This is a living document of products and services I use in my daily life.
I’m a product of my habits, and these are the products that enable my habits.
This document exists partially for me and partially for you. It’s for me to keep track of what I own and use, but it’s also for you if you’re curious about my consumer preferences and recommendations.
- They’re all Apple products.
Apple MacBook laptop computer
This is my primary home Mac. I got the CTO i7 because it actually benchmarks higher than my former MacBook Pro Retina 13” from 2013, and for the money it was about the same performance as a comparably-priced MacBook Pro of the same generation. I went with the MacBook because of how impressively portable it is.
My spec: configure-to-order 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Silver
Apple MacBook Pro laptop computer
This is my work Mac. My company owns it. This might be my favorite generation of the MacBook Pro. Quad-core processor helps a lot with running Docker stacks emulating our production infrastructure in development. It’s going to be a bummer when I can’t use this thing anymore and am forced to buy some nonsense with a touch bar to get similar performance. Also RIP MagSafe chargers.
My spec: 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD
Apple iPhone 8 smartphone
This is my primary mobile device. In late 2017 I tried to switch to Android and bought a Pixel 2, but I couldn’t give up iMessage, so I returned it and bought this iPhone 8. Confined within the walled garden for another cycle, I guess.
Apple iPad mini 4 tablet
This is my primary bedtime screen. I watch too much YouTube and play too much Chess.com Tactics on this device. I used to be of the mind that no one with a laptop and a smartphone needed an iPad. Then I impulse-bought this device refurbished for a good deal. Also, it’s gold. Not my first choice but it’s kind of fitting for the unnecessary indulgence that this device represents.
Apple AirPort Time Capsule wireless router
Primary router. This thing has served me well since I bought it in 2013 as my first employee purchase while working for Apple. Nice to look at, easy to configure, backs up my shit automatically onto an internal 2TB HDD with Time Machine, and it just works™. Not sure what else I need in a router.
- I use a lot of Google products.
- I try to follow good security practices.
- I probably don’t consume enough media content to justify some of my subscriptions.
My primary email/calendar/contacts services. I’m grandfathered into the “legacy free edition” after signing up for a trial when Google was piloting their offerings, but I’d pay for it if I had to. I use my personal domain for email so that it will be portable in the future, to keep one email address for life.
The closest realized product I’ve found to my notepad wet dream. Built-in voice transcription, device syncing, easy input, tags, search - all the features I want to use but don’t want to build for myself. I just wish it supported Markdown and had an API that wasn’t Google Takeout.
I signed up for Google Voice user when Sprint announced native integration with their service. GV was always a cool concept for doing phone things from a computer. I previously used it to text from my Mac before I “gave into” iMessage.
I miss the days of pure SMS because all my messages were in a basic format, and archivable via Google Takeout since they went through Google Voice. I’m looking forward to when there’s a viable ubiquitous alternative to iMessage. I miss real SMS.
Google Maps Timeline
Google Maps Timeline is basically a passive proxy diary of my life. For the small price of My Privacy™, I get digests of all the places I went each month, and I can recount all the weird transit transfers and late-night stopovers I make in my day-to-day. New York City has so many neat places to discover and this is a nice way to remember what I do each day without having to write it all down.
I have access to all my photos ever, on my phone. Also they’re backed up. Who knows what Google will do with all this ML training data, though…
Yubico FIDO U2F security key
Andy’s First Security Token™. I use one of these as an extra layer of authentication on important accounts. The only issue is the USB-A/USB-C limbo I’m in these days - 2015 MBP for work, 2017 MacBook for home - means I need an adapter to use this device with my home MacBook.
Yubico Yubikey 4C security key
I bought this after buying the FIDO U2F key above. I use it with my 2017 MacBook. I haven’t played much with the extra capabilities that the Yubikey 4 Series has over the FIDO U2F product. Also conflicted about which of these devices to carry with me at all times because they will both require an adapter in certain settings…
My SSH key lives on my phone, and I don’t ever have to think about it again. Great.
I got a free 1Password license when I worked for Apple. I literally can’t get into my accounts without a password manager now (my passwords are as long/complex as each service permits, and all different from each other, following best practices now)
I don’t like that 1Password is pushing people to sign up for their subscription model because it means we’re forced to trust they won’t get hacked. I wish they offered physical MFA token support for setting up a new device (beyond their normal setup process).
Gandi.net domain registrar
I can’t even remember why I picked Gandi in the first place. One thing I recently discovered that sets them apart is that they support native multi-factor authentication with my Yubico security key. Recent UI updates have also been a pleasant change.
Media and Entertainment
Unlimited Tactics puzzles. That’s the primary reason I pay for this. I have a slight web crush on Chess.com just because it’s exactly what it says on the box - just everything chess, and only chess.
Spotify Premium is a must for anyone who spends all day programming in an open office.
Not sure why I still have Netflix but it just keeps sipping on my credit card every month, and I really only use it whenever I need a Family Guy/Arrested Development fix, or to watch comedy specials.
Primarily so I can watch Last Week Tonight and Silicon Valley. I wish I cared about Game of Thrones so this subscription would be slightly more worth it.
Basically, I bandwagoned and joined MoviePass when they lowered their price. Obviously this business model doesn’t add up, but I guess I’ll just ride this one out and let venture capitalists pay for my movie tickets for as long as possible.
- I’ve thought a lot about these choices
- I like online banks
- I play the credit card rewards game
Charles Schwab checking account
My primary checking account. Worth noting - Schwab does a hard pull on your credit report when you apply for this account. Schwab reimburses all ATM fees anywhere in the world, and they have no foreign transaction fees on their debit card. Downside is that they don’t have branches so you can’t really deposit cash or get certified checks quickly. (I can still deposit cash with money orders).
Ally Bank savings account
My primary savings account. Ally Bank’s interest rates for their Online Savings Account product are higher than most others (although now there are some new products coming out from big banks like Barclays or Goldman Sachs that are offering slightly higher rates). Ally is fully online so they have a good app and website. I keep my 3-6 month emergency fund in this account and move anything else to Betterment if this account is healthy.
Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card
My primary travel-rewards credit card. Fits with my life because I spend a lot of money eating out. I plan to downgrade this card to a no-annual-fee Chase Freedom product around the time I am eligible for another Chase Sapphire sign-up bonus (every 24 months), then re-apply for a Chase Sapphire Reserve and get the bonus again. Ahh capitalism. Keep feeding me free flights.
chase.com (affiliate link)
JetBlue Plus Mastercard credit card
I got this card because of a good sign-up bonus (40,000 JetBlue points for $1,000 minimum spend in 90 days). For me, the sole function of this card is to buy JetBlue flights, because they award 6x points on JetBlue purchases. JetBlue is my preferred airline for flying from New York City to Portland, Oregon (my hometown) so I thought it was worthwhile getting a free round of flights from signing up for a card. I already know I’m going to get negative expected value on the card if I keep it another year, so I’m going to downgrade to the regular no-annual-fee JetBlue Mastercard right before my annual fee is set to renew on this card.
American Express Blue Cash Everyday credit card
I got this card when I first moved to New York City because I didn’t have much of a credit history and it was a good starter card. I still use it for American Express presales on concert tickets but it mostly sits idle now that I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred as my primary.
americanexpress.com (affiliate link, get $200)
My robo-advisor for automated investments. I’m taking the approach of “start investing as early as possible” so I basically try to move as much of my income into Betterment as I can afford. They invest me in a diversified portfolio of low-expense-ratio index-tracking ETFs, and they charge a fraction of what a human would charge to manage a portfolio by hand. I think this model is the future of investing, and returns have been good, so far. You can start small! Move, like, $25 a month into an account and watch it grow 🌱
betterment.com (affiliate link, get 90 days free)
You Need A Budget
I use YNAB for envelope-budgeting, and for tracking my spending. It pulls my transaction history from my credit cards and bank accounts automatically, then I classify and approve each transaction individually in the app. I enter my cash spending from the YNAB app on my iPhone, as well.
ynab.com (affiliate link, get 34 days + 1 month free)
Personal Capital is just a nice dashboard for tracking your accounts and personal net worth. I use it for tracking balances over time, and also just as a way to see everything in one place.
personalcapital.com (affiliate link, get $20)
Just a way to keep track of my credit score. Supports Equifax and TransUnion.
This is critical for dining out with friends. I don’t know what people did before they could pay each other relatively instantly through an app.
Because everyone’s gotta do their taxes. TurboTax seems to do the job, if your taxes aren’t super complicated. I hope I did mine right this year 🤞
Allstate renter’s insurance
Memberships / Subscriptions
- New York City has some incredible deals for “young people” to see classical music
- Sometimes it makes sense to become a member if you’re gonna go back again
Carnegie Hall Notables Prelude membership
Notables is nuts. If you’re under 35 years old, you can sign up and pay a one-time price of $20 to become a member. After that you can buy tickets to most Carnegie Hall concerts for $20 per ticket. I’ve seen world-class orchestras on tour here as part of this subscription. Among them, National Orchestra of France, Philadelphia Orchesta, Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philhamonic Orchestra … too many to name. Notables is an amazing program if you’re young and you like classical music.
New York Philharmonic MyPhil subscription
MyPhil is a similar subscription to Carnegie Hall Notables, except this is just for the New York Philharmonic. Their deal is $35 per ticket when you buy three qualifying concerts, then $35 per ticket for “add-ons” which can be any tickets beyond the first three you bought.
I like the New York Philharmonic, but I admit I’m beginning to develop a preference for concerts at Carnegie Hall because I think the acoustics are better there than at David Geffen Hall. In any case, the programming and the quality of the performances are top-notch, and NYPhil is an excellent “home team.” I’m seriously spoiled living here.
New York Times Basic Digital Access
I bought a NYTimes subscription pretty much as soon as I moved to New York City. It’s kind of the pulse of everything that’s happening here or around the world. I don’t really watch TV anymore, so most of my news comes from reading the New York Times app on my iPhone while commuting or relaxing.
Their app is impressively adapted for NYC, where we spend a notable amount of time underground on the subway between stations, with limited cellular service. I’ve always been impressed with how the app pre-fetches content so the news will be available when you open the app, whenever/wherever you are. Since I’ve lived here, MTA has enabled cellular service and WiFi underground at all stations, so this is less of an issue now, but it’s still an admirable feature of an app designed for and by New Yorkers.
I donate to WNYC because it’s a solid public radio station and I believe in that kind of stuff.
Museum of Modern Art individual membership
MoMA is probably my favorite all-around museum in the city. I originally got a free year-long membership to MoMA when I got IDNYC, then I was offered a chance to renew it at a discounted rate, so I renewed. MoMA is great.
Whitney Museum of American Art individual membership
The Whitney is solid. I find myself going back more than four times a year so a membership made sense. Membership means you can attend monthly member nights, which is convenient after work.
Cooper Hewitt individual membership
My company gifted me a membership to Cooper Hewitt for my 2-year anniversary. Cool design stuff.
Because waiting in line at airport security is awful. Worth the $85 for five years. I’m going to upgrade to Global Entry with the free credit from Chase Sapphire Reserve once I upgrade my CSP.
Premium TransitChek MetroCard
Enabled by my company’s commuter benefits program. The WageWorks website isn’t great but it’s “set it and forget it” and it saves you money.
- I’m picky
- I wish I could buy certain clothing items again after they wear out
Lamy Safari fountain pen
My excellent fountain pen. I have two of these - one for “desk” settings that uses an inkwell, and one for “field” settings that uses cartridges. I haven’t bought a pen in years because I just buy ink now. Don’t buy cheap pens. I have one of these because I went to a Francis D. K. Ching lecture when I was in architecture school, and someone asked him what his favorite pen was and it was unequivocally this. Also an excellent conversation starter. So many people comment on this pen.
Moleskine Cahier Journal notebook
I buy these in bulk. A coworker turned me onto these notebooks. I hate the idea that I won’t be able to find another notebook I like when I finish one, so I just keep a few handy. These are good, but don’t get them wet (or don’t keep them in a backpack while it’s raining).
I buy the extra large, plain, black, soft cover, 7.5” x 10”.
Bose SoundTrue II Around-Ear headphones
A gift from my company when we moved into an open office. I use these to focus at my desk at work. I’m sure there are “better” headphones but these are enough for me. Not super portable (hence desk)
Jabra Move Wireless headphones
I use these while I commute and they’re awesome. I found them on Wirecutter. These headphones can pair with multiple devices, and can also be plugged in and used as normal wired headphones. The controls are also very easy to use. Overall, thoughtful features and design, and they sound great for the price.
Minaal Carry On 2.0 travel backpack
Excellent single-bag travel backpack. Go watch Chase Reeves’ review. Everything he says about this bag is true. This thing is super easy to travel with, and if you can commit to the “do you really need to bring that?” attitude, this is a great product.
Fjällräven Räven 20L daily backpack
My daily carry bag. I bought it because it isn’t bulky but still holds my work 15” MacBook Pro.
Sony ICF-C1 alarm clock radio
I have this alarm clock solely for the purpose of waking up to the news on WNYC. I have an alarm clock on my iPhone, but there’s something strangely refreshing about waking up to real FM radio on a real clock radio.
Tivoli Audio Model One tabletop radio
Nike Roshe Daybreak sneakers
My favorite pine green and yellow pair of sneakers. These sneakers have basically become a part of who I am, as a person, at my core. I need to find replacements because I’m going to wear these out and be really sad soon. Why does Nike only run styles for a season at a time?
Nike Roshe Two sneakers
I own these primarily because I saw so many people here complimenting their black jeans with all-black modern Nike sneakers. To be completely honest, they’re a little wide for my feet but I still like them enough. Black is good for New York City because they don’t show dirt much.
Cole Haan Cranston Chukka boots
Just some boots I impulse-bought when winter came because my other desert boots have soles with no grip in the weather. These are basically the BMW X3 of boots, because that’s technically an SUV, and these boots are technically waterproof, but neither is the most stylish, nor the most capable for its purpose. And I probably paid too much for them. Just like X3 owners. Whatever. They work.
O clock classic watch
My standard-issue wrist watch. I have multiple colors. The watch is modular so you can change out the watch face to make different combinations. These are from Italy and they’re kind of annoying to procure in the USA, so I buy watch bands in bulk since they have a tendency to break when the silicone wears out. One downside is that my watch faces don’t have numbers on them, so don’t ask me exactly what time it is. Kind of antithetical to my usual “function-first” approach to products but whatever.
Levi’s 511 Slim Fit jeans
These should be in the Brooklyn starter pack - everyone who moves here should be issued a pair of black jeans upon arrival. I literally wear a pair of these every day (don’t worry, I rotate, I rotate) but at this point, I’m not sure I even know how to wear pants that aren’t Levi’s 511 black jeans. Most versatile piece of clothing I can think of. I can wear black jeans to the office, then to an event or on a date in the evening, and no one looks at me funny in any setting.
UNIQLO U Light Down “Shirts Jacket”
Another product I wish I could buy again, but is no longer made. I have this in olive green and it’s probably my favorite “third layer” in the winter.
Klean Kanteen Insulated Wide water bottle
I have the 16oz size with the loop cap, in shale black. Super impressed at how well this thing keeps liquid cold or hot. I can put ice in it in the morning and it’s still frozen in the evening. Same goes for hot coffee.
Manhasset M48 music stand
Best stationary non-portable music stand. Don’t buy anything else. If it’s good enough for middle school band rooms, it’s good enough for me.
Oral-B Pro 1000 electric toothbrush
Dentist told me to buy an electric toothbrush so I’d stop scrubbing my gums away. It’s relatively cheap (compared to other models) but nothing special. I found it on Wirecutter.
D’Addario Zyex violin strings
(Aluminum D, Medium Tension)
I use these on my violin. They’re synthetic, but they’re really warm, and they settle in quickly.
Swedish Dream Seaweed soap
Just some good soap. Received a bar of this stuff as a gift from a girlfriend. I’m sold forever now.
Philips Norelco OneBlade trimmer/shaver
Cheap and simple. The stubble combs work well. Small enough to bring along when I travel.
Black+Decker BDH2000PL handheld vacuum cleaner
Pretty good for small apartments. Not great for rugs. Pretty easy to clean (stock up on filters)
Tanner Goods Utility Bifold wallet
My brother gave me one as a gift. It doesn’t wear out, it wears in. Mine is a completely different color now, after a few years of city grit and back-pocket use.
Apple iPhone SE smartphone
I bought and used an iPhone SE after retiring my iPhone 6 because I was convinced this was the last model Apple was going to make with a 4-inch screen, in the “iPhone 5-style” design. There are rumors that they’re going to revamp the iPhone SE again, but I still think the original SE is one of the best phones Apple ever made. I think it’s the most refined example of the 4” form factor, in the same way that the iPhone 8 is probably going to be the most refined example of the 4.7” form factor introduced with the iPhone 6. *(unless Apple releases one more generation of iPhone with the iPhone 6-esque form factor; we’ll see)
I upgraded to an iPhone SE from an iPhone 6 because the iPhone 7 wasn’t enough of an upgrade to justify for me, and I didn’t want to keep the iPhone 6 until the iPhone 8 came out. I got the SE because I wanted to try a smaller phone again. The size is great, but I forgot that typing on a smaller screen is often less accurate. I rely on my phone for a lot of things, and got tired of error-prone text input so I thought about moving to something bigger
Apple MacBook Pro laptop computer
I bought this in early 2014 with my employee discount when I worked for Apple. I didn’t upgrade the processor because I thought RAM was more important than clock speed, for my purposes. I replaced this Mac in 2017 with the 12” retina MacBook.
My spec: configure-to-order 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Pro laptop computer
This was my college computer. It still works. I did most of my architecture degree on this MacBook Pro. It’s retired now, in its original box, at my dad’s house in Oregon.
My spec: 2.8GHz dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo, 16GB RAM, 500GB HDD
Simple bank account
Simple is an awesome online bank, it just doesn’t fit into my banking stack right now. I used Simple when I lived in Portland. It’s great if you use your debit card for most purchases (because it means your purchases will show up as individual transactions on Simple and you’ll be able to use their budgeting tools more natively). If you like to use a credit card for everything, Simple isn’t a great choice. I’d switch back to Simple if credit card rewards weren’t a priority for me.
I moved to Charles Schwab because it’s a reliable basic online bank account with perks like unlimited reimbursement on ATM fees and no foreign transaction fees.
Openfolio used to be a dashboard for investment performance, coupled with a profiles feature that allowed you to compare your investment performance to others in similar demographics or age groups. You could, for instance, compare the performance of your investments against other 24-33 year olds working in the technology sector. Then they kind of blew up their app, and pivoted the whole thing to be just another account aggregator. Shame. I stopped using Openfolio in favor of Personal Capital in Fall 2017.
I started dabbling in cryptocurrency when Coinbase had that surge of popularity in the fall of 2017. Basically, I hedl (past tense for hodl?) through the dips after the spike in early 2018, but I decided in the spring of 2018 to get out while I was still ahead so I just sold everything and decided to stop playing this game. It’s just gambling right now.
That said, I was impressed and inspired by the design/UI/overall “craft” of the product while I was using it.
(Level 1 membership)
Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) membership was a solid choice for discounted movie tickets before I got MoviePass. I was a member for a free year with IDNYC, then for a paid year after that, but I chose not to renew it this year. BAM is still my preferred movie theater but MoviePass is going to give everyone a run for their money when it comes to movie subscriptions.
Soundbot SB1010 bluetooth speaker
I wanted a desktop clock to match my Media Cube so I bought this clock. The speaker kinda sucks but the clock shows the date and the temperature. I retired this in favor of my Sony ICFC1 alarm clock and my Tivoli Model One tabletop radio.