The wisdom in keeping a household logbook and old owner's manuals

Write This Down

by Rich Finzer

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One of my favorite George Strait tunes is Write This Down. It's a lovesick cowboy's list of why he cares for his cowgirl sweetheart. Writing things down is important in other ways, too. As a sailor, I maintain a detailed logbook listing every part number and the installation date of any components I've repaired or replaced. It's a matter of nautical survival as well as convenience, because there are simply too many part numbers to memorize and keep track of. And landlubbers should adopt the same practice by maintaining a household logbook as well. From a number of perspectives, nothing compares to the power and value of the written word. Here are some real life examples.

Part Numbers: Do you remember the part number of the cartridge for your washerless faucet or the model number? Me neither. I usually have to replace one every few years and writing down those numbers has saved me hours of drive time, frustration, and money. The part costs $10, but as the nearest orange or blue home improvement retailer (you know the ones) are both over 20 miles from my home, the cost of the gas I burn coming and going almost equals the price of the part. So I don't want to have to make that trip more than once to return a part that looked "almost" like my old one, but won't work. The same goes for odd sized light bulbs, bolts, or the dimensions of pre-cut pieces of decorative woodwork. And when I finally sell my farm and move to warmer climates, that logbook will bolster my selling price. It's taken me over 20 years to accumulate the data. And no prospective purchaser in his right mind wouldn't want it. It's additional bargaining leverage. It's the residential equivalent of the complete service history for an antique automobile from the buyer's perspective. In other words, it's priceless.

Owner's Manuals: Much of the Internet content I write involves repair procedures for appliances and lawn equipment. Unlike many folks who almost automatically discard the owner's manual when unpacking a new gizmo, for over 30 years, I've saved every owner's manual for everything I've ever purchased, even if the thing itself wore out long ago. Those manuals contain parts lists, assembly/repair procedures, and troubleshooting tips. As an example, I have the manual for a gas grill I bought in 1982, and the information on those pages has earned me quite a bit of money, because that manual is not available online. The grill still works, it's a quality-built item, and repair parts are readily available, but the original manufacturer went out of business in 2000. The rub is that many repair parts are model specific. Without the manual, knowing which one to buy becomes nearly impossible. My manual saving strategy is paying off, too. After answering just a few more assignments, I'll have earned the same amount of money I paid for the grill!

Make Money with Manuals: My collection of manuals is a revenue resource and information treasure trove, but that's not true for everyone. Let's say your 20-year-old mower finally bit the dust, but you've hung onto the owner's manual. Put it up for sale on an Internet auction site. Out of print owner's manuals frequently command surprisingly high prices. Why? It's simple. Virtually no equipment manufacturer has any old copies lying around. And if they do, they usually sell them. So why shouldn't you sell yours? After all, you paid for it! Put the proceeds toward the cost of a new mower.

Remember that a household logbook and your old owner's manuals are at least as valuable as the items they will help you maintain or repair.

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