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How Good Financial Choices ‘Pay For’ Themselves

When you’re trying to get out of debt, save for the future, or just develop good spending habits, it’s hard to know where to cut back, and which things to buy. When making a purchase, will that item save you money in the long run, or will it subtract from your wealth, never to earn returns?

You may have heard that some investments “pay for themselves.” What does this mean?

Divest vs. Invest

Making good financial choices doesn’t mean cutting everything out of your life that costs money. The trick is to spend money on services, things, and experiences that will return more money to you later. This is what the term “pay for itself” means. Here are 4 examples of good household purchases that can someday return to you the cash you spent – plus some.

  • New windows. While many home upgrades add cosmetic appeal or energy efficiency, this investment achieves both. If you replace the windows in your home, you’ll save money on utility bills, and you’ll likely recoup the cash you invested in the windows when you go to sell. That, plus increased curb appeal, puts new windows into the category of good financial choices that – over time – pay for themselves.
  • A slow cooker. This kitchen gadget saves money in a few different ways, paying for itself over time. First, it encourages you to enjoy meals at home instead of eating out. When you come home from work and the house is full of savory aromas, restaurants lose their enticing power. Also, it allows for larger portions, which lets you package leftovers for the following day’s lunch. And finally, it’s much more energy efficient than your stove, oven or microwave. You can see how spending $40 on a slow cooker (and then using it regularly) can quickly save you more than what you paid for it.
  • Programmable thermostat. Energy costs in a home account for an average of $2,200 per year, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. A programmable thermostat that costs $50 can quickly save you much more than what you spent to install it. To put this gadget to work, simply set it to a lower temperature when you’re away or asleep, and have it kick back on when you plan to be around again.
  • Dryer balls. An eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets, this product will run you less than $20 and cuts dryer time by an average of 10 minutes per load, depending on your machine. How does it work? Simple! Toss these puppies in the dryer with your wet clothing and apply the same settings you usually use, only set the cycle for a shorter duration. The balls tumble around with your laundry, keeping the fabric pieces separate from one another, which allows more air and heat into the fibers. The result is a quicker, more thorough dry in less time, letting you turn your clothes dryer off much earlier. Since your clothes dryer uses as much energy in one load as your fridge uses to run for four months (yes, really!), this one little purchase can pay for itself within a month.

These household buys are smart. However, if you need to borrow money to pay for anything, then its potential to earn returns dissipates, leaving you at square one. If you’d like to buy something that will eventually pay for itself, don’t do it on credit. Work on a financial plan that allows you to make choices about investments that makes good sense.


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