During tough economic times, wise consumers know that stretching the dollar means so much more than just keeping a budget. It is also about knowing how to use what you have. Household appliances, for example, can be notoriously expensive to replace. By protecting your investment, it is possible to keep them in top shape, allowing you to avoid the expensive repairs for as long as possible. Here are 4 tips to making your appliances last longer and perform better:

Keep them clean.

All types of appliances have to be kept clean in order to keep them efficient. The compressor coils of a refrigerator gather dust over time, causing the unit to work harder. Accumulated dust and dirt on compressor coils are also a major cause of overheating. Door gaskets should also be cleaned regularly with a damp cloth dipped in dish washing soap. Gaskets should also be checked regularly. Once they come loose and no longer connect flush to the body of the fridge, they have to be replaced.

Watch how you use appliances with electricity.

Most household appliances run on electricity, so they need special care. The worst problems you will want to avoid are overheating and short circuits. Always turn off the unit first before plugging or unplugging. During a power outage, immediately turn off the unit and unplug it or at least switch off the power strip.

Know what you are dealing with.

Having a good understanding of how your appliances work will help you avoid unnecessary damage. Read instructions carefully. Manufacturers often include printed materials such as a user's manual with their products, so take some time to read them to understand their proper usage, restrictions, and limitations. Keep your user's manual handy. You will need it as a reference in case a glitch occurs.

Get a good repairman.

Even with enough care and DIY maintenance, appliances can and will break down. If this happens, make sure to have them checked by a licensed and experienced repairman. Some appliances might also need to be serviced by someone who is certified or trained to work on that specific brand or model. In some cases, sending the unit to someone who is not licensed may even void the original warranty. Always check the manufacturer's recommendations and make sure that your repairman is qualified to do the job.