A global pandemic is a time when many tighten their belts. Online spending sprees and extravagant treats may still be on pause for a lot of us, but that's not to say we don't still need a few bits and bobs.
With many of us still staying at home as much as possible, there might be a new gadget or homeware essential that's become a necessity during this new normal. Or perhaps it's an office staple that has made working from home just that little bit easier.
Below, members of The National share the most useful purchases they've made in recent months that have vastly improved life at home.
1. Philips Air Fryer
If you, like me, love chips (or French fries, as some people say), then this nifty kitchen device is bound to become your new best friend. As restaurants were closed, and we cut back on our takeaway spend, we made copious amounts of comforting potato-based snacks to see us through the pandemic. These turn out perfectly crunchy on the outside, and soft and fluffy within, and yet you don't have to use a drop of oil, as the gadget uses hot air to heat things up (and much more quickly and effectively than an oven). And it can fry, bake, roast and grill just as well.
Katy Gillett, Weekend editor
2. A wireless keyboard
I think it was week one or two when I bought a wireless keyboard, inspired by my boss's similar purchase. Not only does it make for a more ergonomic workplace, with my laptop up high and my keyboard at a comfortable lower height, it has meant I am discouraged from working on my sofa. It is also good for creating a clear workspace, which I can walk away from at the end of a work day.
Farah Andrews, assistant features editor
3. A robotic vacuum cleaner
My best purchase during self-isolation has undoubtedly been a robotic vacuum cleaner. Like a dust-bunny-eating UFO, this little machine trundles around my house, cleaning as it goes, while I, lazy to the last, do something (anything) else. In fact, watching it collide with the furniture and the occasional cat is so endearing, I find myself following it around, sort of defeating the purpose.
Sarah Maisey, deputy Luxury editor
4. Apple Airpods
I know, I’m quite late in discovering the power of Apple Airpods. To be fair, I’ve always been more than satisfied with the simple headphones that came along with my iPhone when I purchased it years ago. However, like many, I’ve taken to daily walks and runs during this period in order to get some exercise and some fresh air. A key realisation? That face masks and ordinary wired earphones simply do not gel well together. It’s a pandemic that’s gotten me to upgrade my tech, and I honestly haven’t looked back since.
Janice Rodrigues, lifestyle writer
5. Nintendo Switch
The best purchase I've made has been a Nintendo Switch. If I had known prior to the pandemic that we would all be spending so much time at home, I would have purchased it back then. However, I chose to wait, so finding one (at a decent price) was initially a bit tricky. But when I did finally get my hands on one, I found that it was what I needed to calm my mind. It helped with a lot of stress I was feeling and it definitely was a good investment in terms of stopping boredom. I also purchased Animal Crossing, but often found myself enjoying games that reminded me of my childhood too, like Super Mario Bros and Mario Kart.
Evelyn Lau, assistant features editor
6. The QI wireless-charging smart coffee table
Like many people, I have been a lot more conservative with my spending since the pandemic began, but my one slightly indulgent purchase was a QI wireless-charging smart coffee table, which now takes pride of place in my living room. The sleek, three-legged table doubles up as a bluetooth speaker and charging station – handy for keeping my laptop running while I'm working from home. The sound quality is excellent, and brings me much joy when I'm pottering around the house in the evenings. Since I'm spending so much time at home at the moment, a purchase that enhanced the look of my interior, while also serving a genuinely practical purpose, seemed like a worthy investment.
Selina Denman, head of magazines and travel
7. A selection of vases
Yes, these may already be a staple in many people's homes but for me, when setting up home in Dubai four years ago, never knowing how long I'd stay, they seemed like a superfluous purchase I'd only have to bin or sell in the near future. However, after being ensconced in a sparsely decorated apartment since March, now seemed like the perfect time to breathe a bit of personality into my living space. This selection, via Arket, Louise Roe Copenhagen and H&M, has also encouraged me to regularly keep a fresh supply of blooms around the house, a small and simple gesture that has proved priceless when it comes to brightening up my home-working space.
Emma Day, deputy features editor
8. A cast-iron skillet
I am currently obsessed with cast iron cookware, since I am spending a lot of my free time in the kitchen. It is a healthier alternative to non-stick cookware and brings out great flavour, but it requires maintenance and there is a learning curve to using it correctly. YouTube has a wealth of information, and if you're new to this, or want some tips and tricks, I highly recommend Cowboy Kent Rollins's channel – a wise, old and funny man who has really helped made this transition easy. A skillet is a multi-tasker – I use it not only to make a variety of stir-fries and Indian style veggies, but also to grill chicken and make stove-top pizza.
Aarti Jhurani, sub-editor
9. A reclining chair
Staying at home has involved a lot of sitting down for me: sitting down at my computer for work, sitting down and Zooming with my parents, sitting down and watching a movie. So, my husband and I decided to make a little investment in a pair of reclining chairs and it's hands down the best purchase I've made over the past six months. They are so comfy and you really feel like you're unwinding when you sit in one. So, if you've been thinking about buying one and have been hesitant, I tell you now: do it!
Samia Badih, arts editor
10. A cordless vacuum cleaner
The best purchase I made is a cordless vacuum cleaner. It’s efficient, takes up less space and has a number of brush heads for different purposes. Spending more time at home means I’ve had to devote more time to housework. This vacuum has made cleaning up easier and less of a chore for me.
Alexandra Chaves, visual arts writer
11. The Sony WH1000MX3 headphones
It can be difficult to concentrate on the task at hand while working from home. Noise-cancelling headphones have made that hurdle a lot easier to overcome. They help you get in the zone and eliminate unwanted sounds. The Sony WH1000MX3 are among the best in the market. And with the next iteration due to come out soon, you can currently get a pair for a steal.
Razmig Bedirian, culture writer