It's always fascinating to read stories of average, everyday people who built up a fortune by regularly investing small amounts in stocks such as Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), or Home Depot (NYSE:HD) over long periods of time.

If you worked for these companies, and/or regularly "trickled" money into them over the years, this is quite feasible -- Bank of America, Caterpillar, and Home Depot have returned 14.9%, 15.1%, and 22.9% annually over the past two decades, respectively.

But you can also get market-beating returns by buying into great companies at more opportune times -- whenever the stock goes on sale. Rather than regularly investing in small, fixed amounts, investors can use simple methods of buying a stock in portions to manage risk and boost returns.

First, find a solid business
Of course, every situation is different, but great returns on investments always come on the back of fundamentally strong businesses. And if you're confident that you've already purchased shares in a great company, why wouldn't you at least consider buying again, particularly if the stock price is significantly below intrinsic value? If the business and its model are still fundamentally sound, it's a golden opportunity.

For larger, more stable companies, simply buying more shares when the outlook is bleak can be rewarding. For instance, buying more British American Tobacco back at the peak of investors' pessimism over tobacco lawsuits would have juiced your returns considerably -- the stock is up nearly 1,200% from its low in 2000.

For younger, riskier companies, a strategy of acquiring shares in portions is a smart play. It limits your initial outlay and gives you a chance to buy again if shares experience an unwarranted drop.

For example, look at top retailer Best Buy and Internet auctioneer eBay. Both stocks soared several hundred percent in the late 1990s, only to have their share prices whacked more than 60% from the market's peak in March 2000 until the end of that year. While most investors were licking their wounds and kicking themselves for not selling sooner, sharp investors who saw long-term value and competitive advantages in these companies were taking advantage of the pessimism.

Buying more shares of Best Buy and eBay near their lows at the end of 2000 would have earned you 400% and 381%, respectively, on that new money. The larger economic conditions had only a temporary impact on the solid, proven business models behind Best Buy and eBay.

Buy again
Other great investments such as Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) and j2 Global (NASDAQ:JCOM) have similarly experienced big drops in share price, only to come roaring back afterward. Investors who focused on the underlying business, rather than the stock prices, were more likely to grab the opportunity for a significant profit.

The final caveat with this method is to ensure that you aren't throwing good money at a truly deteriorating company -- hence the importance of understanding the underlying business. In their Motley Fool Stock Advisor service, David and Tom Gardner track all their investments for re-recommendations to buy, and this diligence pays off. As of January 2007, the average performance of companies they re-recommend for investments is 80.5%, compared with the 67.1% performance of all company recommendations. If you'd like to see which stocks they recommend you buy again -- and again and again -- you can click here and get a 30-day trial of the service for free.

This article was originally published on Feb. 12, 2007. It has been updated.

Fool contributor Dave Mock buys pogs again and again -- more for sentimental than intrinsic value. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Best Buy and eBay are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Home Depot is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Bank of America is an Income Investor recommendation. A longtime Fool, Dave is also the author of The Qualcomm Equation. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy keeps a shopping list handy.