Inspiration

In the midst of admiring each other's fancy mechanical keyboards and other gadgets at Boilermake, we realized that a lot of us spend quite a bit of money on luxury goods. It's easy to spend a lot when shopping online - so to help us and others become more responsible online shoppers, we created the Chrome extension 'Time and Change' that helps users visualize prices as work hours instead of just dollars.

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What it does

While shopping online through the Google Chrome browser, Time and Change converts prices into how many hours the user needs to work in order to afford the item (based on their income). For example, when viewing an item on Amazon.com, the user may see an item priced at $45. Based on a $15/hr income the user previously provided, Time and Change will append "(3 hours)" to the end of the price to help the user better visualize the cost of the item.

A product on Amazon, with the price shown in hours worked

The hope is that, with this app, users can attach something more than just dollars to a purchase and make smarter purchasing decisions. By seeing how many work hours go into a product, users may be less inclined to make excessive purchases; the extension can also help users figure out how many extra hours they may want to put in to cover an excess purchases for the week.

By hovering over the cost of the item, the user can also get more details and has the option of selecting whether the extension influenced their purchasing decision. While currently not implemented, in the future we will be compiling each user's savings through the extensions so they may see their progress over time.

How we built it

The project is a Google Chrome extension built using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

Jack Killian worked on implementing the backend, including the local database and hooks to receive data. Kevin Payravi worked on the frontend interface and regex that modifies prices on retail sites, and sends information to the backend. Josh Kuehn created the extension's configuration page, allowing users to modify spending data and salary.

Challenges we ran into

Developing a Google Chrome extension was new to all of us, but it provided a great learning opportunity.

  • JavaScript presented some interesting challenges, such as unexpected asynchronization.
  • Several bugs took a lot of time and effort to sort out, especially when Chrome's developer tools offered limited information.
  • We had very limited time due to starting the project late into the hackathon.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Our team formed and came up with the idea late into the hackathon; in the end, a working project was created in less than 10 hours.
  • We did an effective job of splitting the workload and tasks based on each person's strengths, as well as creating each part of the project to interface well with the others.

What's next for Time and Change

We have many more features planned before a full public release, with some of them laid out at our GitHub issues page. Some of these improvements include:

  • Logos, icon, and branding.
  • Quick access to the total amount of money saved through the extension.
  • Allowing the user to more easily list their monthly spending budgets, separate from general day-to-day spending.
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