, seen in the Insta post above. But for more “active” uses, I’d be weary of it breaking/leaking.

Looking back, all these items combined total ~ $241, which is still $50 less than this wrap coat I almost got on an impromptu trip to Aritzia. There is definitely value to an statement-making wardrobe investment, but it’s inspiring for me to think about what kind of payoff the same kind of money can bring when spent in another way.

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