By Meg Favreau
If you're frugal, you might frequently find yourself worrying over purchases, asking yourself, "Is this too expensive?" But that's not the right mindset -- the questions you should be asking yourself are "What value does this have to me once I buy it?" and "Can this save me money?" In fact, there are many purchases -- cheap and expensive alike -- that can save you (or make you) money in the long run. Here are just a few that can save you hundreds or thousands over time.
1. A bike or transit pass. If you live in an area where you can forgo having a vehicle, you can save thousands of dollars a year. Just think, no more car payments or pricey repairs. And that's just the big stuff -- you won't have to pay for car washes or gas either. Don't think you can manage without a car for occasional errands? Many cities now have Zipcar or other car sharing programs, which allow members to rent cars for short time periods and low rates.
2. A TV-streaming device. All this talk about canceling your cable is great -- if you still have a way to watch TV on your TV. Thankfully, there are now several options for streaming devices that bring services like Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu to your living room TV. Apple TV (AAPL), Roku and Amazon Fire (AMZN) are all options to check out. Each requires a one-time initial investment, usually between $50 and $100. According to the research company NPD Group, cable bills might reach $123 a month by next year. With prices for Netflix and Hulu Plus hovering around $8 each, getting one of these devices could add up to thousands of dollars in savings in just a few years.
3. An espresso machine. If you're one of those people who won't give up going to the coffee shop because you don't want to switch to make drip coffee at home, you can still save money by buying your own espresso machine. Yes, it's a higher initial investment -- depending on what features you're looking for, an espresso machine can cost anywhere between $100 and $1,200, and you'll need to buy coffee and milk. But if you buy a $4 latte 250 days of the year, that's $1,000 on its own, and you're not even buying coffee every day of the week!
4. A crockpot. Grabbing take out on those nights you're too rushed or exhausted to cook dinner can add up fast, and it costs you even more if you're ordering delivery. But if you have a crockpot, all you need to do is throw in a few simple ingredients before you go to work, and you can come home to a fresh, hot meal for a fraction of the cost of food from a restaurant.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%5. A programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats allow you to automatically change the temperature based on the time of day, which means you can use less energy to heat or cool your house when you're sleeping or out at work. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that using one of these thermostats can save you up to $180 a year.
6. Reusable water bottle. If you're buying a $6 case of bottle of water a week, that adds up to $312 a year. Reusable bottles can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the course of a year, depending on the size of your family and how much water you drink.
7. Personal finance book. For all the money they can help you save, personal finance books are worth a lot more than their cover price. Which book you start with depends on what matters to you. Ramit Sethi's "I Will Teach You to Be Rich," Dave Ramsey's "The Total Money Makeover" and Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich's "Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes" (which helps you understand the psychology behind your money decisions) are all great options. If you want to go beyond saving money and start making money on the side, U.S. News personal finance editor Kimberly Palmer's "The Economy of You" is a fantastic resource.
8. Hobby equipment. If you're able to turn your hobby into a side job, it has the potential to pay for its costs -- and then some. Examples of equipment you might buy include a DSLR camera, woodworking tools or a sewing machine. But only make big purchases like this if you have some experience with the hobby -- what is not a good investment is buying an expensive piece of equipment and then discovering you're not as interested in turning the hobby into a business as you thought.
Meg Favreau is the senior editor for the personal finance blog Wise Bread, which covers rewards credit card mistakes and other personal finance tips.
By Meg Favreau