Top 7 Small Investments That Pay Off Big-Time

Sometimes, more often than not, it’s those little, inexpensive things in life that count the most, especially when your survival depends on them.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2011 the average life expectancy in the U.S. was only 78.7 years. Do you know what the leading cause of death was? Cancer, stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and accidents.

While the following things may not cost a whole lot, they are highly effective and are capable of keeping you from kicking the bucket too soon.

Here are 10 small investments you can make that could end up paying off big-time.

Learn to Swim
The CDC estimates that 10 people drown every day in the US and is the fifth leading cause of accidental death and injury.

Taking the time to dive into some formal swimming lessons is priceless. Did you know that 37 percent of adults in the US reportedly cannot swim the length of a typical backyard swimming pool? Surprisingly, adults make up 70 percent of drowning deaths every year. Scary, isn’t it? For everyone out there who cannot swim, you aren’t alone. Instead of resorting to panicking whenever you’re in or near water, take a lesson, ease your anxiety and live life more adventurously.

Wear a Helmet
The serious risks of a head injury are significant by any mode, but it appears to only be socially acceptable time to wear a helmet is when you’re riding a bicycle or taking part in dangerous contact sports. Properly wearing a helmet dramatically decreases your chances of having the impact transfer to your head when you crash and go down hard–which can typically causes serious head and neck injuries.

We’re not suggesting that you wear a helmet at all times, but when you’re on the slopes, on two wheels or engaging in any activity where you’re moving fast, it’s your best means of protection against a life-threatening injury. The CDC reports that around 1,000 people die each year from bicycle crashes and 60 percent of those deaths resulted from head injuries.

Smoke Alarm
A properly installed and maintained smoke alarm is the only thing in your home that can alert you and your family to a fire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.

With two types of smoke alarms on the market, ionization and photoelectric, ionization smoke alarms are most responsive to flaming fires, while photoelectric is more sensitive to smoldering fires. You’re looking at a cost between $6 and $20 for this life-saving device. Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home, including the basement.

Consumer Reports says some insurers offer a five percent discount for homes with smoke alarms.

Buy a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide is an invisible killer. It is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas that can leak from your indoor cooling or heating systems, and even through your garage from your car exhaust. Similar to how a smoke detector is an important device to have in your home, a carbon monoxide detector costs as little as $40 and can protect you and your family from an accidental fatality.

More than 400 deaths occur every year from carbon monoxide poisoning. The symptoms are nausea, headache, chest pain and unconsciousness.

The best place to install the detectors are near where you sleep and also near the fuel-burning system within your home.

Get an Annual Physical
Annual physical exams are a vital part of a preventative illness measure taken to ensure a long and healthy life. Enough said.

DIY Home Survival Kit
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends some of the following basics for a home-made, home survival kit:

  • One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
  • At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food, and a can opener
  • A battery-powered radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries, or the wind-up variety
  • First-aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Dust mask or cotton t-shirt to help filter the air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • A can opener for food

Other important parts of your survival kit: disinfectant, household chlorine bleach as an emergency water treatment (16 drops of regular household bleach per gallon of water), and important family documents in a waterproof and portable container.

Eat at Home, Bring Your Lunch, Eat Healthier!
Think about it: Our busy lives force us to eat at our desks at work, in our cars on the go, in front the of TV when we tune out. We scarf down delivery meals, drive-thru, packaged and processed foods. But just because we lead fast-paced lifestyles it doesn’t mean that we should jeopardize our health. What we need to do is spend more time in the kitchen at the table. Preparing your own meals not only helps you practice portion control, it also reduces the sugar, salt and fat in your diet while saving you hundreds of dollars per month.

Our overall heath is declining as a nation. A 2010 USDA report found that Americans spend about 42% of their food budgets on food away from home — food that often is filled with too much saturated fat, salt and sugar.

“On average,” the report said, “breakfast away from home decreases the number of servings of whole grain and dairy consumed per 1,000 calories and increases the percent of calories from saturated and solid fat, alcohol and added sugar.”