How Long It Takes 11 Big Purchases to Pay for Themselves

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Big purchases aren’t always something to feel guilty about. After a few decades, years, or even months, there are plenty of items that will begin to pay for themselves and then some. Here’s when to expect to see a return on 11 major investments.


A standard tux can easily go for $500 or more, which makes renting a tempting option. But if you plan on attending at least a few weddings in your lifetime, you’ll be glad you made the investment early on. According to one recent report, the average cost to rent a tuxedo in 2015 was close to $200. If you attend enough events, buying your own tux can easily pay for itself within a year. And unlike an expensive dress, no one will notice if you wear the same outfit back-to-back.


It’s true that hybrid cars save you significant cash at the gas pump, but just how far these savings will take you depends on the price of the car itself. Lower-end models, with prices that are on par with similar gas-powered vehicles from their brand, don’t take long for drivers to recoup the purchase price. Those that are relatively more expensive are likely to break even within four to five years. And if you’re willing to shell out up to $25,000 extra to upgrade to higher-end hybrids, make sure you’re doing it for the environment—not the sake of your wallet—as that up charge could take up to 11 years to pay off.


A $4 latte doesn’t feel like a bank-breaking expense in the early morning hours when you need your caffeine fix, but by the end of the year those small purchases add up. If you buy one latte before work every day for a year you’ll end up having spent nearly $1000 on something you could have made at home. Instead, treat yourself to some gourmet coffee beans and a quality coffee maker. Even if you spend $80 on a fancy machine and $10 a week on beans, you’ll make the difference back in 2 months. You may even end up liking your home-brew more than the stuff from your local cafe.


College tuition prices are higher than ever before, but thankfully, the fancy degree pays off—as long as you’re willing to wait to see a return on your investment, that is. One study published last year shows that college graduates earn $1 million more than high school graduates without a degree over the course of a lifetime. While that sounds like a major bonus, it still takes nearly 20 years before that four-year degree becomes profitable.


One of the major incentives to switch to solar is to save money otherwise spent on electricity bills, but in order to get there you first need to make a big investment. The average cost of solar panel installation is $17,000 in the U.S., though tax breaks and other discounts can make it as low as $5000 in some states. The savings you earn by going solar can take anywhere from seven to 20 years to cover the initial cost. But the average savings after 20 years? A whopping $20,000. In addition to cutting down on your monthly energy bill, solar panels also offer the benefit of adding value to your home.


The electricity guzzled by your refrigerator accounts for a huge chunk of your energy bill each month, and the situation is made even worse by old, inefficient models. According to Energy Star’s Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator, if you’re still using a fridge from the ‘90s, you could save $250 to $490 over 5 years by switching to a more efficient model. You can easily find Energy Star-certified fridges priced between $450 and $1000, which means your new purchase will pay off within the span of its lifetime.


If you live around the corner from a laundromat, it may seem more cost-effective to take advantage of someone else’s water, energy, and expensive equipment. But doing a load of laundry only adds an average of $0.50 onto your electric bill, and it isn’t too difficult to find a washer and dryer for around $400 each. According to Deal News, buying machines for this price will pay off in a little less than 2 years, compared to frequenting a laundromat in that time (this is assuming you do three loads of laundry a week). If your set lasts you at least 10 years, you’ll accrue a total savings of $3120. That’s a lot of quarters!

8. BIKE // 2-4 MONTHS

Not only is biking good for the environment and your health—it can save you a lot of cash. After investing between $200 and $500 on a quality fixed gear, you’ll see your investment returned to you after two to four months of avoiding public transit fees.


Buying a smart thermostat is a serious investment. Models go for about $250, which is three times what a regular thermostat might cost. But according to one brand’s website, the purchase pays for itself in a little less than 2 years. Since the device is smart enough to keep track of your schedule, it’s able to anticipate when to run and when to conserve energy. That level of efficiency leaves you with an average energy savings of $131 to $145 a year.

10. HOME GYM // 1-3.5 YEARS

The average gym membership costs $58 per month, and a huge percentage of gym members quickly stop showing up. If you want to wave goodbye to monthly gym fees while still having access to all the equipment, considering building a gym of your own at home. By seeking out the best deals and buying secondhand, one site estimates you can create a home gym for approximately $1200. This investment will pay off in roughly 3.5 years if you were paying a cheaper membership fee of $27 a month, and it will pay off it in as little as 13 months if you were paying closer to $75.


Cable users may be tempted to rent their modems for the sake of convenience, but it takes a short time for the $7.95 monthly fee to turn from annoying to impractical. By paying $70 for a cable modem up front, you’ll be paid back in savings in a mere nine months. Your reality TV habit is definitely worth the investment.