38 of the best panic purchases that helped students survive the pandemic

Panic purchases give you the weird the wonderful and the totally pointless

Retail therapy is a great way to improve a rubbish day and, as it turns out, a rubbish year. We asked students about their best panic purchase s- what they bought to survive the pandemic and occupy themselves throughout lockdowns one, two and three. And trust, we weren’t disappointed.

People have bought some downright crazy things, from custom Lego stickers to sex toys, and outrageously expensive pot plants and pets to antique maps. Consider this an official compendium of the creative and questionable ways students have spent their money (aside from on our cripplingly expensive education) this year.

Some purchases, practical and otherwise, have stood the test of time and are still helping people get through the days others were one-week-wonders and have since been relegated to a far off memory of April 2020.

Here are 38 of our favourite buys:

 1. Lego stickers and figures

One student, indulged in a generous dose of nostalgia, buying themselves Formula 1 Lego stickers and figures to build in isolation. They told us: “I did this for my 10-year-old self who dreamed of having the money to order stickers, not to mention associated mini-figures for a pit crew”.

2. Someone went and bought a trombone

Several others made purchases with a musical theme, buying keyboards and ukuleles. One student told us they tried to teach themselves the trombone having never played a brass instrument before. They told The Tab: “Let’s just say it really didn’t go well.”

3. Pearls, from before the war?

Trust, we’re confused too! But, one person told us that his lockdown purchase was: “Some pre-war pearls…cuz I totally needed them”.

Who could argue when faced with such a compelling argument in their favour?

4. Chickens, like real live ones, that cluck and everything

“Chickens – chickens are totally essential!” – if you didn’t know, now you do.

Look at all those chickens

5.  One single potato

One student bought simply “a potato”. Classic, can’t beat it, well done this man.

6. Ketamine

A surprisingly popular answer. A fair few students have told us of their illicit buys that have helped them through lockdown, and apparently: “K-holing passes the lockdown time in a jiffy”. Okay then?

7. A big enter button

One student bought a giant enter button. Purpose? Unknown. Essentialness? 100 per cent.

8. A spiralizer

A spiralizer is a contraption for making noodles out of vegetables – you would be forgiven for not knowing what this particular gadget is, but now you can add it to the list of things you learnt in lockdown!

9. Sexy stationery: An absolute essential to get those first-class degrees

One student told us they indulged themselves in “the fanciest watercolour pens”. Others have been getting into bullet journalling whilst one student told us: “I have invested in so much blue stationary. It’s just my aesthetic now. I head that the brain is more susceptible to blue ink so you remember better. So in true Halsey fashion, everything is blue”

10. Disney+ for hours and hours of feel-good streaming time

Several students reported investing in Disney+ over the trying last few months and honestly, if you haven’t already, do. We should offer a collective thank you to Lin-Manuel Miranda for single-handedly preserving the sanity of an entire theatre-obsessed-demographic and providing the effortless emotional regulation that comes with a healthy eighth binge of Hamilton.

Though it may cost you the sympathy of family and flatmates, acing all of Guns and Ships might help you forget lockdown for all of two minutes and seven seconds. Incidentally, the second half of The Story of Tonight also makes for some ironic lockdown listening when you’re legally advised to stay inside, stay away from friends and your freedom feels vaguely impinged upon.

11. Mugs, but like super bougie ones

Another, after significant enquiry, managed to get their hand on a pair of the fanciest mugs £100 can buy: “I enjoy staring at their photos more than using them…”.

These mugs have quite the back-story too, since the purchaser first saw them on a friend’s Instagram and thereafter took up a chain of investigations before finally finding a provider who also informed her of the mugs special history, they “were inspired by a rather beautiful love story from the time of the crusades!”

 12. S.A.D lamp

Students told us they have been investing in S.A.D. lamps – which sounds like a great way to lift the gloom in the winter months. January blues be gone forever.

13. Antique maps

So, picture this. You’re staring at your wall in your uni room and its blank white chip paint is just depressing. So what is the one logical solution to fixing this problem? Buy an antique map of antebellum South Carolina. Iconic.

14. Animal hats

A hat that’s shaped like a shark’s mouth so it looks like your head is being eaten, clearly essential. On the theme of hats, another bought a ‘novelty cow hat’ for a themed Zoom call, this sounds incredible. Maybe every Zoom call should require an animal hat?

15. Yarn, wool and every material you can think of to knit with

One student bought yarn, telling us “I took up knitting”. It’s lovely to know that amongst all that has been lost over the last year, there have also been some significant gains. Particularly people gaining knitwear to their wardrobes, scarfs, jumpers, hats and gloves are among some of the creative attempts people have taken up.

16. Nintendo Switch

At this stage, it feels like half the student population went and bought a Switch. In the first lockdown, Instagram stories were flooded with requests for Animal Crossing codes, and people having their Mario parties. And now, three lockdowns later, the hype’s died down. No one cares about their Switch and half the people who invested slightly regret making the purchase in the first place.

17.  Shower speakers so you can sing along to Hamilton to your heart’s content

Firstly, why does everyone always listen to Hamilton in the shower? Is it so we can all practice the Guns and Ships rap? Secondly, shower speakers/waterproof speakers proved to be a popular lockdown purchase so that people could get groovy and clean all at the same time.

18. Lots and lots of sex toys

Whilst Hamilton is lockdown’s ultimate pleasure bringer we understand that for some people perhaps that wasn’t enough. So, to obey those lockdown rules sex toys were in high demand.

19. Puzzles, they can be sexy too 🙁

Whilst perhaps not as a spicy as a sex toy there is a nothing as exciting as returning to the nostalgia of childhood. People have been buying and completing puzzles galore because truly completing a puzzle is one of the best feelings in the world.

20. Books

Others have bought books, many books, so many books. “I think I may have sold a solid portion of my soul to Waterstones over these past 10 months”.

21. A portable treadmill, yes these really do exist

A fold-up treadmill, apparently its “totally essential”. It was “£50 second hand from eBay and works like a dream…”

22. Weights so you can get those gains at home

Whilst a portable treadmill was a little too ambitious for some people. Many were very keen to keep up their gym routines in lockdown. So weights have become the realistic and space-friendly approach to exercising indoors. What we’ve learnt: gains must be protected at all costs.

23. Just so many crisps

We’ve all been scarred by the supermarket shortages and having to pay in excess of £5 for a single loo roll. However, the stockpilers fought back and one student told us she bought “a 32 pack of Walkers salt and vinegar crisps”. Well at least someone isn’t going hungry this lockdown.

24. More niche food supplies like Australian candy

One MSc student bulk bought 200 TimTams (an Australian candy bar for those who don’t know). “I’ve never been to Australia, but Timtams changed my biscuit-related life! Never before have I tasted such exquisite yumminess” – strong words, but it’s good to know people are finding comfort in the little things.

A TimTam for anyone who is curious

25. Standing desk to save your bum going numb

It happens to the best of us. You have an essay due in 12 hours and you know that you will not leave your desk until it is written. So by the end, your lower back, bum and upper legs are so sore and numb from being hunched over writing. So, the standing desk is perhaps the elite solution to this study problem. How smart.

26. A mobility trainer so you can work and gain all at the same time

Comparatively, another student bought this mini set of peddles/a mobility trainer to use at your desk or while watching TV: “I used it for like four hours the day I bought it last month, and maybe once since”. Whilst great in idea perhaps not so great in practice.

27. Coffee machines to fill the coffee shaped holes in our hearts

Several have bought coffee machines to fill the gaping hole in the soul that emerges once any student is deprived of Pret for a prolonged period of time. How can you become a TikTok barista with your cloud coffees without a Nespresso machine? Obviously, the most economic purchase on the list, think of how quickly you’ll recover the cost of the initial coffee machine.

28. An actual puppy

We are all infinitely jealous of you. Your parents actually agreed to get a lockdown puppy where everyone else’s said no. We all just wanted a floof to make those endless indoor hours more bearable.

Literally, no one should be this happy in lockdown

29. Yoga kits so you can find your zen

Yoga mats and blocks for home practice have been popular purchases. Obviously everyone wants to find their zen through Yoga with Adriene. 

30. A weighted hula-hoop so you can find your fun

Whilst, not zen bringing what is more fun than pretending you’re back at primary school and you’re hula hooping your way through lockdown.

31. Plants, because a natural lockdown instinct is to turn your bedroom into a jungle

Though Columbia Road Flower Market was only open for a tiny proportion of this university year, plants have still made their impact on our bank accounts. One student spent £120 on a single plant and others have come to see pot plants as substitutes for human interactions: “My plant babies are called Daphne, Orlando and Oscar after my favourite writers/novels and honestly they are the best purchases I’ve made, maybe ever”.

This one’s called Daphne, like Du Maurier, not Bridgerton

32. Flowers for those people who do not trust themselves to commit to a full-blown plant

Similarly, others have been buying themselves flowers like there is no tomorrow. Gotta have that pop of colour just brighten your day. Unlike the plant lovers, flowers are often popular amongst the irresponsible of us who do not think they have the capability to keep a plant alive.

33. Keeping on the herbal theme: People stockpiled weed like there was no tomorrow

This one really speaks for itself.

34. And for those looking for a less stoned relaxation method: Tea

“Tea. Lots of tea”. When there’s nothing else to spend your money on, why not become a tea connoisseur? Understanding the different flavours of white and black tea, and being among the elite who can explain the difference between Earl and Lady Grey tea.

35. A whiteboard planner

One student bought a whiteboard planner “to keep some type of schedule” – kudos to this man. It’s impressive to know that some dedicated students have made purchases with the intention of actually improving productivity! Imagine.

36. A blackout blind because apparently, the winter days here aren’t dark enough

But, in all seriousness, for lots of people regulating sleep patterns has been a monumental challenge. So, we can understand how getting a blackout blind could help to fix that.

37. Booze, lots and lots of booze

Getting through lockdown unsurprisingly has demanded a great deal of alcohol. Some people have invested in wine memberships, others have discovered a passion for sampling artisan beers and some people just need that bottle of Smirnoff every Friday night to feel some sense of normality.

Imagine being able to actually go to the pub

38. We saved the best till last: Someone actually went and bought a full-size bouncy castle

Yes, one couple got a full-blown bouncy castle for their house because bad vibes aren’t welcome in this establishment. Come on, how can you be sad if you’re just bouncing out the haters?

Did you buy anything weird and wacky in lockdown? Let us know on Insta.