When you think of the word investor, you might envision someone who is playing the stock market or has money tied up in an investment account at a bank. But really, it’s often much simpler. An investor is someone who is making different types of purchases — for example, a house or car. While taking the plunge into this sort of investing can be daunting at times — for instance, is buying a house really a good decision or should you keep on renting? — a number of purchases end up giving you a great bang for your buck as well as their own unique dividends.

    With this in mind, let’s look at some common first-time purchases and why and how they are typically great investments:

    Cell phone plans: more affordable than ever

    If you have been balking at the idea of signing up for a contract with a smartphone carrier, you may not realize how much more affordable cell phone plans have become over the years. Granted, you can continue to purchase month-to-month service with certain companies or buy minutes as you go, but to do so often means sacrificing service, a decent phone selection and other perks, so do your research and choose wisely.

    Buying a home versus renting

    Purchasing a home is definitely a big step, and many people are understandably nervous about taking the leap from renting to buying. However, if you are secure in your job and are pretty sure that you will stay with your current company for about five years, investing in a home is a wise choice. One of the biggest reasons for buying versus renting is that you are building equity in something that belongs to you, not padding the pocketbook of a landlord. Also, you will get a tax break on your mortgage interest, which is nice when April rolls around and you are filing your taxes.

    To help you determine how much you can afford for a mortgage, you can use a mortgage calculator and enter in different payment amounts; you can start with the amount you are currently paying in rent and see how much home that can get you and then go from there; even if you end up paying more for your mortgage than you are now, you are investing in yourself, which is always a good thing.

    To buy or not to buy a car … that is the question

    Like a home, buying a car can make the most even-keeled person a tad nervous. If you have been leasing a vehicle for some time and like the low payments and the fact that you can upgrade to a newer car every few years, consider this: when you lease a car, you are at the mercy of the leasing company. As you probably know, they put restrictions on how much you can drive, and will ding you for excess wear and tear. Also, when you return the car at the end of your lease, you have nothing left over to put towards the next vehicle.

    When you buy a new or pre-owned car, it is yours from the start and you can drive it as much as you wish. Once the loan is paid off you won’t have monthly payments anymore—unlike leasing which means paying a monthly fee as long as you have a car. Also, when your own vehicle is on its last wheels are you are ready to buy a new one, you can usually trade it in and deduct that amount from the purchase price. To make sure you are getting a fair price on your new vehicle, download an app like TrueCar and use it to find the exact make, model and features in your area, along with a good sticker price.

    Investing is about more than buying things, it’s about investing in yourself

    You work hard for your money, so why shouldn’t you get the most out of it? By thinking of major purchases like a home, car and cell phone plan as investments rather than expenses, it is easier to see how these decisions will benefit you in a number of ways so that you can find wise ways to spend your money.