I used to always find myself at a loss when it came to knowing what model my TV is and when the warranty expires, what is the water filter type in my fridge, the VIN of my car, air filters for my home A/C’s etc. The list of not knowing what I needed to know when I needed to know it seemed endless. Until I came up with an approach that solved this problem, hopefully once and for all. There is also the whole angle of insurance — a recent neighborhood fire brought this point close to home.
1. The Video Walk-Through
Walk around the house with a high quality video camera, slowly panning across things in each room. I used my iPhone for this. Upload this file to a secure online storage service. I use Dropbox. This does a high level capture of assets in the house, so you don’t have to catalog each and every thing into an asset database.
2. Capture the Asset
Maintain an asset database of key items, especially the ones that are likely to require maintenance or attention more frequently. I use LifeTopix for this as it ties the assets with services, payments, shopping and media files. Regardless of what tool you use, the point is to capture some key things: Title, Category, Description, Seller, Purchase Date, Cost, Current Value, Manufacturer, Model, SKU/Serial #/VIN, and a photo.
3. Manage the Asset
Associate the following with the asset: Shopping items for replacement parts (with model, store, price etc.), Reminders, Tasks (perhaps recurring, especially for things like water filters, air filters, car inspection, oil change), Bookmarks, Voice Notes, and perhaps checklists.
4. Know the Value
For things I plan to sell/upgrade/replace someday, as well as for other reasons, I update the current values of the assets (TV/car/laptop/house etc.) from time to time using listings like eBay, Gazelle, appraisal sites. I have a reminder for that. Also, I maintain reminders and notes about my thoughts on when I should look at selling it. My approach also gives me totals of current values across categories (Electronics/Valuables/Appliances etc.).
5. Maintenance and Service
I track the services, warranties, bills, and service providers associated with the assets — the place where I get my car inspected, the mechanic who fixed the car, the authorized TV repair place, the extended warranty vendor, etc.
6. It Was Easier Than I Thought
Since I maintain the key data described in points 2 and 3 only for a dozen or so KEY assets (house/cars/large appliances/home theater components), it’s not a lot of data entry. The beauty is, I use the info so much more often than I update it, it’s really efficient — when I need to cancel my XM service and need my car VIN, at Home Depot and need to buy filters and need the size or model, look up the plumber I used the last time, or know when my TV warranty expires. It’s nice to be able to pull out my iPhone and look it up instantly.
I am very happy with this approach. It makes a topic that is generally boring to me a lot more exciting with information at my fingertips!