Money-saving items that pay for themselves

Money-Saving Items That Pay for Themselves
If you're trying to live a frugal lifestyle, it can seem counterintuitive to spend extra money on products. However, certain items can actually help you save more in the long run. Here are a few to consider.

First, think about investing in a slow cooker. The average family spends about $50 at a restaurant, and ordering out a few times a week can quickly add up, but with a slow cooker you only pay a fraction of the cost in ingredients to make a great meal. Just throw them in the cooker and by dinnertime your meal will be ready.

Next, swap out your incandescent bulbs for cost-effective LEDs. Incandescent bulbs use more energy, costing up to eight times more on your electric bill. While LED's be a bit costly, they last up to 23 times longer, which means less replacement and less money spent.

Finally, you can eliminate rental costs from your cable company by buying your own modem. Many people don't realize that they're being billed up to $10 a month to "rent" their cable modem. Instead of paying that fee regularly, invest in a modem that's compatible with your cable provider for about $100 and you'll break even in less than a year.

The next time you're at the store, remember these money-saving products, because sometimes you have to spend money to save money.

When to ReplaceHousehold Items
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Money-saving items that pay for themselves -- Savings Experiment
NOTHING lasts forever.

That said, many items are less obvious than the spoiled milk in your fridge -- there's no expiration date or other obvious signs their time is up.

So how long should you let your stuff linger before replacing it? We talked to the experts and nailed down a "best by" date for, well, just about everything.
Replace after: Two years
Why: Pressure on the pillow as you sleep causes it to flatten, and develop uncomfortable bumps and lumps, says Good Housekeeping Institute's Kathleen Huddy. To test if your pillow still has life in it, she says, fold it in half and rest your hand on top for 30 seconds. Then let go. "If the pillow pops back, it's fine," she says. If it remains folded, it's time to buy a new one.
Replace after: Four years
Why: Unless you're using your computer for very basic functions (i.e., word processing), technology will have likely advanced enough that you need a significant upgrade, says David Carnoy, executive editor of CNET, a technology review Web site. Rather than trying to put a new processor into an old computer, you're typically better off buying new.
Replace after: Three months to two years
Why: Microbe growth in makeup can cause skin irritations and infections. The worst offenders are liquid cosmetics, which build up bacteria more quickly. Keep mascara for a maximum of three months; other liquids and creams (eyeliner, foundation) for no more than a year. Powders (eyeshadow, blush) can be used safely for up to two years.
Replace after: 10 to 12 years
Why: The pressurized contents of a fire extinguisher de-pressurize over time. "Eventually, it just becomes a block of 'stuff' inside the cylinder," says Tom Olshanski, director of external affairs for the U.S. Fire Administration -- rendering it useless in fighting fires. Check your extinguisher on a monthly basis for corrosion, a sure sign air is leaking out, he suggests.
Replace after: Seven years
Why: Mattresses wear out over time, says Kathleen Huddy, textiles director for the Good Housekeeping Institute. One that sags or is uneven won't keep your spine in line as you sleep, which means you may have trouble sleeping. It's likely you'll also experience neck and back pain while awake. There's also an ick factor to old mattresses, she explains -- they collect dust, dirt and allergens that can't be removed.
Replace after: Two years
Why: Exposure to light, heat and air lighten and alter perfume notes, explains Andrea Walker, a makeup expert with Sephora. "It weakens the scent," she says.
Replace after: Six months
Why: Filters become clogged with dirt and other particles, reducing the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling systems, says Rozanne Weissman, a spokeswoman for the Alliance to Save Energy.
Replace after: 300 to 500 miles run
Why: Foam-like material in the mid-sole of the shoe stops bouncing back. Losing shock-absorbing capacity can lead to heel and arch pain, or even stress fractures. Judge how much life is left in your shoes by the way they feel. When a running shoe becomes uncomfortable, it's time to toss it.
Replace after: 10 years
Why: Constant stress on a smoke detector's sensors from particles in the air -- everything from cigarette smoke to pet dander to pollen -- render it unreliable, says the U.S. Fire Administration's Olshanski. "Its ability to sense smoke deteriorates," he says. The result will be one of two extremes: either the smoke detector will sound the alarm for just about anything or it won't go off at all.
Replace after: One year
Why: Dried herbs and spices lose their flavor over time, says Tina Ujlaki, executive food editor for Food & Wine magazine. Whole spices, such as star anise or coriander, may last slightly longer -- less of the spice is exposed to the air. To tell if your spices are past their prime, open the bag or jar and take a whiff. "If there's no scent, there won't be any flavor," she says.
Replace after: Three months
Why: Toothbrush bristles frayed from use remove plaque less effectively than those of a new brush, according to the American Dental Association. Swapping out your brush will also limit exposure to bacteria that build up on the bristles.
We'll help you make it, save it and spend it wisely.

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