How are you holding up during the Writers Guild of America strike out in Hollywood? With freshly scripted programming drying up, the next few weeks will be challenging unless you relish a steady diet of reruns, reality television, and reruns of reality television.

I've got a plan. It may or may not make you richer, but it will make you smarter.

See that plug on your television set? Good. Yank it.

I'm hurting for entertainment as much as the next guy, but I've always believed that when life gives you lemons, you open a tequila bar. This is the best time to profit from the lull in programming. If you have spare time now away from the boob tube, use it to brush up on ways to become a better investor.

I have a few tips to get you started. Some will take you less time than the hour you were going to spend watching Desperate Housewives or CSI.  

1. Get up to speed with fundamentals
Is your portfolio making promises that your due diligence can't keep? It's perfectly natural. Most investors start out as speculators, running with stock tips before they understand what truly drives the markets or how to value a company.

There is no shame in being a new investor. Whether you need to brush up on the basics or delve a little deeper into valuation metrics, you've come to the right place.

2. Learn to look ahead
Mastering the concepts will only take you so far if you invest exclusively through your rearview mirror. If you lean on earnings-valuation gauges based only on the past, you're missing the real wonder of how fast-growing companies can become dirt cheap in the future.

Let's illustrate. Here are a few stocks that may seem outlandishly priced based on last year's earnings, but appear to be downright attractive if you apply the same price-to-earnings multiple going forward.

Recent Price



Forward EPS Estimate

Fwd. P/E







Hansen Natural (NASDAQ:HANS)












Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)






Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA)






Source: Yahoo! Finance.

A lot can happen in a year. Sure, you're going out on a limb when you place your faith in a company's future earnings. Then again, isn't that what investing is all about?

3. Introduce yourself to new stock ideas
One can never have too many well-researched stock ideas. Our new Stocks 2008 is a premium publication that will instantly unlock 11 promising investments. If you can't spring for that at the moment, not to worry -- you can unearth some great potential portfolio-lifters for free within Motley Fool CAPS, the perpetually replenished supply of online content here, and even the discussion boards.

The picks may not be as refined as those in Stocks 2008, but the point is that if you've put in the effort to become a better investor, you'll know what to do when you come across promising investments.

If you would like to check out the report, click here to get a copy.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can't believe he doesn't miss his television as much as he thought he would. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. Microsoft is an Inside Value stock pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.