Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Consumer lifehacking

There's some irony in the fact that ever since David left his job, almost every blog post I've made here boils down to "and then we spent money on this ..." Still. In the last few months, I've been, for no exactly definable reason, somewhat fixated on my own non-tech version of lifehacking: let's change what is sub-optimal in our daily lives. If that requires throwing money at the problem, conduct cost/benefit analysis, then spend.

One item that flunked this analysis: Vacation. We'd hoped to spend two weeks this fall doing a Vegas-San Diego-Grand Canyon road trip. Barring David landing a job, that's unlikely to happen. Much as I want to go, I don't want to ring up more debt to do it.

But in the last week, I've flung substantial sums at upgrading the household. In descending order, priciest (by far) first, the major expenditures were:

-New mattress

-Kitten! I miss River. David wakes up about once a week in tears about his tux not being curled up in her usual spot at her side. The saving grace getting us through all the sadness has been having our other cat, Kea, around. Which was, the ruthless part of my mind acknowledges, part of why I went and got Kea a few years ago. If we ever lost one cat, I wanted a backup around -- not to replace, but to remind us that we can love other critters that also need homes.

So last Saturday, I wandered into Petco, handed over adoption-fee cash (and another $80 for a carrier -- I abandoned River's at the vet because I couldn't stand to come home with it empty) and wandered out with a KittyKind cat. Ashley is five months old, three pounds, mostly gray and totally psychotic. It's been so long since we had a baby kitten I'd forgotten how insane (and tiny!) they are.

-Keyboard. This was the cheapest expense - $50 - but an amazing life upgrade.

I type loudly. At work, it's not uncommon for people I'm interviewing by phone to comment on my rapid typing speed -- which means that with my phone headset at least a foot away from my keyboard, they can hear me banging on keys. At home, this has traditionally meant that as soon as I started typing something like email, David, lying several feet away on the couch, would complain about the headache I was giving him.

After months of hunting online for a "silent" keyboard, with little luck, we finally went one evening to Staples and had me bang on their keyboards. We left with a Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 1000. I was very dubious changing keyboards would make a difference in my typing volume. I was wrong. The minute I set it up at home, I could hear the difference -- muffled thuds instead of jackhammer clatter.

Keyboard: $50. Domestic harmony: Priceless.