Like everyone else, I'm using more node programs these days. I don't always like to install these dependencies globally, but I haven't had a way to avoid this. Recently I learned this simple trick from @mwynholds: prepend node_modules/.bin to your path. Something like this:
You can test this with the following (assuming you have node/npm installed and on your path):
$ echo 'PATH=node_modules/.bin:$PATH' >> ~/.profile
$ source ~/.profile
$ cd /tmp
$ npm install grunt-cli
$ type grunt
grunt is node_modules/.bin/grunt
These programs will only be on your path when you're at the root of your project (or whatever directory contains your node_modules/)
For dependencies you use a lot (like coffee-script for me), you'd have many duplicate installations. It seems reasonable to install these globally.
Overall this has been an improvement to my workflow. Any other options out there?