A person posing for the camera

7 Cheap Gadgets That Make Life Easy—Fun, Too

I am nothing if not a gadget lover. Ingenious items that make my life easier are great, but when I find something that’s cool and also has the potential to save money? Well, that’s cause for celebration. Here are my latest fun finds.

A person posing for the camera


I don’t know where this stuff has been hiding (maybe I’m the one who’s been missing?), but my recent discovery has me giddy with joy. It’s called Sugru, or perhaps a better name would be Miracle in a Package. Think: silly putty without the silly part.

Sugru and Mouldable Glue

Sugru is a mouldable glue; self-setting rubber, also known as Formerol, for fixing, modifying, and making stuff. You apply it, shape it and watch it transform into a durable, waterproof rubber with amazing properties. It comes in a bevy of colors, which makes it a crafter’s dream come true. I have so many DIY projects crying out for Sugru, I don’t know where to start. Hint: Watch the video!

Wake-Up Light

Call it a lamp or call it an alarm clock, either way, you’ll be right on. This gadget, Philips Wak-Up Light Alarm Clock wakes you up by simulating sunrise—not with a blasting, loud, annoying noise.

You set the time that you want to wake up then it gradually increases light for 30 minutes, allowing you to wake up naturally. And when you turn it off, the lamp stays on so you can get out of bed without having to turn on another light.

This thing is quite amazing and I love it. So does my son. He says it’s the best gift ever. WakeUp Light has 10 different settings so you can choose the intensity. Useful as a light therapy lamp.

Light and Alarm clock


Velcro Thin Ties

It would take a long time for me to count how many of these babies hold my life together. They manage my cord clutter, which is extensive just trust me on that. They bundle and organize small stuff in my kitchen junk I mean utility drawer so I can quickly find what I need.

Velcro Thin Ties are simple one-piece design wraps and just the right size for almost everything.

Velcro and Rope

Aqua Notes

I get my best ideas and solutions in the place I’m least likely to be able to remember them—the shower. Seriously! Maybe it’s because for a few minutes my brain can relax. Whatever it is, those great ideas and solutions used to go right down the drain, lost forever. But not anymore! Now I have Aqua Notes—a waterproof note pad and pen right there in the shower. Hooray for such a clever gadget.

A person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera

Dishwasher magnet

So simple, simply brilliant, that is. Here’s the routine at my house: Dirty cup or plate. Person with said items in hand can’t tell if the contents of the dishwasher are clean or dirty, so why bother looking. He, I mean said person, opts to place dirty items in the sink, instead. Over and over again.

This handy gadget solves the problem. No nagging, reminding, or dirty looks (who, me?). It’s so easy to flip the switch on the Nano Shield Dishwasher Magnet Clean Dirty Signto keep the current state of dishwasher contents in full but unobtrusive view.

There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Read more here.

Design and Kitchen

Lock Laces

Oh my, this is so perfect for shoes with laces and people of all ages who are tired of lacing up and tying those shoes. You have to see this because it’s more of a “system” than what you might be thinking.

You can toss the laces that come with the sneakers and use Lock Laces instead. They come in a wide arrange of colors and turn any lace-up shoes into quasi slip-ons. They can be pulled tight or left loose. Simply fabulous!


A tattoo on his arm

Big Ice Cubes

I discovered big ice cubes while living in California, when our refrigerator’s  ice maker was hooked up to our tap water (it’s a long story but it had to be routed around the reverse osmosis system). While I’m sure it was safe, the tap water tasted awful.

That’s when I found these awesome ice trays that make big, beautiful ice cubes. I simply filled them with filtered water. They stack perfectly and take very little space in the freezer. Love the big cubes because they melt so slowly.

A close up of a box


More from Mary's Everyday Cheapskate

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Kitchen thumbs up
before and after picture of getting clothes organized
US Pennies shiny new
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Tired cleaning lady on white with spray bottle that won't spray!

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21 replies
  1. Cath says:

    I’ve used Sugru for a number of fixit jobs. For some things, it’s great. I especially like it for reinforcing cords that are fraying at the plug. It won’t fix everything, so experiment, or use your judgement if a soft, flexible fix will work. One thing I must say is that their customer service is great if you have a problem. That really means a lot to me.

  2. Barbara Coleman-Fisher says:

    The Dirty Clean magnet? I got one from the grocery store for .99 as opposed to the one she recommended for $6.49.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Good for you Barbara! And many of my readers do not live near a grocery store with such a great household department. It’s nice to have options, isn’t it?

  3. Trekkievet says:

    I LOVE aquanotes! My daughter does house and clothing designs on them, and I can leave “I love you” messages to my kids when I go out of town. (And make shopping and to do lists as well)

  4. Sue in TX says:

    Is it just me, or is your column becoming more and more of an infomercial for Amazon products and a lot of marginally useful one-purpose products? Kind of the opposite of your initial concept of living more simply and thoughtfully buying only that which is necessary. And far beyond providing money-saving tips.
    I am a disciplined shopper, but I can only imagine the temptation to someone who comes to your site, hoping to overcome a compulsion to overspending or learn how to pay off debts, and finding multiple columns per week devoted to online shopping…This condition has led my sister and her husband to bankruptcy not once but twice, and helped destry another sibling’s marriage, so it’s a sore subject in our family.

    • Don says:

      Well said. I agree. Velcro Thin Ties? I don’t know what they cost, but the ones off the bread bag are free. $20+ trash can for your car? (That was in a previous column.) Really? I put an empty fast food cup in the cup holder, and drop my trash in it. The gadgets in today’s column sound great, but everyone can live without them. How will buying any of them save money, and help us to live debt free?

      And the clicking required to read the column is really annoying, apparently because Mary wants to expose us to more advertising, and make more money off us.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Sue in Texas … I link to Amazon for two reasons: 1) Amazon is way that you and everyone else who sees this post from around the world (your fellow readers are in so many countries now, I can no longer kist them) to actually look at a product I’m referring to. You can see it, read a full description, and also read reviews. You can get the model number so you can see if it’s available locally where you live and shop. Or not. 2) The very small commission we do receive when you purchase something helps to keep this site free to everyone. We live in a world where it’s either advertising or membership fees. Websites cost a lot to maintain and keep active.

      I have millions of readers all around the world, many of whom do not have a local Walmart. Amazon happens to connect all of us. You have no obligation at all to click through.

      And remember this: The goal is to live below our means.
      That is different for every one of us. So please do not take it personally when I recommend a source or product that does not fit within you means.

  5. Bonnie W Smith says:

    Re large ice cubes: I just use old yogurt cartons. Of course, they don’t stack nicely and so take up more room but at least they’re free.

    • Bonnie W Smith says:

      I also checked the reviews for the light alarm shown, which is the least expensive version. The most recent reviews were all five star. Added the alarm to my wish list.

  6. Penny says:

    I have the Philips wake up light. The light is wonderful. I use the model which comes with a radio alarm option. The light is great for helping you wake up in winter when the sun rises later.

  7. Kim Domingue says:

    Some great stocking stuffers on this list! I have some shoes that came with the “lacing system” ….it’s fabulous! I love it and the hubs does as well. I didn’t know you could buy the “system” separately. Color me excited to find out that you can!

    Oh, and in reference to podcasts, I hope they don’t take the place of your written content. I know many people enjoy listening to podcasts but there are also many of us who prefer to read the same information instead. I don’t retain nearly the same amount of information by listening as I do by reading. I listen to podcasts for entertainment when I listen to them at all but to learn something I go with the written word and photographs.

    • Cathy says:

      Ditto on the podcasts. If your emails get phased out, podcasts don’t interest me and I won’t take time to watch them, no matter how short. If I can’t view and skim through your informative emails reading parts relevant to me, I’ll be missing a lot of useful information. Having a lot less ads would be nice too. Thanks for all that you share with us!

      • Mary Hunt says:

        I hear you! Not phasing out. In fact this blog is on a growth curve that’s quite amazing. By the way, just so you know … each Podcast Episode includes a written script and Show Notes.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      No, no, no! Not phasing out written content. EVER! Podcast is a different animal 🙂 Ironically, only yesterday I got a message … along the lines of, finally a podcast! I’d never read a daily email, but I’ll be your biggest Podcast fan. All that to say … something for everyone. And many thanks to you for being such a great fan and loyal…reader!


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