3 Simple and Smart Investments You Can Make Now

Here are a few good things to spend your money on.

3 Simple and Smart Investments You Can Make Now
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Not all of us are fortunate enough to have spare money on hand. But if you’re sitting on some extra cash and you’ve already built an emergency fund, then it pays to invest that money before you’re tempted to blow it on something else.

Now when we think about investing, we tend to imagine buying stocks or loading up on bonds. Both are good ideas, but they require a fair amount of research, and a degree of risk. Therefore, you might consider using your money to invest in something else -- yourself. Here are three ways to go about that.

1. Obtain a professional license or certification

Some jobs require you to obtain a professional license. Others will pay you more to get such a license, or to get certified in a particular skill, like project management. Investing in either could result in a substantial income boost, which is why it pays to put your money there.

That said, getting licensed or certified often means making a commitment not just to the initial set of coursework or exams, but to continuing education. And often, that continuing education will be on your own dime. But if a $500 certification with an annual $100 renewal fee scores you a $5,000 pay bump, and a decent raise from year to year after that, then it’s worth the initial outlay, as well as your time.

2. Buy new equipment for your freelance job

As a freelancer, you’re no doubt aware that the more efficiently you work, the more money you stand to earn. That’s why it pays to invest in equipment that can help make you better or faster at your job.

If you’re a freelance writer who’s been plugging away on an old laptop with half-broken keys, investing a few hundred dollars in a new one could increase your output to the point that it more than pays for itself. Similarly, if you tend to do a lot of work on the go and find that background noise distracts you, buying a pair a noise-canceling headphones could help you be far more productive outside the home. Best of all, you can write off legitimate business expenses on your taxes, thereby shielding more of your income from the IRS while you help yourself excel on the job.

3. Get a reliable vehicle

If the car you have has long been paid off, you may be inclined to keep driving it around town, even if it has trouble starting every few days. But if that vehicle is really on its way out, you’re better off investing in a new one -- and by "new," we’re talking "newer" than your current automobile. To be clear, brand-new cars are often a bad investment, since they lose value the minute you drive them away from the lot. But what you should have is a reliable vehicle, especially if you count on one to get to work.

By investing in a better car, you might avoid being late to the office, thereby compromising your job security. And the less car trouble you face, the less you’ll pay in repairs.

Let’s be clear: There are plenty of ways to invest your money and use it to generate measurable returns. For example, you could open a certificate of deposit (CD) and lock in a guaranteed amount of interest throughout its term. Or, you could buy bonds, which aren’t FDIC-insured like CDs, but are a reasonably safe investment nonetheless. But if you have extra cash to work with, it pays to put some of that money into tools that’ll help you succeed professionally. With any luck, your investments will pay dividends of some sort for many years to come.