Though I recently shared about how I want to be more thoughtful about using what I have already, I always love reading about what other people have found to be their best buys from the past year. As such, I wanted to share my best buys from 2023 and overview why I love each item so much.
If you’re curious, you can read past year’s posts on this topic, too: 2022 (for what it’s worth, I still constantly reach for everything I shared on this list!), 2021, 2020, 2018, 2017, 2016, and, if I had written a similar post in 2015, it’d be about this. I accidentally let this series lag in 2019!
MY OURA RING REVIEW —
Before I dive into my other best buys of the year, I wanted to spend some time overviewing why I love my Oura ring and why it’s hands down the best thing I bought in 2023. (You can use my Oura ring referral link here to get $40 off! I highly recommend doing the size kit, more on that below.)
For some context, I purchased an Apple Watch in summer 2021 as walking had become one of my favorite pastimes in the pandemic and I wanted a better way to track my steps and log my accompanying exercise at Soul Cycle and OrangeTheory. I wore my watch during the day — usually until I had closed all my rings — and then charged it overnight. I really liked my Apple Watch, but can have obsessive tendencies when it comes to meeting health goals. On the days I didn’t close my rings, I would beat myself up and almost viewed it as a moral failing. While I also liked having the ability to get notifications on the watch — it came in handy, for instance, if you were waiting on a text to let you know your table at a restaurant was ready — it started to become a little intrusive, even though I really only had text notifications set up. And, lastly, while I found some Apple Watch bands I loved, overall, the look was a little bit “spy kid.”
So, all that to say, overall, I liked my Apple Watch, but I was open to exploring other wearable tech that met my personal needs more. I also was very interested in getting sleep data — and while you can wear your Apple Watch at night to do this, I personally just couldn’t imagine sleeping in mine on a regular basis. So in late May, after researching and being convinced by a few friends that showed me their Oura app and the resulting data, I decided to order myself one.
The Sizing Kit
When you go to purchase an Oura ring, you have the option to pick a size or get a size kit that comes with plastic rings in every size of Oura’s offerings so you can test out what size might be best for you before ordering. (And there’s only one free return or exchange, so I think this step is crucial to ensuring you get the right size!) Oura recommends you wear your ring on your index finger, but I knew I wanted to wear mine on my middle finger for aesthetic reasons — which is their second choice recommendation. When purchasing rings I plan to wear on my ring finger, I am pretty much always a size 7, but I knew that my middle finger was larger so I wasn’t as confident about sizing, which is another reason why I loved the size kit.
When I received the size kit, once trying a few sizes on, I wore the size 9 sample for 24 hours for a couple of days to really ensure it was the proper fit for my middle finger, given your fingers can shrink and expand throughout the day. There are sensor bumps on the back side of the ring that should be on the palm side of your finger, so you really want your ring to stay in place without being too tight. (They also provided the helpful tip to make a fist while wearing the sizing ring — if you see a gap between the top of your finger and the inside of the ring, try a smaller size!)
After my sizing experiment, I ended up going with the size 9 and it’s the perfect fit for me — I also compared the real Oura ring to the size kit ring, and they are exactly the same dimensions, so you can have full confidence in the sizing kit. Additionally, my ring actually fits on both my index and middle fingers — for data consistency, I wear it on my middle finger 99% of the time, but sometimes I will flip it to my index finger if I am going for something different with my ring stack.
As I mentioned, one of the main reasons I purchased an Oura ring was for the sleep insights, and they do not disappoint! I wear my Oura ring to bed every night — unlike my Apple Watch, it only needs to be charged about once a week and it reaches full charge very quickly, so there’s no need to charge it overnight. I find the ring to be very comfortable, and I no longer notice it at all when I am sleeping. It automatically tracks when you’re in bed and what stage of the sleep cycle you’re in based on your heart rate. Then, every morning, when you open the Oura app (which costs $5.99/month, but is needed to use the ring!), you get a detailed report on how long you slept, how long it took you to fall asleep, how much time you spent in each sleep cycle, your heart rate and heart rate variance, and how often you moved when you were asleep. All of this data feeds into a sleep score, that along with your activity score, and other factors, feeds into your daily readiness score — more on that below.
Having this much data about my sleep has been so helpful in making better lifestyle choices. When I go to bed on the later side, I don’t get as much deep sleep — which happens earlier in the night — so I wake up less refreshed. And, when I have even just a singular glass of wine, it impacts the quality of my sleep, given I usually wake up more in the night, my heart rate stays elevated, and I do not get as much deep or REM sleep.
Below, I’ve included some screenshots of my real sleep score to illustrate this point — on Sunday, January 7 into Monday, January 8, I went to bed completely sober before 11pm, slept for almost eight and a half hours, and woke up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day, and my sleep score reflected that. On the other hand, on Thursday, December 14 into Friday, December 15, I went to bed after midnight, couldn’t fall asleep for nearly half an hour, and then didn’t get great quality sleep after drinking a few glasses of wine at a holiday bar. I woke up the next day feeling tired and sluggish, and my sleep score reflected that.
As it relates to tracking your activity, one thing I particularly I like about the Oura ring is that your fitness goal — mine is set up to be active calorie burn, but you can also do daily steps — is variable based on your readiness score. The Oura app gives you a baseline goal and if your readiness is high, it increases your goal above baseline, but if your readiness is low, it decreases your goal below baseline. There’s also a “rest mode” you can turn on when you’re sick, jet lagged, or just overworked that disables your activity goal and score, and adjusts your readiness and sleep insights to prioritize rest and recovery. I like this approach so much better than the Apple Watch, where your goals are the same day over day unless you manually adjust them, as it helps me prioritize resting when I need to — instead of trying to close some arbitrary rings.
That being said, in terms of overall activity tracking, I do think the Apple Watch wins. While the Oura app offers a function where you can turn on the ability to record your workout, it is far limited in terms of the activity it supports when compared to the Apple Watch — at present, it only supports walking, indoor + outdoor running, and indoor + outdoor cycling. You can manually add all sorts of other workouts, but it adjusts your score + calories based on an algorithm for that workout instead of real data. Since I often walk or go to Soul Cycle, the Oura ring fits my needs well — but if you regularly go to a HITT class or solely weight train and enjoy the way Apple Watch reports on this activity, you will probably be disappointed by the Oura rings’s functionality.
When I first purchased my Oura ring, I wore both the ring and my Apple Watch to a Soul Cycle class to see if there was a huge variance in the data. While there were some differences — Apple Watch tracked my average heart rate higher, and Oura gave me a higher active calorie burn — overall, the discretion was reasonable, and the workout still counts whether or not it’s tracked ;).
Your sleep and activity scores both contribute to your overall readiness score, which is reflected on both the homepage of the Oura app when you login, and on a more detailed readiness insights page. On the latter, you can also see your resting heart rate, heart rate variability, body temperature, respiratory rate, activity balance, and recovery index. While I generally look at my overall readiness score on the homepage, I dive less into those insights as compared to my sleep and activity data.
More recently, Oura has rolled out a feature on the homepage that tracks your daily stress based on your heart rate — and it will show you when throughout you’re relaxed, engaged, or stressed. I find this feature to be very accurate — a lot of times when I have had a stressful meeting, my heart rate has spiked, or when I am laying on the couch watching TikTok, my heart rate is relaxed.
Final Thoughts on the Oura Ring
If you couldn’t tell — I am a huge fan of the Oura ring, and would recommend it to anyone. It is definitely my best — and most used — buy of 2023. In addition to the features I outlined above, two others that I think are really cool — 1) you can export any of your data so it’s easier to analyze or share with a doctor, 2) the Oura ring measures your daily body temperature every morning and can be integrated with the Natural Cycles app.
THE REST OF MY 2023 BEST BUYS —
Beis ‘The Work Tote’ in Cognac Croc — since I started going into the office on a regular basis again last year, I really needed a new work tote — especially since we now “hotel” at desks, so there are a lot of things I am carrying back and forth with me every day. I cannot say enough great things about this bag! It’s structured, which I love in a work bag, and all the compartments within are very thought through — there’s a laptop pocket, a zippered pocket, a place for your phone + pens, a key ring leash, and a removable zip pouch for additional corralling + storage. It also has a trolley pass-through with a zipper that makes it easy to slide onto your carry-on bag for work travel. Plus at just over $100 — and often on sale — it’s a great value.
Target Round Gold Tray — whenever I post a picture of my coffee table on Instagram or Instagram Stories, I always get a question about this beautiful tray! I admired it at Target for many months before actually buying it — I tend to get sucked in at Target, so I try not to buy things on impulse when I can. After I found myself lusting after it pretty much every Target run, I figured it wasn’t just a passing want. It’s extremely sturdy and sleek, and I love how it looks on my coffee table.
Drew Tower Fan — In September, my tower fan that I keep in my bedroom for that very purpose crapped out on me. (We had a good run!) As such, I was in the market for one again. I needed it to come stat because I couldn’t live without my ideal sleeping conditions for long, so I went to Amazon. After reading a bunch of reviews, I ended up purchasing this Dreo Tower Fan in white and I think it’s the best fan I’ve ever had. Historically, I always had a black tower fan, but I thought the white would fit a bit better with my bedroom decor — I’m loving the look. But beyond that, it functions incredibly well and seems to generate more cool air than other fans I’ve had. It is on the quieter side, but it still creates enough white noise. If you’re in the market for a tower fan, I can’t recommend this brand enough!
Hatch Restore — I purchased my Hatch Restore earlier this year because it came highly recommended from my sister and because I wanted a more aesthetic alarm clock for my nightstand. (My old one was very simple — black with the classic red numbers.) Since getting it in April, I’ve used the alarm clock function — I have it set up so that thirty minutes before I wake up, there is a “sunrise” designed to make the room lighter and wake me up more naturally. Because my room gets a lot of natural light, I’m accustomed to sleeping through it, so this only works for me part of the time, but when it does, it’s a much less jarring wakeup experience than when I’m awoken to the sound of my alarm. Later in the year, I started using it at night as a white noise machine, and that has made me have a newfound appreciation for my Hatch. It has an amazing, life-like fan sound, and you can control the volume to your preferences. It’s been really nice on colder nights to keep the fan off — I used to sleep with it on every night for the noise and now I don’t have to.
Fabuletta Air Fryer — I don’t have a ton of extra space or storage in my apartment, and especially in my kitchen, so I am extra discerning when it comes to adding appliances to my collection. But given I love to cook veggies at home, I figured I would get a lot of mileage out of an air fryer. That has certainly been the case since I received this for my birthday — I love it and the light blue color I chose is so pretty that I don’t even mind having it out on my kitchen counter top. In addition to veggies, I’ve also done homemade chicken tenders, fries, and taquitos in it, and definitely want to continue to experiment!
UGG Tazz — after seeing these UGG slippers all over social media the last year, I got myself a pair and I love them! I jokingly call them my “hooves” since they look like horse hooves, but they are a great house or running errands shoe. I usually size up to an 8 in UGGs, but got a size 7 in these and they are perfect. When you first get them, they kind of flop off your feet, but as the fur inside gets compacted from wear, they stay on better.
Good Molecules Hyaluronic Acid — I bought this HA serum on a whim after seeing it on social media and realizing it is only $6! It is such a great bargain beauty buy — I use it every morning and evening, and I really do think it has helped keep my skin extra moisturized since the weather has turned cold. I also love the Good Molecules 10% Niacinamide serum — it helps so much with my skin texture.
Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner — my sister, Jennifer, turned me onto this makeup brush cleaner and after years of being an IT Cosmetics devotee, I will not be looking back! This stuff practically melts your makeup off your brushes, and has made brushes I’ve had for years look brand new. It also dries extremely quickly and does not leave behind any residue. There is a slight vanilla scent, but it is not overpowering.
Colorfulkoala Leggings — I’ve long been an Old Navy leggings enthusiast, but recently ordered another pair of my favorite ones only to find out they had changed the material and it was a quality degradation. As such, I was on the hunt for a new pair, and tried a few 7/8 leggings with pockets before landing on these — they are a great quality, especially for the price! The fabric is thick, and the waist band does not roll down even when doing intense movement. Once I wore these to Soul Cycle with no issues, I knew they were keepers! I find they run true to size.
Illume Winter White — this is one of my all-time favorite candles, and my favorite one to burn from January to March. After Christmas, it is just the perfect winter-y yet fresh scent. Add this one to your cart and thank me later!