Welcome to my first favorites post of 2021! This post, as you may have noticed, is different from my usual favorites post, in that it’s taking the form of a “year-in-review.” In this edition of my monthly favorites, I’ll be looking back on 2020 and some of the best purchases I made this year.
I’m defining “best” in different ways based on the items in question. Sometimes, the “best” purchase is the one I use the most. Other times, it’s one that’s had a significant impact on my life, in one way or another. Either way, I’m sharing products that I found helpful and that brought me joy in 2020.
Cost was not a factor in selecting these products, so you’ll see a wide range of price tags in this post. The value of each of these items, however, is — for me, at least — priceless! But, you should know that none of the items in this post were gifted or sponsored items, so they are all things that I personally selected and used over the past year.
So, without further ado, let’s review the best purchases I made in 2020.
By far the most life-changing purchase I made in 2021 was signing up for Cove. Cove is a telehealth service that caters to migraine sufferers. It makes it easy to get a prescription for migraine medication and helps you save money on doctors’ fees. Cove also saves you a trip to the pharmacy each month by sending your medications straight to your door.
Before Cove, my migraines were debilitating. I’m on progesterone for endometriosis, which significantly increased the frequency of my migraines; I went from once monthly migraines to up to twice weekly migraines. After losing way too many hours of productivity to laying in a dark room with a pillow over my head, I decided to pursue medication for my migraines.
After filling out a questionnaire and taking video of a quick neurological exam, my Cove doctor prescribed me Maxalt (rizatriptan) — which, for me, has worked miracles. Now, I can take my medication within 30 minutes of noticing migraine symptoms, and my migraine will completely disappear within an hour. It’s game-changing because I no longer have to take time off work when I get a migraine… which, as a sole proprietor and freelancer, means losing income.
I spend about $40 a month on Cove, but the cost of your subscription depends on your prescription. The doctor’s fee itself is only $4 a month. The rest of what you pay goes toward getting your migraine medication shipped to your door. In my opinion, it’s absolutely worth it.
I arrived to the Nintendo Switch system much later than the crowd, but I am so glad I finally splurged this Black Friday. My last gaming system was the Nintendo DS (not the DS Lite — the original DS), so the Switch Lite is definitely a step up!
Over the summer, I became addicted to (and spent way too much real-world money on) playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on my cell phone. At the time, I thought I was saving money by playing Pocket Camp, but because Animal Crossing: New Horizons and the Switch are one-time purchases, I genuinely believe I spent less money in the long run than I would have by continuing to buy leaf tickets on Pocket Camp.
Now that I’ve played Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I know that Pocket Camp can’t possibly hold a candle to New Horizons. I never played New Leaf, but I can attest that New Horizons is one of the most sophisticated video games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. I love that you can customize your entire island and had so much fun searching for inspiration online!
Recently, I also splurged for a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. At just $4 a month, this allows me to travel to other players’ islands to shop, trade, and explore. I was reluctant to spend the extra money at first (and originally thought it would be much pricier than it is), but it has truly enhanced my gameplay experience. Now, I lurk in several Reddit threads related to Animal Crossing so I can trade, sell turnips, and make new friends while I play New Horizons.
People joke that New Horizons has helped them survive quarantine, but I literally don’t know if I could have made it through the holiday season without my Switch. The animals in that game feel like my babies at this point, and I definitely found joy in playing Animal Crossing when I couldn’t see my family in-person over the holidays.
Technically, the Monoprice Graphic Drawing Tablet is not a purchase I made, because it was a gift I received from my partner for my birthday. However, I’m still counting it because it completely changed my world! Thanks to the Monoprice Graphic Drawing Tablet, I was able to open my own Etsy store at the end of 2020, where I sell hand-drawn stickers made using my tablet and Adobe Photoshop.
The iPad Pro is a great option for a sophisticated drawing experience using Procreate, but if we’re being honest, it simply wasn’t in my budget this year. So, since I don’t have an iPad (and couldn’t afford to buy one), I started looking into other ways to digitize my artwork. After some trial and error, I eventually decided on a drawing tablet, which my partner lovingly purchased for my birthday.
The Monoprice Graphic Drawing Tablet is affordable, clocking in at around $50. It’s highly compatible with Adobe Creative — I personally am more comfortable in Photoshop than Illustrator, so that’s what I use — for creating digital artwork. Using tutorials I found online, I taught myself to create digital artwork, both with and without layers. Now, I feel almost as comfortable sketching on the Monoprice Graphic Drawing Tablet as I do with a pencil and paper.
My one complaint about this drawing tablet is that the pen that comes with it is not as sensitive as I would like it to be. The pen functions both as the mouse and the tool when using Photoshop, so you sometimes need to press hard in order to use the drawing tool. But, it’s worth noting that once you get it going, the pen has great sensitivity when it comes to creating lighter or darker lines while sketching. For $50, I’m satisfied with my drawing experience, and won’t be switching to an iPad anytime soon!
2020 was the year I finally committed to keeping a bullet journal for more than a few weeks. One of the steps I took to commit to my bujo habit was splurging on a Leuchtturm 1917. I thought by having a nice bullet journal (not to mention, one with page numbers and a table of contents built in), I would save myself time and motivate myself to keep up with the habit. Turns out, I was completely right!
The Leuchtturm 1917 is a cult-favorite in the bullet journal community, and for good reason. The pages are exactly what you would hope: neither too thick nor too thin, slightly off-white, and absorb pen like a dream (without bleeding onto the next page). The dot grid layout is my personal favorite, since it makes for straight lines and neat handwriting while bullet journaling.
Among other features, the Leuchtturm 1917 comes with a table of contents and page numbers, making it perfect for bullet journalers. Previously, I found it tedious to create my own index and label each page with a number by hand. Finally getting a Leuchtturm 1917 saved me that time and energy. You may run out of room in your table of contents at some point, but at least you will never need to label your page numbers by hand!
Best of all, the Leuchtturm 1917 is one of those journals that just feels luxurious. Between the consistency of the pages and the smooth faux-leather cover — not to mention, the ribbon bookmarks — the Leuchtturm gives me serious dark academia vibes, and I loved that for me in 2020.
Last but not least, I finally purchased the cult-favorite Sakura Koi watercolors — and they did not disappoint. The travel-size palette I purchased comes with a water-dispensing brush, miniature sponge, and twelve highly-pigmented shades of watercolor.
One of the things I found most amazing about these watercolors, compared to the cheaper ones I used to use, is how little paint you need to use to get the desired effect. Because they are so highly pigmented, you can use more water and less paint, conserving more of the watercolor palette for the future.
I bought the twelve pack for budgetary reasons, but I do sort of wish that I had bought the bigger palette with more color options. The twelve pack is best if you are going to be doing a lot of painting of natural objects, like wildlife or landscape scenes. It comes with mostly shades of red, orange, green, and brown — which isn’t the most helpful for painting still life.
But, I will say that the Sakura Koi watercolors were definitely worth the lofty price tag. Between the high pigmentation and the fact that they’re going to last me a lifetime, I am excited to continue to using these watercolor paints in 2021.