Here’s a brief list of some of my top recommendations. These are tools, software, services, or other websites that I personally use only – nothing that I don’t.
Finance & Money
To Invest I use Vanguard. They offer the lowest fees overall, is investor-owned (like a credit union) and I truly believe they are working for their investors and not for profit.
For investments, I use low-fee, diversified index funds for 95% of my portfolio – namely $VTSAX, $VTIAX, and $VBTLX. The other 5% is speculative stocks (currently some $PS from my last job and some $DIS). I wrote a free course on investing if you want to see how I invest.
For tracking my spending, I use Tiller. Tiller pulls down spending data from my bank and credit cards and puts it into a Google Sheet. That’s just the beginning though! There’s auto-categorization, budgets, monthly analysis, graphs, and much more. Plus it’s in a Google Sheet, so I can make my own sheets based on the data.
For tracking my investments, I use Personal Capital. Like Tiller, Personal Capital links with your bank or investment locations and pulls in your investments. I’m super-suspicious about granting this access, so I enter in my investments manually at Personal Capital.
My cell phone carrier is Mint Mobile with an 8gb/month plan for $240/yr. Between referrals from Minafi and taking advantage of American Express offers (they gave a $50 discount if bought w/an AE card), it’s been close to free the last few years.
I keep backups of photos and everything else on Dropbox and in a 4TB local RAID 5 array (which keeps a backup even if one hard drive fails).
To stay fit I try to go to CrossFit 3x a week at SLC CrossFit. Unfortunately, this has been paused since COVID-19 started, but I’m hoping to pick it up again we’re vaccinated. Lately, I’ve been running outside instead (with a mask on when near people).
To track calories I use LoseIt mostly on my iPhone. I only recently started tracking calories, but it’s been the most helpful thing for losing a few pounds – and well worth the yearly fee.
Software & Apps
My browser of choice is Chrome. The software development tools Chome offers are beyond compare. On my iPhone I use Safari, but not for any specific reason.
My code editor of choice is Atom. Many people I know have switched to VS Code, but I still like using Atom.
My todo list is managed by Todoist. I use it on my computer in full-screen mode, on my iPhone, and on my iPad.
My notes and documents are all in Notion. This includes recipes, travel plans, personal journaling, Minafi planning, favorite quotes, design inspiration, cocktail recipes, and just about anything else. I migrated from Evernote and Bear and haven’t looked back.
To keep my menu bar clear I use Bartender. It allows you to adjust what’s in your menu bar (the top right area). It’s part of minimizing distractions to stay focused.
I keep my calendar organized by using a combination of Fantastical and Google Calendar. Fantastical has Mac, iOS, and iPad apps too.
My passwords are organized in 1Password, which syncs across my devices seamlessly.
For email, I’ve used Gmail since you had to beg friends for an invite. I recently started using Spark as my email client on Mac, iOS and iPad.
Personal Tracking Apps
To keep track of my days and metrics, I use Exist.io, which pulls in data from Apple Health, FitBit, Weather, social media usage, and more and combines that with some personal metrics tracking (mood, tags per day). I built a tracking website that uses the Exist API to show this data which I set as my Chrome start page.
For hiking I rely on AllTrails for offline maps. I bought a lifetime membership for $99 and have used it for hundreds of hikes.
I track my runs using Strava. I used to use RunKeeper, but it didn’t have an API so I switched.
I track my steps using Apple Health on my phone. It’s not a complete picture, since I walk around my apartment without it, but it’s close. I’m eying an Oura Ring, but I’m waiting for the next version.
I track my weight using a Withings scale. Exist.io pulls in these stats and keeps them over time. At this point, I have a decade of info in there.
I track my time using Qbserve. Most of this is done automatically and doesn’t require me to input anything. I use a local script to sync this data with Exist. That lets me know how much “productive time” I have each day.
Entertainment & Education
For reading comics I use Comic Zeal on my iPad.
For reading other blogs I use Feedly – either in the browser, on my iPhone or on my iPad.
For listening to audiobook I use Audible for books I buy, Libby for books from the library and Overcast for books I download.
For learning to read Japanese I use WaniKani – which is an amazing spaced repetition application that systematically builds up a vocabulary using memorable mnemonics. I use Tsurukame on my iPhone and iPad to review and learn.
For email I use Spark, either as the Mac App, or iOS app.
For entertainment we subscribe to pretty much any service you can think of – HBO, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, Netflix – even Apple TV+ thanks to a free year after buying my iPad. We also use Plex for some videos and music.
Electronics & Gadgets
For a phone, I use an iPhone X. It’s easily the most expensive phone I’ve ever bought. My hope is that it’ll last at least 5 years.
For taking pictures, I use either my Fuji XT-1 or my iPhone X. When we’re traveling I use my big camera, but for hikes and day-to-day use, I rely my iPhone.
My favorite camera lens is the Fujinon XF 23mm F1.4 R which takes beautiful pictures. I usually swap between that one and the Fujinon XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR when traveling.
Photos are edited using Lightroom. I put off learning Lightroom for a while, but it’s amazing how much a few color tweaks can improve a well-shot photograph.
For listening to music and audiobooks I use a pair of AirPods. I’ve been using my first pair for almost 3 years now and would definitely buy another pair.
To secure my accounts I use a Yubikey This is a physical device I plug into my laptop that’s needed to log into my most important accounts.
For watching videos, reading comics, and creating content on Minafi, I use a 13″ iPad Pro. It’s surprisingly nice to have a device to read on.
For a home television, we mostly use a 1080p Epson Projector. The quality of this is amazing and has let us have a 100-inch screen without the need to mount a heavy, expensive TV on the wall.
Computer & Desk Setup
My main computer is a 2012 15″ MacBook Pro. Most of my work at Code School (my previous job) and every bit of development on Minafi has been on this machine. I love this computer and plan to use it until it bites the dust. I’m looking forward to getting a 15″ M1 Macbook Pro next!
For an office chair, I bought a Herman Miller Aeron Chair 13 years ago. It’s still just as good as new today.
For a keyboard I use a regular USB Apple wired keyboard. It was the one I used at Code School, then at Pluralsight and then I snagged it for personal use. It’s 10 years old now and still works great.
For a mouse I use a Logitech Trackman Marble Wheel Mouse from 2003. They stopped making them a decade ago, but it’s been the longest lasting piece of electronic hardware I’ve ever owned.
For cooking, we mostly use a pair of All-Clad Pans: a frying pan and a saucepan. These are way too expensive on Amazon, but we’ve found them for under $100 at HomeGoods or by keeping an eye out for deals.
For coffee, we use a 10-year old Braun Water Kettle, a stainless steel french press, and a coffee grinder that allows for adjusting the grind settings. I’m curious to move to a pour-over system sometime this year (any recommendations?).
For rice, we use a Zojirushi rice cooker that plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when our rice is ready – because why not?
For organization, we use whatever makes sense – boxes, hooks, drawers. When we notice we’re using something over and over again (like our robes in our bathroom) we’ll put up a hook to hand them from.
This Blog & Technical
The entirety of how Minafi is built is written about on the How Is This Site Built page. Here are a few of my personal highlights:
I write all posts in WordPress. If I were starting a blog, I wouldn’t even think about using anything else.
For WordPress hosting, I’ve used Dreamhost for 13 years. They’re flexible enough in their hosting that you can run a lot from a single shared host.
For styling this site, I use Tailwind.css. It’s been the most fun I’ve ever had designing.
I store all my code on GitHub. It’s now free for personal repositories too, which is an added bonus.
For interaction on this site, I use Vue.js to organize individual components. This helps keep the site modular and allows flexibility.
For data visualizations I love D3.js. It’s limited only by your imagination. That flexibility slows me down at times, but also pushes me to out-of-the-box solutions.
For sending emails I use Sendy. It’s a self-hosted email newsletter application that allows sending emails via Amazon SES. My total email cost for Minafi is less than $10/year!
The bulk of this site is a Ruby on Rails application. I wouldn’t recommend anyone else go this route, but it’s been sooo much fun working on it.