As we enter the last quarter of 2022, I decided to review my most-used items and compile a list of the 22 best purchases I made these past few years as a college student and young adult.
Like many other young adults, I spend money on many different – sometimes worth it, sometimes not – items. By reviewing my purchases, I can identify which ones were smart and which were not, which helps me build better spending habits.
Though this post is mostly to show you what my favorites were in the past few years, I also highly encourage building good spending habits – if you haven’t started looking into it, the best time to start is now. Anyways, with responsible spending in mind, let’s look at my 22 favorites bought and loved.
MacBook Pro 13 Inch 2020
I’ve been using a laptop for school consistently since high school, and I currently have a MacBook Pro 13in 2020 for college. I use it with my display monitor when at home and carry it on the go in my backpack for class, travel, etc.
As a frequent user of Apple products, I find the MacBook more intuitive and user-friendly. In addition, it is highly compatible with other products like my phone, keyboard, AirPods, etc.
However, though I was very drawn to the Touch Bar when I first bought this computer, I’ve found that it’s not as useful as I imagined. If you’re a student who doesn’t require lots of computer processing power, consider the MacBook Air M2 2022– it’s cheaper, lighter, powerful, and has a Touch ID button and no Touch Bar.
iPad Air 4th Gen
While a laptop is quite sufficient for most of my academic needs in college, I decided to invest in an iPad mainly as a note-taking device. My iPad replaced the heavy notebooks and papers I had to carry, and made my notes more organized and accessible.
There exists the iPad, iPad Mini, iPad Air, and iPad Pro. As a student, I was choosing between the iPad Air and Pro, since I wanted something large and powerful enough for lots of note-taking and reading.
The iPad Air is a fine choice for those students who are regularly using the iPad for educational purposes (like taking notes and downloading textbooks) but not professional tasks (like graphic design and video editing). For something more powerful, look into the iPad Pro.
Notability is the note-taking app I use on my iPad Air, and it is free to download with the option to subscribe for $11.99 per year. I bought the app before it made the pricing shift, paying a one-time fee to use all its features.
I love Notability and use it to take “handwritten” notes for the majority of my classes. There are basic features like different colored pens and highlighters, but there are also advanced features like voice-recording, freeform image copy-pasting, and stickers.
Though I really enjoy Notability, the new pricing structure makes its competitor – Goodnotes – a very attractive option as well. Goodnotes has very similar features to Notability (minus the voice recording tool) and is available for a one-time purchase instead of a subscription.
Apple Watch SE
I purchased the Apple Watch mainly to help me track my health. It can easily track my workouts (including my heartbeat, which my phone could not detect) and my downtime (such as when I’ve been sitting for too long).
In addition, it’s a handy tool for when my phone is not nearby or when I don’t want to constantly reach for my phone to see the latest notification. The Apple Watch is connected to your iPhone, so notifications are sent to your watch first, which notify you with a small vibration.
The Apple Watch SE is more affordable than the Series 7, 8, and Ultra, but it has everything that I– as a college student– need in a smartwatch.
AutoSleep is a sleep-tracking app that’s great if you have an Apple Watch. It tracks your bedtime, wake time, sleep cycles, breathing, heartbeat, and overall sleep quality. It also offers a suggested bedtime every day based on the statistics.
If you’d like a premium tool to track your sleep and possibly improve your sleep habits, AutoSleep is a very popular and dependable tool. Again, its usage is only maximized if you currently own an Apple Watch (however, don’t buy an Apple Watch just so you can use this app).
After experimenting with bullet journals, to-do list apps, and digital planners, I’ve reverted to a notebook weekly planner. It is much easier for me to stay accountable with a physical planner because it’s easy to use, simple and minimal, and hard to change once my to-do list is written down.
I don’t time-block in my planner (designate chunks of the day to a certain task), because my daily schedule may fluctuate. However, I do try to follow a certain structure by listing out all my to-do’s of the day.
A simple planner like this one on Amazon gets the job done. You can also find planners in stores like TJ Maxx, Typo, Daiso, and Miniso… you don’t need an expensive planner to get yourself organized!
USB-C Adapter Hub
Since Apple changed its external ports to USB-C (a non-standard port), users have had to use adapters to use outside hardware.
Because I use an external display monitor at home, I needed an adapter hub (not just a USB-C to USB-A adapter) to connect the HDMI cable. I bought something like this, and it’s been extremely useful for many things, such as connecting my monitor and wireless mouse, and reading SD cards.
If you are going to invest in a MacBook Pro, consider getting an adapter (a small one like this) or an adapter hub – it’s going to come in useful!
Small Memo Pad
I have a small memo pad on my desk that I use to jot down random thoughts and quick notes. It’s very useful for students! Here are some things I write down on the notepad:
- Calculations for math problems
- Brainstorming for writing
- Large to-do’s for the week or month
- Quick research notes
- Important dates (I’ll often stick this somewhere visible)
Pilot G2 0.5 Black Pen
The Pilot G2 pens are my favorite brand and style of black pens, and I especially love the 0.5 pens– it’s the perfect width for daily writing.
Though Muji pens come in at a close second on my list of favorite stationery, the Pilot G2s are more accessible and affordable; plus, they last a bit longer. You can get a 2-pack for less than $3 here.
Fjällräven Räven 20
Before college, I switched from my JanSport backpack to the Räven 20 from Fjällräven. It’s very well-made and sturdy, equipped with many pockets and compartments.
The Räven 20 looks relatively thin, but it fits my 13-in MacBook Pro with no problem, along with my iPad, 24oz water bottle, pencil case, wallet, and much more. The shoulder straps are padded, as is the internal computer pocket.
I’ve been using this backpack for a while, and I still love it. If you need a new backpack that’s sturdy, minimal and pretty, and not too bulky, consider the Räven 20.
Sturdy Tote Bag
Often, I will carry a tote bag to class instead of a backpack. Though my load is already pretty light (usually just a laptop, iPad, water, and pens), it gets even lighter with certain classes. If I know that I won’t need my laptop or my pencil case for a class, I won’t bring it; I’ll just put my iPad in a tote bag and get going.
Tote bags are also a staple for daily outings to the city, the mall, the park, etc. Check out this simple bag from Amazon.
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CeraVe Morning Moisturizer
This moisturizer has been part of my morning routine for many months now. It’s a light cream with an SPF of 30, which means I don’t have to add the extra step of putting on sunscreen in the morning.
Sunscreen is extremely important for your skin, as it protects it from all the invisible, harmful sun rays and prevents your skin from aging too quickly. But if you’re like me, a busy student who likes to maximize her sleep and therefore minimize the morning routine, every extra step (like putting on sunscreen) seems a little bothersome.
A moisturizing sunscreen (or a sunscreen-included moisturizer, whichever you like), solves this problem. Every morning after washing my face, I put on this moisturizer, do a little bit of makeup, and I’m good to go. Saves time and my skin!
Nivea Shea Nourish Body Lotion
I’m not picky with body lotion, but this one met all my needs with a very affordable price tag (a big plus for a college student like me!). It smells nice, spreads easily, feels light, and comes in a big bottle for less than $6. I apply it after every shower, and sometimes throughout the day as well.
Farmacy Cleansing Balm
Instead of using makeup remover wipes or cotton balls with micellar water, I’ve started using cleansing balms, which feel much more gentle on the skin. The Farmacy Green Clean Cleansing Balm is a little more on the pricey side, but it is very effective in gently removing all makeup, even waterproof eyeliner. One 100mL container lasts me about 3 months.
Lucas’ Papaw Ointment
I use this ointment as a lip mask at night; just cover your lips generously with the balm, then scrub it off in the morning (I usually use my toothbrush to brush over my lips). My lips have not been chapped since I started using this ointment a few years ago!
Rare Beauty Liquid Blush
Rare Beauty is Selena Gomez’s makeup brand, and its liquid blush recently went viral on social media. I bought one in the shade Bliss, and I can say that it is worth the hype– it’s soft, blendable, and natural. Though the blush is a little expensive, one small bottle will last a long time.
Glossier Stretch Concealer
Glossier has been a popular brand among teenagers and young adults for several years, and for good reason! All of their products are very lightweight and natural, and it’s hard to go wrong with their makeup even as a beginner.
Essence Banana Powder
I’ve been repeatedly purchasing Essence’s Banana Powder for at least 15 months. It’s cheap (only $4.99), and it works wonders in setting makeup and hiding your pores. You can buy it easily at Ulta, online or in person.
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Hanging Shoe Organizer
Since moving into a dorm, a hanging shoe organizer has been very useful. Instead of using a shoe shelf (which takes up precious space in a college dorm), I have this hanging shoe organizer in my closet; it holds all my shoes and more, such as my umbrella and my hats.
At college, I use my adjustable lamp two ways. It’s attached to the edge of my desk, which is next to my bed. While working at my desk, I’ll adjust my lamp so that it’s bright and shines on top of my work; before bed, I’ll move it to shine near my pillow and dim the light.
Columbia Men’s RFID Wallet
I’ve been using this wallet for several months, and it’s perfect for a student like me. It has an appropriate number of card pockets for my ID, driver’s license, credit cards, Metro card, etc, and holds cash in the main pocket. Since I don’t generally carry a lot of cash, the wallet is the perfect thickness for daily use.
New Balance Casual Comfort Cross Trainer
I don’t own many pairs of shoes, and this pair of sneakers is my most-worn. They are white, which means they’re very easy to match with outfits, and they are very comfortable. At the same time, they look chic and modern. I wear them everywhere, and as a frequent walker on my college campus, I can say that these shoes are worth it.
And that’s it for now! I love to share my favorites on my blog. Feel free to leave a comment with what your favorite purchase of 2022 was below!
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