When I’m not working on MYStuff (or one of our other projects), I enjoy fixing things. And nothing is more fun to fix than cars. Even a simple oil change will leave me giddy with excitement. There’s just something about getting all dirty and greasy and taking something that was broken and making it work.
So it was with great glee I noticed the telltale signs of the alternator going out in my 2004 Pontiac Grad Prix: the headlights would dim when I turned on the rear window defroster or any of the other power accessories and the RPMs would drop to near-stall levels before recovering. I happily went to my local Advance Auto Parts and told them what I needed, and after a few minutes in the back, they returned with a hefty box containing my new (well, rebuilt) alternator. It was not with great glee, however, that I paid for it. Talk about sticker shock! The last alternator I replaced was in my ’94 Saturn, and that only cost about $90. For the Grand Prix? $245.52. Ouch.
So after paying with my Visa card, the clerk hands me the receipt and cheerfully tells me this alternator has a lifetime warranty. Lifetime warranty? Great googly moogly I was happy again.
Now let’s rewind to the days before MYStuff. I normally kept receipts for such things in either a manilla folder marked “CAR”, or else they wound up somewhere in the garage, normally tucked inside the Haynes manual on the page describing the repair procedure. So assuming I could find it, there remains two very costly problems:
First, these thermal receipts have a tendency to fade over time, and by that I mean the receipt will be illegible by the time you need it.
Second, I’m not going to remember 5 years from now that my alternator even had a lifetime warranty. I’m going to walk into the auto parts store — maybe Advance, maybe Auto Zone, maybe Napa — and say “I need a new alternator”.
So now that I have MYStuff written, I simply dropped the receipt in my “In” tray with all my bills. (It’s damn near impossible for me to change old habits, so I have to kind of add new processes into my existing workflow.) The next time I did bills, there was the receipt waiting for me. I scanned it into MYInbox, and the next time I fired up MYStuff I simply made a new Record.
I keyed in all the data — where I bought it, how much I paid, when I bought it, the model, et cetera — from the receipt scan.
A month or so later when I actually had time to put the new alternator in, I used my cell phone to grab a picture of the nice, shiny new alternator installed in my GM 3800 engine. The next time I imported the pictures from my cell phone into iPhoto, I used the FileFinder palette to browse the Last Imported library in iPhoto, and add a photo to my alternator Record.
In total, those three separate events (scanning in the receipt, making the new Record, adding the photo) probably took me five minutes. Ten at the most. But four or five years from now when that alternator needs replaced, those few minutes will save me the $245.52 a new alternator would cost.
Sure, the auto parts stores aren’t going to be happy, but when I march in with a dead alternator and a printout of the receipt touting a lifetime warranty, I sure will be. After all, I’ll be working on my car again, and this time, I won’t have to spend any money to do it.