Tools of the trade // Hardware

Tools of the trade // Hardware //

Kate asked me the other day about Macs, and after writing an entire post’s worth of information on my computer setup alone, I figured I should probably write a post here about the tools I use to run my business. Of course, in true nerdy fashion, it’s going to take two posts. Who knew I had that much to say on the subject? First up, the hardware:

MacBook Pro

Do you know how annoying it is to spend all work day on a Mac, then go home to a PC? Yeah, it drove me crazy. So finally, in 2009 I bought into the Mac hype — and of course I’ve been an Apple girl ever since. I went with a MacBook Pro so I could take my work with me while I traveled, and I bought the cheapest on the market, on sale before Thanksgiving.

A couple months ago, almost 3.5 years after I bought it, my MacBook Pro finally decided it had had enough of working day in, day out on large files. I would spend half an hour just waiting for a file to save, and finally, my programs stopped working altogether. However, I was able to wipe the hard drive, reinstall the OS, and it still works fine for travel, as long as I only keep the things I really need on it. It doesn’t load things as quickly as a new computer, but the difference is pretty minimal.

Additional Monitor

Because the monitor on my MacBook Pro was so small, I asked for an extra monitor that Christmas. At the time, you could get a decent one for $80-$100 on Black Friday, and you probably aren’t going to be fighting a lot of people for one. Having an extra monitor was extremely helpful for website development, and I still use mine, even though my iMac has a huge screen. I like having the code on one screen and the site on another. I also tend to put my to-do list, or any references while I’m writing a blog post on my secondary monitor. If you find yourself moving between a million windows at once, it could be a good investment for you!

Magic Mouse

I found working with a trackpad super annoying for daily work, so I bought a Magic Mouse. Now I’m grateful to have an extra when the batteries on the mouse for my iMac die, which is way too often. Magic Mouse? It would be magic if it didn’t eat so many batteries. I recommend Advanced Lithium for these and stockpiling Extreme Couponing style (not sure if they actually make coupons for Advanced Lithium, but if they do, please point me in that direction).

Wacom tablet

I honestly don’t use this as much as I thought I would, but that’s why I bought the cheapest on the market, to give it a try. I’m not sure how much the cheapest one is now, but I was able to get an opened box for $60. I write the state names on my Across the USA posts with my tablet, and I have occasionally incorporated my own handwriting in my design work. If you have great handwriting, you might consider purchasing a Wacom tablet to add a unique, handwritten touch to your blog graphics.


Since I was pretty sure my MacBook Pro would still work fine for travel, I replaced it with an iMac — again, the cheapest on the market, on sale because I bought an opened box (see a pattern here?). Even the cheapest model now has a 1TB hard drive, and I feel pretty confident it will take me a number of years to fill that up. And honestly, though a 27″ screen would have been awesome, I still feel like the 21.5″ is giant, even without my extra monitor.

So, there you have it — the story of how Apple takes most of my money. But, I will say this: I have consistently purchased the cheapest Apple product on the market and haven’t been disappointed yet. I think it’s tempting to purchase the best on the market, because you know even that is going to be outdated quickly, and if that’s in your budget, do it. But don’t worry if it isn’t! I run some pretty heavy-duty programs, and the base models work just fine for me. Also, keep in mind that I’ve bought all of this tech over a number of years, and I typically hoard birthday and Christmas money (which are conveniently in the same month for me) for tech purchases, because I’m just that nerdy.

What do you run your business and/or blog on?


  1. Allyssa wrote:

    I’m trying to save up for an iMac right now. I used them in college and I loved them! Right now I use an HP laptop that I’ve had for 3 years. Occasionally I will hook it up to an extra monitor that I have, which is such is definitely helpful!

    Posted 6.24.13
  2. Paulene wrote:

    For the longest time, I didn’t use my wacom tablet and thankfully, I bought the cheapest I could find too. Now, I use it almost everyday because it’s been so helpful when I clean up my calligraphy scans in Illustrator.

    Posted 6.24.13
  3. Helen wrote:

    Do you have a place you recommend for good open-box purchases? 🙂

    Posted 6.24.13
    • Best Buy! You can also stalk Apple’s online store for refurbs, but they get snatched up quickly.

      Posted 6.24.13
  4. Jessica R. wrote:

    I also use an iMac at home and work and have gotten so spoiled on it. Have always wanted a Wacom tablet, but wasn’t sure how much I’d use it. Maybe one day!

    Posted 6.24.13
  5. Rechargeable batteries, Lisa! I just bought six + a charger and I keep four on the charger at the ready. The Magic Mouse does eat up the batteries. They rechargeables (high quality lithium ones) are more expensive up front, but I’m certain I’ve more than paid for them in what I would have disposed.

    Posted 6.24.13
  6. New reader here — love your blog and LOVE ‘tools’ post. It’s super cool to see what people use to run their biz. I’m a huge Apple fan too, also a MBP user. Would love a Wacom tablet, but I just started using my iPad 2 (with the Paper app) in a trial use mode. If I find I’m using it often enough to draw, I’ll get a true graphics tablet. Thanks for sharing!

    Posted 6.24.13
  7. Elizabeth wrote:

    Just working on my MacBook Pro, with Photoshop for graphics.

    Posted 6.24.13
  8. Krystle wrote:

    I’m old school. I draw (by hand) and then scan everything. I tried using a tablet but it felt unnatural.

    Posted 6.24.13
  9. Clara wrote:

    So appreciate this honest account for Mac products! I went pretty much the cheapest route when I was starting my business- I needed a new comp and went with a MacBook Air which was really affordable. I LOVE it for travel but the lack of space has become extremely limiting, so I’m thinking of getting a bigger computer…. or just an external hardrive. Likely the cheaper route!

    Posted 6.24.13
  10. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I’m actually on the hunt for a new laptop and this has been very helpful 🙂

    Ps. I’m a big fan of your blog designs, they are functional and beautiful at the same time.

    Posted 6.24.13
  11. Kate wrote:

    Yay! Thanks for putting all of this in writing. For me the Wacom tablet is really a matter of practice and getting used to it- it took me a really long time to feel comfortable with it, but I still don’t use it as often as I’d like.

    Posted 6.24.13
  12. Camille wrote:

    Apple takes most of my money too! I’m considering and iMac for myself and my husband to share plus a Wacom tablet. I saw a ton girls using the tablets at Blogshop!

    Posted 6.25.13
  13. Mary wrote:

    I got a new Macbook Pro for Christmas and I’m loving it! I’m still holding onto my old Macbook from 2006, not really sure why… and my wireless mouse is a must! I love doing hand-drawn designs, so I may have to invest in a Wacom tablet!

    Posted 6.25.13
  14. You handwrite the state names on your Wacom tablet? WOW!!!!!! Your handwriting is gorgeous. I had assumed that was a font (maybe you should make one and sell it?)!

    I have the Bamboo Splash tablet and must say I really like it, but I prefer the feel of holding a pen to my hand resting over a mouse.

    I’m dying for a second monitor. I think it’s from my pre-paper days at school, but I find I always squish my windows to be smaller and smaller so that I can see multiple things at once. Oh…and I want a desk, too. Studio living in NYC, my laptop goes on and off the table to make a desk, a place to eat, a place to craft. A girl can dream…

    Posted 6.26.13
  15. Kristin M. wrote:

    I love tech posts and even did one myself not too long ago. I’m a die-hard Apple girl from having the iPhone 5, iPad 2, MacBook Pro 15″ & iMac 27″. I find that having all these coordinating items allows them to talk and share things over “cloud” making it seemless to jump from one device to another. Plus, the ability to create multiple desktops on the pro and iMac is an absolute lifesaver!!

    I also have the Wacom tablet & need to spend more time advancing my skillset on it beyond just my handwriting.

    Posted 6.29.13

Comments are closed.