Spreadsheet Spotlight: Mastering Home and Auto Maintenance Tracking

Home and Auto Maintenance

The Spreadsheet Spotlight is a periodic series where I provide knowledge of a spreadsheet I use, why it’s valuable, and how you can leverage it too. Reading the Spreadsheets and You article first will help you get the most of this Spreadsheet Spotlight post and all the previous ones found here.

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I have hot dreams about spreadsheets.

There. I said it.

Confidence. Having your crap together. The ability to slice-and-dice outside the kitchen. Instant access to an external and mobile brain.

These are things that everyone wants, right?

And it’s sexy when you get them. I mean, who doesn’t find a confident, organized, flexible, smart, and “always-on” person hot?

I guess I’m busted though. The hot dreams about spreadsheets aren’t about the spreadsheet itself. They’re about the sexiness that’s infused by wielding them like a champ.

Now that you’re feeling frisky for spreadsheets, let’s dive into our first article in the Spreadsheet Spotlight series as promised in my equally stimulating Spreadsheets and You post.

Why This Rocks

It was damn hard picking the first spreadsheet to show off from all the goodies in my secret stash. I decided to highlight this spicy little devil though after much deliberation.

The Home and Auto Maintenance Spreadsheet Purpose

Spreadsheet Spotlight

This spreadsheet is actually a “2 for 1” as it covers both home and auto maintenance. This bad boy exists because I didn’t want or need to pay for fancy software to track and remind me about my core maintenance tasks. Well, that and I didn’t need a complicated, proprietary system for something perfect for a spreadsheet.

You might not own a home like I do or maybe you even have a landlord perform most of your dwelling’s maintenance. It doesn’t matter though. Someone’s gotta be responsible for scheduling, reminding, doing, and tracking maintenance on whatever place you live in.

Besides, even the best home maintenance service or landlord probably won’t keep track of the last time your refrigerator water filter was changed (and the details of the replacement part).

Access the Sample Here

I’ll provide details on getting the full version of the spreadsheet in a moment.

Now it’s time to pretend Yoda is here and telling me, “Cut to the chase, let us, Joel!  Hmmm?” Here are the high-level benefits of this spreadsheet:

  • Home and Auto Maintenance: Has stuff like task names, maintenance objects (e.g. microwave, tires), official recommended maintenance frequencies, and actual maintenance frequencies from trusted third-party sources
  • Home and/or Auto Maintenance: The ability to sort and filter by interior or exterior tasks, room in the house, last maintenance date, last maintenance mileage, replacement part details and cost, plus more
  • Auto Maintenance: Tracking for an unlimited number of cars (take that, paid auto maintenance services!)

Well hey, Yoda. Welcome back. What’s that? “Learn how to get most from dashing spreadsheet, read on you must.” Oh. OK then.

How to Use It

Auto Maintenance Spreadsheet Spotlight

First off, you’ll need a separate system to notify you when a specific maintenance task is due (or to check the spreadsheet for upcoming/overdue tasks). Google Calendar, Evernote, Remember The Milk, or a handy notebook should do just fine.

I use Google Calendar for all my reminders and the ability to easily share only maintenance-related tasks with whoever I want. Cutting out the email and text reminders – not to mention the calendar syncing on my smartphone – makes for a super simple set up.

Got the reminder process in place? Word.

Now add events or notifications for the actual maintenance frequency you plan to perform. You can copy my steps for adding a new maintenance task or tweak them however it works best for you.

Step-By-Step

  1. Name the task. I prefer very literal task names so that anyone looking at the spreadsheet can understand them, not just you.
  2. (Auto only) Pick a car. The maintenance varies heavily depending on the car, so you’ll need to specify which one it is if you have multiple. For example, my 2002 Toyota Camry has tires that last twice as long as the ones on a 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
  3. Define the object. This is for what needs to be checked, replaced, modified, cleaned, or otherwise attended to. Examples include a stove, an air conditioner system, pipes, windows, or a brake system component.
  4. Determine the action. I like a single word that describes the action needed. Whether it’s “clean,” “check,” “replace,” “drain,” or something else, being able to sort and filter by an action is schweet. If your significant other loves to clean or a normally helpful buddy hates to inspect, simply delegate tasks by type of action.
  5. Find the “official” (a.k.a. conventional wisdom) recommended maintenance frequency. This could come from many places like an owner’s manual, other manufacturer documentation, or a reputable online resource. For example, the conventional wisdom is to still change the oil in your car once every six months or every 3,000 miles.
  6. Find the actual maintenance frequency you plan to perform. You’ll need to do some research for certain tasks unless you’re a professional home inspector or auto mechanic. I believe in changing a car’s oil once every year or every 5,000 miles (whichever comes first), but you might use some cool synthetic oil that only requires changing every other century. Use common sense and do your homework now to save yourself wasted time and money later.
  7. Document replacement part details. My furnace requires a “201 Furnace Replacement Filter for Aprilaire or Space Guard 2200 and 2250” filter. I doubt yours does though. Think more about the specs for replacement parts. Does the filter performance rating needs to be a “7” or higher because you have dogs or cats and an airborne particular-sensitive kid? Are the filter dimensions flexible or must they be 20″x24″x4″? Bonus points if you document the total previous or current replacement part cost – before discounts and including tax/shipping – so you know the financial damage when you next buy one.
  8. Add contextual details. For home maintenance, I like sorting and filtering by interior or exterior tasks (or both like when I wash windows). I also like knowing what room is involved (e.g. bedroom), although you might want to create your own contextual details.
  9. Track the date(s), mileage, or another metric for past maintenance. I include the past three maintenance dates for trends and historical reference. Once I have some history, I can compare my actual maintenance to what I’ve told myself I should be doing. The same philosophy applies to mileage for car maintenance. Other tracking might include maintenance by total cost, the time commitment, or any additional people involved to complete the task besides you. Get creative.
  10. (Home only, optional) Document where to find maintenance instructions. I do this in two ways. First, I document where in the physical user manual (assuming I have one) I can find the maintenance instructions. Second, I document where in the online user manual – potentially more relevant and up-to-date than the physical one – I can find the maintenance instructions. You’ll get bonus points for adding hyperlinks to quickly access the online instructions. If you want double bonus points, add hyperlinks to unofficial instructions for things like lighting a natural gas fireplace.
  11. Add miscellaneous notes. A good spreadsheet almost always has a column for miscellaneous notes. Whether it includes an explanation from your dad about why and when you should trim your trees or some copy and pasted instructions from a user guide, use your all-purpose notes column liberally.

Bada-bing, bada-boom! That’s it.

Just don’t forget to organize your notification system. Having this badass spreadsheet only helps if you remember to look at it or add tasks from it to a “to-do” tool.          

Ready for the Sample?

Check out the brief info below if you want the full version of this spreadsheet.

Instant Access to the Free Full Version

Subscribe to our free newsletter to benefit from the full version of this spreadsheet that I use. It includes already completed parts that are relevant to you and everything else all set up to be customized. You’ll have instant access to all the other full versions of the Spreadsheet Spotlight resources, plus The Personal User Guide too. Together, I call this the Refuge of Simplicity and I want you to have direct access to it right now!

Enter Your Name and Email Below and Click

 

If you are viewing this in your email box or via RSS, View the post on Value of Simple to see the form.

Calling All Spreadsheets!

(Over the top alert!)

So there you go, my friend.

The last thing to do is pretend that Yoda went away and we’re chasing our arch-nemesis in the Batmobile. We’re tuned in to the police radio frequency and…what’s that?!

There’s a call across the radio for all units to send in their most amazing spreadsheets to solve the riddle of catching the villain! Are you going to help stop the forces of complexity, chaos, and financial disarray?

It’s time for you (yes, you) to answer that call and help out the rest of this community. None of us can liberate our time, money, and talent alone.

Yeah, I went overboard on the movie/comic book thing. I (sort of) promise it won’t happen again.

So do you plan to use this featured spreadsheet or tweak it to be more valuable? Maybe you have an amazing spreadsheet in your secret stash that could help everyone else? Leave a comment and let’s get our spreadsheet on! 

Photo Credit: Visualogist, Pro-Zak, nickwheeleroz
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27 Responses to Spreadsheet Spotlight: Mastering Home and Auto Maintenance Tracking

  1. Denise says:

    I like movie/comic book references! Makes things relateable, so no.. not overboard :)

    A spreadsheet like the sample you provided is excellent, especially, for someone who hates having to remember details like that.

    I’m not trying to be sexist, but yeah.. as a woman I don’t care to think about home/car maintenance (I’m sure some girls enjoy it though!) other than the usual cooking, laundry, keeping up with my kids school stuff (actually I have a hard time with school stuff – that would be a good spreadsheet checklist to create).

    In short… if it’s something I do naturally or remember easily by habit, no spreadsheet needed, but the stuff I avoid like your sample – I’m all for the spreadsheet!

    • Hey Denise,

      Thanks for ideas about future Spreadsheet Spotlights. I tend to provide what I already use in my life and Grant won’t be in grade school for another three-and-a-half years. But perhaps I can get a jump-start on something…hmmm. I’m thinking about it.

      There will eventually be something for everyone as I gradually release new spreadsheets. I already have a bunch more in the queue and I can’t wait to bust them out to see what people think (or how they help).

  2. Erin says:

    Joel, this is so cool! Also, the thought of actually making it reflect my own life makes me want to take a very long nap. But then, the thought of reminders showing up precisely when needed makes me very happy indeed. (Man, am I conflicted about spreadsheets!)

    I think what I’m going to find most valuable about this series is seeing the breadth and depth of what you can do with spreadsheets. I’m still not sold on the format in terms of the way I process information best, but there’s still a ton of stuff I’m going to learn from this series, I bet. Looking forward to what comes next!

  3. Bobbi Emel says:

    Joel, you are the King Goofball of All Spreadsheets!

    Love your enthusiasm and all the great examples you provide for us.

    Long live the King!

    • I’m glad you qualified what I’m the king of, because I believe the “King of All Spreadsheets” title has already been bestowed upon someone else. However, the “King Goofball of All Spreadsheets” is yours to bestow and I’m grateful you’ve placed the crown on my head. If I ever get knighted by Her Majesty the Queen, I’ll let you know which title feels better. I’m betting the spreadsheet related ones.

  4. Shanna Mann says:

    I love this. Another great thing to do is to keep a running log of what was done. Mine is simple:

    January/13– Replaced water pressure tank ($426/ ZEH Plumbing)

    This can also help you track if certain things wear out a lot ( what the hell is the deal? We’ve replaced axle bearings on the van three times in the last two years!)

    I love the sheer geekiness of this list! It makes me feel better that this year I plan to track the temperature in the attic and see what I can do to improve the ventilation. We put halloween decorations up there last year, and when we took them down this year, they had melted. Yikes!

    • This spreadsheet has a (sort of) built in log because you can sort by activity and date last performed. This is good for seeing trends, although your idea about just keeping a raw log is appealing too. I’ve done that with other things I need to keep track of that don’t require any kind of sorting or filtering. Sometimes you just need a high level of geekiness though, right?

      Sorry about all your car issues lately! I’ll duck as I suggest that all the axle bearings replacements might be user error (a.k.a. you drive the van in a way that leads to issues like that).

  5. Sarah says:

    Joel, I just love how excited and exuberant you seem to get when talking about spreadsheets. I can feel the enthusiasm oozing off the computer monitor – it’s quite delightful.

    I know nothing about car maintenance, but I’ve managed 135,000 miles with some luck and regular oil changes (and remembering to change the timing belt at 90K!)… but I can see how it would be helpful to automate all of the reminders from the start. Taking a note for when (if) I ever buy a new car… :-)

    • Wow. You sound like you’ve lucked out on car maintenance. Maybe you can tell Shanna how not to have to replace axle bearings all the time.

      You might want to check out the home maintenance side of the spreadsheet though. It works just as well for someone living in an apartment as it does for someone living in a house.

  6. This is an awesome resource, Joel. I’m nowhere near this organized with my car maintenance, but at 150K miles, I know that a lot of parts need to be replaced soon (including the water pump that is being fixed right now).

    Thanks for making this available!

    • At 150,000 miles, you’ll need to put more time into determining the difference between the “recommended” maintenance schedule and the “I don’t care what you say car manufacturer or auto mechanic…I’m only doing this maintenance this often” schedule. At least that’s the part I struggle with the most with my Camry having almost 100,000 miles on it. It’s freakin’ hard to find reliable resources that give you non-marketing, objective rationale on how often you need to do certain things to your car.

      Does anyone have an uber resource related to multiple car makes and models that they can recommend for bridging the gap between recommended maintenance and a more realistic maintenance schedule?

  7. Scarey and cool all at the same time.

    With my car maintenance, I let the service center do all the work. What can I say I am a girl!

    I am currently working on a Food Storage spreadsheet though, is should be super awesome when it is done.

    • I let someone else do all my car maintenance too, Lori. But I like to determine when they do it and not have someone else decide or keep track. I’m interested in your Food Storage spreadsheet though. Is this for every day food stocks, for emergency supplies, a combo…something else?

      And yes, spreadsheets (and me) can be scary and cool at the same time.

  8. Amit Amin says:

    So sexy Joel. I just subscribed – you got me hooked!

    Your spreedsheet made me release a sigh of relief. My family never performed any of auto maintenance things listed. Thank goodness no major accidents. I don’t have a home or a car, but it’s given me some good ideas… time to move some of my recurring ToDos from notepad/evernote to gmail/excel.

    • I hooked Amit?! Yeeeeees.

      I’m feeling good so far about this spreadsheet related work in 2013. I didn’t think I’d change too many people’s mindsets as I thought most folks would just think, “Oh, cool. A spreadsheet that might come in handy.” But you commenting that you might create some systems around what I call the “Put It in a Spreadsheet” philosophy is sexy my man. My friend Shanna Mann is a systems genius, so you might want to check out her website for some of the “how” in moving from one system to another. Gmail and Excel FTW!

  9. I will forward this link to my husband – not because I am sexist about these things, but because my mind doesn’t work this way and his does. Great idea. And congratulations on being King!

    • I wouldn’t have thought you had any other motive than the being helpful one Jane. I do think there is something to more men using and liking spreadsheets than women though. Perhaps it’s because a lot of the professions that require heavy spreadsheet use are dominated by men (e.g. Accounting or Technology Analysts). Maybe it’s for some other reason. Bah. We have better things to try and figure out! :)

      I hope your husband digs this.

  10. Bravo, Joel! I thing it’s fantastic that you’re not just giving away the template, but really explaining how to use it. Too many templates ship without instructions, so people end up being just as disorganized with their “organizer” as they were before they had it. I’d love to see your template for tracking your possessions (for insurance purposes, etc). That’s something I’ve not done before and realize that it would be really smart to start.

    • I don’t have a spreadsheet for tracking possessions, Ethan. I’ve documented what I own for insurance purposes with a camera instead. And ya know what? It seems like too much work to keep an inventory of all the things in my house. Think “they” have an app for that?

      On another note, I’m glad you appreciate the instructions that come along with the resource. I’m not the type to ship something without a user guide.

  11. Gary Korisko says:

    Joel:

    Until this series I thought I knew quite a bit about spreadsheets. I was wrong. You’re opening my mind to all kinds of new uses. I just read the post, but now I need to re-read, dissect & click some links. Time to get my Geek on! (Good stuff!)

  12. Lee J Tyler says:

    Wow, was I woefully lacking the spreedsheet knowledge you have.
    But considering that you put “spreadsheet” on the third line of your bio shows me that you are the Master of Spreadsheets. Or are you the King? Which one?
    Now I must go and use these on my Google docs.
    Thanks, Joel!

    • Hi Lee,

      Bobbi crowned me “King Goofball” so I’m sticking with that title. I’m less concerned with being seen as a “spreadsheet dude” than being seen as someone who helps people get really good at the unsexy side of life. So think of me what you will! I’ll be happy as long as I’m helping.

  13. Why the dropbox/Excel combo versus Google Docs? I use both systems and I’m not exactly sure why. I don’t think I have any spreadsheets that require functionality that is beyond Google Docs, but I’m still reluctant to put all of my eggs in that basket. I guess one of my concerns is that email hacking is a common problem out there and if my email account is hacked, then so are my Google Docs.

    I’m interested in why you seem to lean more towards the Dropbox/Excel side of things.

    • Hey Jeremey,

      I dig the questions! Here’s a brief breakdown, although you can email me if you’d like more of my thoughts.

      1) Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, and other common email providers are always a big target for hackers. I recommend using multi-factor authentication (e.g. 2-step verification) to reduce your risk with little inconvenience downside. That’s another way of saying don’t stop using Google products just because they are tied to your email account.
      2) My spreadsheets do require functionality beyond what Google Docs allows and I can only find it in Excel. Examples include robust sorting and filtering, more data export options, much faster document loading (especially when you get big ones), solid search functionality across workbooks and tabs, and no data storage limits. But I’d say don’t switch to something else if Google Docs meets your needs. As long as your security needs are being met, keep doin’ what you’re doin’.
      3) I like the look and feel of Dropbox better than its competitors. That’s probably only because it’s the first cloud storage and syncing solution I installed, but I just feel attached to it.

      I’ll be sharing a lot more detail about why the Dropbox/Excel combo works so well in my upcoming book called Experience Curating. :)

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