Every January, I detail a list of inexpensive “investments” that I personally recommend for hard working people looking for smart purchases. By “investment”, I mean that the cash you shell out to buy it will be (without a doubt) rewarded with even greater value that its purchase price within a short amount of time. Past suggestions included warehouse club cards (My Sam’s Club card pays for itself as soon as I buy tires for my car) a crock pot (Pot Roast, come to Momma!), continuing education (learn how to change the oil on your car), a library card – you get the point. Without further adieu, I give you the list for 2013! Invest your hard-earned money in some (or all) of the following items, and watch your investments reward you with a marvelous return!

(1) A fake gorgeous Christmas Tree – yes, the holiday season is just past, so it may seem odd to bring this one up. However, January is – by far – the best month to purchase one of these beauties. Several retailers found their holidays falling short and still have them available on their showroom floors at huge discounts. I recommend taking the frugal route in an even more delicious direction and hitting your local Goodwill or Consignment store, where already 75% discounted trees, still new in their boxes, have been discounted yet again for an even more reasonable price. It’s divine. We have a spectacular eight-foot fake Christmas tree in our living room, purchased seven years ago on Craigslist for the bargain-basement price of $80. It’s beautiful, looks real, is easy to put together, and – given the skyrocketing price of real trees in past years – has saved us easily $600 in the past few years. Cha-Ching!

(2) Programmable thermostat – These are delightful little devices that automatically program the temperature in your house according to your wishes. If you don’t have one of these brilliant little gizmos, stop what you’re doing and go get one. They’re marvelous, and getting better every year. For less than $50, you can get a thermostat that may easily save you 20% on your energy bill. Depending on the size of your house, we’re talking about $500-$700 in savings in one year’s time. Hard to beat!

(3) A backup power generator for your house – Thunderstorms, high wind, hurricanes… you name it, we’re enduring it, year after year. Summertime brings the storms, fall brings the hurricanes, winter brings the snowstorms. Chances are excellent we’re all going to get smacked around this year as well, and yet another power outage is entirely likely. Save yourself the hassle, stress and upheaval of packing the bags, kids and parents and bundling off to the nearest hotel for a cramped hotel room at $150+/night. Invest in some serious peace of mind with a generator. You’ll love it. The power goes off, no worries – the generator goes on. As Hurricane Sandy barreled up the coast last year, thousands of people invested in new, mack daddy generators at top prices… and now no longer need last year’s mack daddy model. Hit Craigslist to find deeply discounted ones near you, you’ll see the vast majority of them are being offered at well over 50% off, and have been used 10 hours or less. Chances are they might even deliver it to your home if you offer a couple of extra bucks. Viva electricity!

You work harder than ever for your money, by all means invest it in useful items that are guaranteed to make your life easier, and your bank account even bigger. Here’s to a 2013 filled with many happy returns – Frugal On!