Here are some things and services that I recommend. In a world that needs reinventing, I naturally put quite a bit of thought into the purchases I make. As much as I hate stuff, like anyone, I still buy plenty of basics.
You’re probably already familiar with Groupon. It’s an email a day with an outstanding coupon. A lot of the time its 50% off of a restaurant you’d like to try, or 40% off something fun like jet ski rental. Beware “Groupon anxiety,” though, which is the feeling of unease that comes with knowing that you need to get around to using your Groupons. Because of Groupon anxiety, I sometimes find myself avoiding buying Groupons, even if its for something that I like.
Check out Groupon »
Amazon Prime is free 2-day shipping on all items Amazon sells, for $79 a year. I used it a bit at first, but now I’m addicted. I find myself using the 1-click to pay feature quite often now, instead of trying to remember to pick up a particular item next time I’m out. The one drawback is this amounts to lots and lots of boxes piling up in my closet. This isn’t very environmentally friendly, but hopefully something like Amazon Tote will be available in my area sometime. I also love Amazon Subscribe & Save.
You can get a free trial of Amazon Prime here »
I don’t have a car. I really don’t like cars. But, I do love ZipCar. Since American cities – even Chicago – are designed around the car, a car can really make your life easier for grocery runs, or for getting to parts of town that aren’t convenient to public transport. So, I use ZipCar, which allows me to rent cars by the hour, usually around $7-14 depending upon the car. I can rent ZipCars anywhere they exist, so it’s handy when I visit SF; and I could even get one in London if I wanted. Since I find it tough to get myself over the psychological barrier of booking a $15 ZipCar trip just to get groceries, I’m signed up for their $50 a month plan (which reduces the hourly rate by 10%). That way, I have to use it or lose it, so I don’t think twice if I need a car.
If you use this link, you can get $25 free driving credit with a new account »
Ironically, I’m typing this from the plane of another airline. There’s a gigantic drink cart blocking the aisle. I think this practice represents well the fact that airlines other than Southwest just don’t think things through. I’ll gladly pay extra money to fly Southwest over another airline, but their prices are actually usually cheaper; and I get free flights from their rewards program once in awhile, too. (I happen to be on another airline’s plane because I’m on an international flight.)
Book a flight at Southwest.com »
Amazon Subscribe & Save
I think it’s good to have some staples in your diet, because it really simplifies choices in life. Since I don’t eat gluten, and eat a healthy diet as a matter of running a successful business, I want to make sure I always have a few healthy, quick snacks on hand. Amazon Subscribe & Save is great for ensuring this, because they automatically send me shipments in the period I specify (i.e. 1 month). ALSO, I save 15% off my order, and can cancel any time, can send a shipment early if I’m running out, or can delay a shipment if I’m slow on using up my supply. Here are a few of the items I subscribe to.
Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein
I know some of you are probably saying “hey, I thought you ate healthy, why would you drink this crap?” True, this is probably heavily processed stuff, but I do find having a bit of high quality (in terms of amino acid profile) protein in the morning helps me maintain muscle mass on my slight frame, and gives me energy (never try to drink this stuff before bed). I’m currently hoping to some day upgrade to an organically-raised whey protein powder – probably Jay Robb’s.
Get Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein at Amazon »
Raw Revolution Bars
It’s good to have some nutrition bars handy for quick snacks throughout the day, or to extend a work session at a cafe that only serves heavily glutinous sandwiches. Raw Revolution bars are the most bang for your buck of any gluten-free energy bar I’ve found. Meaning, they have more calories (energy) for your dollar. The base of these bars is sprouted flax seed, and they’re sweetened with agave nectar and dates, so there aren’t processed sugars in them. They’re okay tasting, but not the best, so I also subscribe to Kind Bars (below), which are delicious.
Get Raw Revolution Bars at Amazon »
These are my other good gluten-free nutrition bars, which complement the Raw Revolution bars. They taste great, but they aren’t as many calories for your dollar as the Raw Revolution bars.
Get Kind Bars at Amazon »
Crown Prince Smoked Oysters
Oysters are a great source of protein, Omega-3′s, B vitamins, and are jam-packed with Zinc, which is important to the function of your immune system, and your man parts (assuming you have them). They also have nearly no mercury, and the farming of oysters is actually considered good for for the environment. Also, if you don’t eat animals, some people who consider themselves vegan still eat oysters because they supposedly can’t feel pain. Oysters are a miracle! I’ve tried a number of brands, and this is by far the tastiest, because they are packed in Olive Oil, rather than Cottonseed Oil (whatever that is). Last I heard, these were discontinued, but hopefully they’ll bring them back!
Get Crown Prince Smoked Oysters at Amazon »
The Farmer’s Market
If you haven’t ever visited your local farmer’s market, I highly recommend it. You’ll get local, usually organic, produce that will blow anything you get at Whole Foods out of the water. I also like that I get to deal directly with the people who are growing my food (go small businesses!). I try to get all of my beef, chicken, pork, eggs, and most of my produce from my farmer’s market. If you’re in Chicago, visit the Green City Market. It’s really fantastic, and even runs in the winter!
There are a bunch of health claims about tea, but it’s all inconclusive from what I understand. All I know is, tea makes me feel real good. I order Gyokuro Green and Matcha teas directly from Japan. These types of tea are supposed to have higher levels of the amino acid L-theanine, which has been found to increase alpha wave activity, improving concentration and elevating mood, all while synergyzing with caffeine to prevent that jittery feeling that I get with lower quality teas. Pretty much every tea you’ll find at your grocery store (even Whole Foods) is garbage. You have to get a good full-leaf tea, and steep it properly outside of a tea bag (such as using a Kyusu) to truly enjoy tea.
Order green tea direct from Japan at Hibki-an »
When you’re running a business, you’ve gotta do books somehow. Right now, I use Freshbooks, which is more invoicing and timetracking software than it is bookkeeping software, but I make it work.
You can give Freshbooks a try right here »
I send my expense receipts in the mail to Shoeboxed, then they scan them in, and I have data I can easily export to Freshbooks to do my books. They also have an iPhone app with which you can take pictures of your receipts to submit them, but I haven’t yet used it enough to know if its more efficient than mailing in receipts.
Get a free trial of Shoeboxed right here »
An ergonomic setup is key to being productive and healthy. But, few desks really allow you to have your keyboard at the appropriate height, especially when accompanied by a Wacom tablet. This desk is so great, there is a shrine for it on the web. It’s now discontinued, but you can probably find one on Craigslist. Since CRTs are so rare these days, the Jerker was replaced by a more shallow, but probably equally cool desk called Fredrik.
Books / Music / Moving Pictures
I reluctantly purchased an Amazon Kindle, and I’m definitely thrilled with the purchase. I love regular books, but I get tired quickly when reading them. I read much more with my Kindle because it’s comfortable to hold, and the screen is nice and flat, so it reflects light evenly. The iPad sounds nice for many things, but I could never read a book on an LCD screen, which is why I bought the Kindle, which has an e-ink screen that reflects light, rather than shooting it right into your eyes. I also can more easily highlight, search, and take notes in my Kindle, then review all highlights and notes in one place – I never did feel right marking in an actual book.
Grab a Kindle at Amazon »
For some of my favorite books, you might want to check out my books of the decade post.
My musical taste morphs pretty regularly, and my Last.fm profile is a good place to see what I’m listening to. Lately, I’ve really been into ambient instrumental stuff like Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You, because they don’t have lyrics and are thus easier to write to.
Airfoil is great for streaming music services, such as Last.fm, to my speakers, via my Airport Express.
Duh. Yeah, I was late to the party on this one, but I’m glad I signed up. I could never get excited about getting and returning DVDs in the mail, but now that they have a healthy streaming library, I’m loving it. They have The State, lots of Louis CK, and Man vs. Wild on streaming.
Check out Netflix, they have a free trial »