Late last year, I switched from my MacBook Air to a Chromebook. I’ve long been a fan of the Chromebook, and the platform is just a perfect fit for almost all of my needs.
The Chrome OS operating system has grown by leaps and bounds. With the integration of touchscreens, convertible devices (that switch from laptop to tablet modes), and Android apps, it’s a lightweight beast that just works.
I sold my MacBook Air on Facebook Marketplace for $600. I took that cash and immediately drove over to Best Buy, purchasing an ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA for a little over $500 (with tax and everything).
The Flip is one of the best-rated Chromebooks out there. The screen is gorgeous. The device feels premium, and has a sweet backlit keyboard. Everything about it runs wonderfully.
But one thing I really wanted from the touchscreen was handwriting input.
Handwriting is better than typing
I don’t need to link to a bunch of studies here, but most science backs up the fact that writing stuff by hand is better for your brain than typing it. You retain more information, you are more mindful of what you’re doing, and so on.
I wanted to do more writing by hand, but I’m a lefty. As such, writing by hand gets to be a pain: it’s messy, and smudges, and ink gets all over the side of my hand.
Also, I am looking for ways to preserve my writings. If I write digitally, everything is backed up and searchable for me. I like that.
There are some great apps that mimic notebook paper on a touchscreen. With the physical act of handwriting married with the digital-ness of a laptop/tablet, I figured I would have the perfect fit.
There’s only one problem…
The Flip is not good for this
In nearly every way, the Chromebook Flip is perfect.
Anything that you throw at it, it can do marvelously. I even put Linux on the side of this thing, and can switch to it whenever I want to do the odd thing that Chrome OS can’t handle.
It’s smooth, it’s fast, and it just feels fantastic.
Unless I try to write on it by hand.
In order for handwriting to “feel” like handwriting on a screen, it needs to have a certain kind of input and touchscreen. It has to be built for it.
The Flip is not built for that.
I’ve tried some options and some stylus designs, and nothing really works that well. It’s a bummer for a product that is perfect in every other way.
There are some budget-friendly options out there that do this well. Some Chromebooks at a similar price point come with a built-in stylus. I’ve used them, and can attest that they are fantastic at this.
But there are other trade-offs there.
The one device that doesn’t have to trade off much is an on-sale Pixelbook.
The perfect Chrome device, and it’s almost always on sale
The Pixelbook is the Rolls Royce of Chrome OS devices right now.
It’s made by Google, has almost universal good reviews, and is built with handwriting input at the forefront. Combine it with a device like the Pixelbook Pen, and it works unbelievably well.
I’ve tried it, and can confirm that it runs beautifully. It’s almost like writing on paper, and that’s the feel that I want.
The only knock against the Pixelbook has been its price: the base model (which is all I would ever need) retails for $999. Yes, that’s a lot for a Chromebook.
But now it’s been on sale for $600 almost regularly. And I can find barely-used ones for that price on Swappa. Despite my love of the Flip, I’ve resigned myself to the idea of getting a Pixelbook at the $600 price point.
So why haven’t I?
Financials have gotten in the way
In a best case scenario, I can sell my Flip for $400 and get a Pixelbook used with a pen for $600ish.
That’s only $200 to come up with, and that’s hardly anything. For the trade-off, it’s 100% worth it. But there are other issues at play here.
Last year, we went through a three-month span where I didn’t make money. That’s not an exaggeration. We literally were three months behind on most bills.
I’ve righted the ship, and October-November were blockbuster months. We kept up with our bills and caught up on our three months of bills. In December, we just barely got our bills paid while also cash-flowing Christmas.
Here in January, a few mistakes on my part combined with some hiccups in the business have put us down in the count early. Nothing too overwhelming, but certainly some things we need to recover from in the next week to ten days.
In other words, we’re living tight right now.
And as much as I want a Pixelbook, it would be irresponsible of me to drop an extra $200 on a new computer that I can survive without right now. I need to focus on taking care of my family, paying our bills, building my business, and keeping things afloat.
But I still wanted to reap the benefits of handwriting, so I did something stupidly simple.
I bought a pocket notebook
Look, I expect a whole mess of comments on how stupid this article is. No, this is not a revolutionary idea: buying a paper notebook instead of another laptop. I get it.
But here’s the thing: I’ve already established that I want to be writing on a tablet. I have reasons for that. And often, I strap blinders to my face and think about how I want to achieve a certain goal and I “need” a device or app or whatever to do it when there is a simpler options available.
To scratch the itch of handwriting, I went with a paper notebook in the meantime.
It’s not perfect. And there’s no digital backup.
But it’s something. It allows me to try out this whole handwriting thing in greater detail. I’ve adopted the Bullet Journal method, and so far, it’s amazingly effective.
Since I made peace with not getting a Pixelbook any time soon, I went to Target and bought a three-pack of pocket notebooks for $10. I already have a pen that I like. And to get a more premium feel, I dropped $20 on a leather case for the notebook that will fit in my pocket. It also has a loop to keep the pen with it, which is way more convenient than I expected (this is the one I bought).
Instead of spending $200-$250, I spent about $30 to get a similar result. Again, this is not revolutionary, but it’s something to think about.
How often do we spend way more than we need to?
Think of the ways we do this in our own lives. Instead of testing whether or not we want something, we just go full-bore into wasting money on stuff that we don’t need:
We buy a gym membership because we think we’ll exercise instead of just taking up yoga or running, which is much cheaper.
We want to cook more so we get a fancy gadget instead of just trying out simpler meals with a pot and a pan.
Surely, you can think of times in your life when you’ve done this.
Here’s the deal: I might – and probably will – get a Pixelbook down the line. Maybe in a few months. But only once I’ve proven to myself that handwriting is effective for me.
This pocket notebook is a test of sorts.
If you’re looking to make a change in your life, maybe find a way to test it out on the cheap. You want to read more? Don’t buy the tablet or Kindle yet – just go to the library and check out some books. You want to cut cable and just use online sources? Don’t buy the big smart TV or the streaming box yet – get a cheap $35 Chromecast and try it out for a few months. Find that workout routine on YouTube. If you have a pot and a pan, you can do 90% of cooking. Add a $20 wok for stir-frying and deep frying, and that’s most of what you need.
Find ways to test out your thing before graduating to the fancy-pants upgrades. I still want that Pixelbook. But let’s see how well the notebook works first.