What Would You Do With a $20,000 Windfall?

Yo, internet. I’m in a fantasizing mood. Are you? Do you ever think about what you’d do if you suddenly had a bunch of money that you didn’t think you’d have? What would you do with a surprise $20,000 windfall? (Government already took their cut. All yours.)

Emily Gould:

Pay off my credit cards and if any was left over put it towards paying off the credit cards of the two people I most love, then never, ever use credit cards again in my life no matter what it took to manage to do that. No-brainer. 

I don’t spend time thinking about windfalls but now I will. THANKS, LOGAN. ;)

Cord Jefferson

I would pay off the remainder of my student loan bill (about $8,000) and be 100 percent debt-free. After that I’m afraid I’d be equally as boring with the rest. My brother and his family are in town right now, so I’d probably use some of it to take them all out to an expensive meal and get some ice cream afterward. Then I’d wake up and put what money was left in my savings account until I figured out something not pathetically frivolous to do with it. If I’m trying to think frivolously, I think I’m going to Vietnam or Mali next year, so maybe I’d buy those tickets. I also saw a cool jacket that looked pretty good on me at Zara a couple weeks ago. It cost $200, but I didn’t buy it because I have too many jackets already. Perhaps I’d buy that jacket, but who knows. I’m already conflicted about how to spend the money I currently have, so coming into a lot of it without any effort would only serve to make me more conflicted, I imagine. There’s a good chance I’d put it all into a shoebox under my bed and stress about it until I died.

Sarah Todd:

I have one dreamy answer and one practical answer. The dreamy answer is that I would use the money to travel around the world for a year, hurray! I’d bring a friend and arrange a journalism project to go along with the trip so we could gallivant with a purpose. (But still leave plenty of time for trying new foods and laughing around a bonfire and swimming in hot springs beneath giant mountains and everything, of course.) Afterward we’d put the project together into a book and people would like it and pay dollars for it, and we’d give the proceeds to some rad nonprofits and get funding to do more travel journalism projects based on the popularity of our first one (and so on).

The practical answer is that I’d use $10,000 to pay down my student loans (still wouldn’t wipe ‘em out, though!) and give the other $10,000 to a person I love who is paying off credit card debt (it also wouldn’t wipe out their debt). But actually, I don’t even know how much of a difference this would make in either of our lives, now that I’m typing it out, so maybe the dreamy answer is just as practical?

Jon Custer:

First thing, I’d pay off a couple of annoying old debts. Let’s say $2,500 or so for that. Then I’d buy plane tickets for us to go visit my wife’s family in the Caribbean and maybe have a small wedding celebration since we only had a quickie wedding here in D.C. Hopefully there would be at least a few thousand left after that to keep for emergency savings. Oh, I’d probably buy a new computer too since mine is getting up there in years.

I used to dream about getting a surprise windfall, but lately I just think about what it would be like to have a slightly higher salary. Like, “Oh, if only I made $500 more per month I could finally start saving and doing this and that.” Which is even more stupid, in a way, because everyone knows if I made $500 more per month it would just magically disappear with no discernible effects on my life or my financial stability.

Maybe a more interesting question is what would be a life-changing amount of money? For me I think it would have to be about $100,000. Then I could pay off my private student loan and have enough money left over to buy a house or apartment with a mortgage we could afford. Even though I’m not necessarily planning to stay in D.C. forever, the property market is so hot I don’t really have the same dread about buying property that a lot of people of our generation feel. (Somehow I don’t mind spend $10,000 a year on bars and restaurants, but I HATE throwing $15,000 down the toilet for rent.) The only way I’d ever realistically see that kind of windfall is if someone close to me died, which is another reason I don’t fantasize about it much.

Jia Tolentino:

I never think about what I’d do with extra money that I don’t/won’t have. I assume I will never have this mystical “extra money” unless I write a bestselling YA dystopian trilogy, which seems pretty unlikely. With money, as with all things, I think I’m solidly in the “Expect Nothing and Your Whole Life Will Be a Pleasant Surprise” camp for now. 

So, if I got $20,000 today, let’s see: I’d put half of it in the mutual fund where I have a very wee bit of savings and try to forget about it, and I’d put half of the rest of it in my Freelance Taxes bank account (which I drain on the regular for plane tickets and booze). That leaves me with $5,000: I’d use $1,000 for charitable purposes, spend $2,000 on an amazing vacation, and go *~* shopping *~* with the rest in the interest of having a closet that is not still 90 percent Tween. Annnnd okay now I really want lots of money to appear in my bank account. “Expect $20,000 and Your Whole Life Will Be Spent All Like ‘Hey, Where’s That $20,000′.” 

Zan Romanoff:

So I’ve been living with my parents for the last year, since I quit my last job and moved across the country in December 2012. This was supposed to be more temporary—until I was making enough money to make rent—but that’s only been happening kind of recently, and it’s not quite enough (or quite stable enough) that I’ve been comfortable making that leap, so with $20K in my bank account probably what I’d be doing is putting down first and last month’s rent somewhere and maybe buying some furniture. Maybe even not from Ikea. I’d probably pick some arbitrary amount to spend on clothes—because I could easily spend $20K shopping, so easily, too easily—and put the rest in savings against the day my 14-year-old car finally eats it. Clearly I have spent a certain amount of time thinking about this. Who doesn’t? It provides such a pleasant combination of (imagined) practical security and high-fantasy consumer fun times. 

Chiara Atik:

Move to Rome for a year. Hands down. And just write. OH and buy a Vespa. Which is like, $4,000? Maybe it’s less in Italy! So, buy a Vespa and use the remaining $16,000 to write a play in Italy. Is the Vespa a little too “Under the Tuscan Sun?” Forget the Vespa. The real luxury is being able to feed yourself and pay rent and just work on whatever you want to work on.

Allison Cintins:

I love to fantasize about having a lump sum of money or gigantic raise suddenly coming at me. I’m a constant worrier, especially about finances, so my justification for constantly imagining this unlikely situation is that having that extra money would make me a happier, less anxious person overall.

Past me would have just gone on a crazy shopping spree with no regard toward the future because I’d rationalize with thoughts, like, “What if I die tomorrow?” and “You should live in the moment!” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve turned into a semi-responsible adult. First, I would pay off all of my debt (which adds up to about $6,000) and put $5,000 into an untouchable CD. I’d use the remaining dough to go on a much-needed vacation and buy a few quality pieces that are on my perpetual “To Buy” list (an Eames chair, a new computer, some fancy rings). I think I’d have more than a few thousand left after that, so I’d invest in maid service, put some in an accessible savings account and top it off by adopting the silliest rescue pup I could find.

Audrey Ference:

I do this constantly, and the sad thing is that my fantasies are always the boringest. I would pay off some student loan debt. Like, even though I understand the point of fantasizing about a windfall is to imagine doing something amazing like living in Thailand for a year, my stupid brain still just thinks about paying off debt. I’m a sad specimen.

Jane Hu:

I would save it. I would put it in the bank RIGHT AWAY. (Post-humanities-grad-school anxieties of lifelong waffling in poverty increases by each day—would be good if some finances were accumulating interest along with them.)

Mitch Sunderland:

I’d pay off my nine grand in student loans (it’s somewhere around there), go to Disney World (I miss Disney World), save half the rest of it so I can retire in Palm Beach, like I’m supposed to, and buy stocks with the rest. 

Adam Frucci:

I’d buy myself something nice, like a fancy dinner or an expensive article of clothing, and put the rest in savings. Maybe I’d take a vacation in the next few months using some of it. But there’s no $15,000 item that I’m dying to acquire—it’d just be nice to have that cushion to let me splurge on something every once in a while and to have as a backup/emergency fund otherwise.

Jesse Fox:

$20,000 is a good amount. $10,000 is too reasonable, so I probably wouldn’t do anything but save it. $30,000 is too much; I probably would feel like I need to be smart about it. With $20,000, however, I think I’d buy nice shoes and then make a reservation at a restaurant that would demand the wearing of nice shoes. Then I’d think about buying something lavish—like art or a new chair—but get overwhelmed by the choice and just order Chinese food, but a la carte, no lunch special for me—I’m a thousandaire. 

Lauren Rodrigue:

Rational: Put toward student loans

Irrational: TopShop + Sally Hansen stick-on nail decals

Humanitarian: A dog. What. Wire fox terrier + cuddly bed + a dog walker for as long as that money will last + beggin’ strips

Selfless: Parents (granite countertops, a vacation), brother (new used car)

Weird: Sushi every day till I puke!

Stupid: Save for retirement

Omg nose job I would get a nose job

Blair Thornburgh:

First, I really hope it’d be in the form of a GIANT NOVELTY CHECK.

So, I need a new computer: $1K. My roommate and I need a couch, and if we have money, why not get a good one, so: $1K. And I could use a non-shitty mattress: $1K. Oh! And I’d pay off the rest of my Volvo 240, and start paying my own insurance so that I could get a street parking permit for my new apartment ($1K, ish). Also, my blush just ran out, so, $50? I guess? What does rich-people blush cost?

To reassure myself that I’m not a terrible person, I’d throw some money at my fave charities (to the tune of $5K, let’s say), and since my baby sister is looking likely to go to grad school, I’d give her $5K in seed money for that because I ~*believe in her*~. The remaining $5950.00 would go in my high-yield savings account until I can think of better use for it—like maybe a vacation? But let’s earn some interest first.

Brendan O’Connor

First I would take my friends to a really fancy dinner at like Balthazar or Pastis or somewhere like that. Or maybe just Brisket Town, but pay for everybody’s meat. Like pounds and pounds of it. Meat for everybody. I would bribe them into letting me get behind the counter so I can chop up the meat. Have you ever been to Brisket Town? It’s so cool. Also I would go to bookstores and not feel guilty about buying lots of books. I need a new pair of boots. I would buy a new pair of boots. Also I would get a new tattoo. A big one. Then I would do some traveling probably? I have a bunch of college friends on the West Coast—L.A., San Francisco, Seattle—and I miss them terribly. Or maybe I would pay for them to come to New York. Like all of the friends that I’ve ever had, West Coasters and otherwise. And then take them to Brisket Town and buy them meat. Or do the biggest grocery shop of all time and then everybody helps make dinner together and it’s real food with really good, quality ingredients. That would be fun.

Lindsey Weber

I think I’d like to imagine that it would go right into savings and become some sort of bigger foundation for further growing my puny 401(k)? But that’s the most boring response ever, and if we factored in the condition that I would not tell my mom (…So I wouldn’t feel bad about this next option! Sorry Mom!) I would probably blow it all on getting my own place (for however long these funds last…) and a Volvo station wagon. The place would be cheap(er) because it would be far(ther) away, and that’s why I’d need the car! Or maybe I’d just live in my station wagon. You know what? Don’t give me this money.

Shannon Palus

I would be boring and save it. My daydreams are more control-oriented. “If I ran the world,” fill in the blank.”If I could go half an hour back in time,” fill in the blank. “If I could teleport somewhere right now,” fill in the blank. I think because I’m mostly OK with money right now (income, savings account), and so that feels like something I do have control over. If I had to spend it now, it would be on plane tickets, because plane tickets are expensive, and they are the only thing that I really, logically, want, but are also out of my reach. But teleportation/world domination would solve that.

Christian Brown

Jeez, for $20K it’d probably be take a month off work and just go places without feeling like I was losing money by not working. Go to Spain for a month and chillax. OR, likewise, spend it on house upgrades that I can’t afford for years right now, like turning the backyard into an actual yard instead of a rectangle of weeds/dirt. BIG DREAMS.



69 Comments / Post A Comment

Uhhhh hahaha I don’t like to think about things like this because it makes me realize that $20K wouldn’t even cover my non-mortgage debts. I think I might have a panic attack now.

@backstagebethy I am with you on this so much. It’s sad how little 20k seems like to me. It would pay 1/3 about of my non-mortgage debts (student loans and car).

cjm (#3,397)

@langedangereux Right? I was like Pay down most of one private student loan, approximately 20% of my student loan debt.

But, if I paid that down, I’d have $175 more a month that I’d probably just waste on dumb stuff. So maybe, I should 1) Buy some furniture, probably Ikea ($1,000), 2) Buy lasik, $4,000, 3) Down payment on a condo, $15,000. Then I’d just be paying mortgage instead of rent, not buying contacts, and each month still paying the student loans.

hotdish (#1,868)

We’re saving for the downpayment on a house, so I’d put it in savings toward that goal. Boring, I know, but it would get us into a better living situation more quickly.

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

Not sure what the percentage/dollar amount would be, but:
(1) Part of it into student loan debt (alas, would not be paid off yet)
(2) Part of it into house/apartment/condo fund
(3) Save up Roth IRA for year
(4) Smartphone

travlinggirl (#4,335)

I would definitely put half of it in my savings for some future stuff. The other $10K I would use to travel for 6 months.

OllyOlly (#669)

When I was in middle school, my team won an academic trivia competition and I was awarded a giant novelty check for $300. Because I was an un-fun child, I am pretty sure I never spent it as I was too stressed about choosing the BEST thing. And then my parents just absorbed it into their checking account.

EM (#1,012)

@OllyOlly What do you even do with a giant novelty cheque? Can you take it to the bank??

OllyOlly (#669)

@EM No, you get a real check afterwards. It is all a lie!

EM (#1,012)

@OllyOlly That’s sort of a shame. I like to imagine walking into the bank and being like “I’d like to deposit this giant cheque.”

lemonadefish (#3,296)

I’d get my house tuck-pointed. And if there was anything left after that, a new refrigerator.

Lyesmith (#4,385)

Paying off debts and saving/investing money for the future is not boring at all, it’s just responsible.
I mean, remember the woman who completely wasted her inheritance? *shudders*

I’d drop $10,000 into my TFSA, pay off my student loans with $6,500, and use the remaining $3,500 to open an investment portfolio.

EM (#1,012)

This pretty much happened to me earlier this year– my parents gave me $50k from the sale of a property, which my mom declared my “early inheritance” because she said “I don’t want you sitting around waiting for us to die so you can have our money” which is like the least sentimental way she could have put it.

I am a stupidly fortunate person with no debt, so I maxed out my RRSP and TFSA and put the rest in savings, where it will sit and accrue interest until I learn how to invest.

pizza (#599)

@EM Learn to invest! You’ll earn way more over time the faster you get it started. I finally learned about 6 months ago and wished I did this years ago.
for some info on books/etc you can check out: http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=1

EM (#1,012)

@pizza Thanks for the resource! It is an intimidating subject for a n00b.

planforamiracle (#4,034)

@EM Hey fellow prudent, lucky-to-be-debt-free Canadian! If this theoretically happened to me, I would do basically the same thing. Max out my RRSP and TFSA contributions, and divvy up the remainder in the following way:
(done without actual numbers since I don’t really know where my RRSP is at just now)
1/3 in a long-term investment
1/3 in a travel fund for my Scandinavian Odyssey
1/3 on fun stuff like clothes, manicures, and cocktails with friends but also boringly responsible stuff like healthy food and bike tune-ups and a membership at the YMCA.


EM (#1,012)

@planforamiracle Yes! I don’t think I am entirely frugal with it– I also invested (“invested”) some of it in a publishing project. I just don’t know what to do with it. I don’t have any immediate plans to buy property (insane idea in Vancouver) and while I imagine I’ll spend some of it on travel eventually I don’t have any trips planned yet! I feel very fortunate but I try to pretend it’s not there.

sunflowernut (#1,638)

I would pay off my student loans with about $16,000, and put the rest in a savings account for when I need to buy a car next year. I might take a couple hundred to go shopping, too.

AitchBee (#3,001)

See, I know exactly what I’d do with $2,000 (half in savings, half in outdoor gear that I convince myself is an investment), and I know what I’d do with $200,000 (quit my fucking job), but $20,000? That’s tricky.

ThatJenn (#916)

I essentially had this happen this year, though slowly, between a raise for my new job and having one major bill disappear. My actual answer: have my partner quit his job and go back to school full time.

If it happened again, I’d put most of it towards paying off my car, since I don’t have much other debt. The rest would go into savings, since I’m really, really trying to get that up. I had this pipe dream of having $10,000 in my savings account by the time I turn 30 and it is going to be tight even if there are no emergencies between now and then (next September). But mostly I am just happy I have anything in my savings account at all!

Oh Blair is right we need a couch. I would buy a couch then put the rest in savings.

blair (#1,962)

@Shan Palus@facebook I would buy us a couch the put the rest in the couch, like between the cushions, for safekeeping

@blair hahah our house guests would love us. “here, money!”

allreb (#502)

I’d pay off my student loans (about $8k) and then take myself and my sister to Paris for a week (we’re planning to go this spring, just pulling the money from savings) and save the rest.

Here is a depressing beginning to a suddenly-spending-money story: my mother passed away last month. We were expecting her life insurance to just about pay off the medical bills and hoping Dad would put the rest towards paying down their mortgage — he’s retired with very little savings and Mom couldn’t work for the last year or so, so this has been stressing me and my sister out. (“Can *we* take care of the monthly payments?” etc)

But here’s the good part, if anything about this situation can be considered good – her policy was for much, much more than expected. Medical bills: paid. Entire mortgage: paid. And with the leftover money, Dad has bought a giant RV.

He’s always wanted to see the country, but the combination of having kids, not having much money, and hating flying meant he’s never seen much outside of the northeast. So next summer, Dad is taking a cross country roadtrip by himself (though sister and I are welcome to join him if we feel like taking the time off work, he’s said). He doesn’t plan to map it out, just go wherever his whims take him.

…did I mention Dad will be 79 next summer?

bgprincipessa (#699)

@allreb I am sorry to hear about your mom, but I am very happy to hear about your dad!! That is freaking awesome. My dad is in the Northeast too, can he join your dad? I think they’d get along.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@allreb I’m so sorry about your mother. But glad for insurance!

echolikebells (#3,272)

I would pay off my credit cards (to the tune of roughly $5,000), put $2,500 in an account for emergencies, put $5,000 toward my immense student loan debt, put $5,000 toward a new car, and then use the remaining $2,500 to do irresponsible things. Probably acquire a new tattoo or two, get some clothing items I’ve been yearning for, and then spend the rest on things for my house.

FotoMoney (#4,994)

Dear goodness, if I took a month off to work I would sure as hell feel like I was losing money. I’d invest 100% of that, easy.

calamity (#2,577)

I’d spend $5000 on whatever the fuck I wanted (within reason – I’m not a profligate spender anyway). Among my first purchases would be: an iPad, a perfect pair of boots, some fancy expensive meals, a couple pieces of furniture that come from neither Craigslist nor Ikea. Oh, and like 20 new bottles of nail polish – the ability to splurge on dumb, relatively inexpensive shit like that without immediately feeling guilty afterwards is like a dream come true.

Then I’d save the rest! $10k in a fancy retirement account or something, $5000 into a combined vacation/emergency/short-term savings account that I would continually agonize over withdrawing money from.

Sloane (#675)

@calamity When I got my Christmas bonus last year, I totally spent some on fun stuff like bubble bath and nail polish. It was delightful.

Sloane (#675)

Oh man, this is a fun game. I’m pretty happy in my life now, so I don’t know that I’d make any big purchases. One thing I know I would buy: a pair of Swedish Hasbeen boots because I’ve wanted a pair for forever. So maybe give away 10%, save 10% as cash, spend 10% on fun things like boots, and then invest the rest?

hellonheels (#1,407)

I would pay off my student loans and car loan. I’d still be about $700 short, but close enough!

highjump (#39)

I would probably spend like $2000 on clothes more expensive than I usually buy, but not designer items or anything, and then put the rest towards my student loans. Which would still have a balance of over $30k. Sob.

Mockingbird (#4,524)

I actually just got a little over 20k last month from one of my investments and put it directly into savings. I’m lucky enough to have no more student debt and just paid off my car in June.

Reading all of these responses makes me want to do something more creative with it now, like quit my job. It pays well but is a miserable place. Last week the CEO’s crony made three people cry and my anxiety so bad I vomited. I’m now realizing I could just quit and be ok until I find a new place. It might destroy my dream of buying a house one day and I’m not sure I am able to sacrifice my potential future for some present peace of mind.

EM (#1,012)

@Mockingbird That sounds horrible! Are you actively looking for a new job? When I was job hunting last year I found the advice on Ask A Manager to be really helpful.

Mockingbird (#4,524)

@EM I am trying to actively hunt but its hard when I’m working 80 hours a week and dread interviews like sailors dread the Dread Pirate Roberts (there is a reason I used dread 3x in the sentence). I know have to determine if I want to continue at my pace of 1 or 2 applications a month or just quit and put all my effort into it.

@Mockingbird Go for it, go for it, go for it.

Life is too short to spend 80 hours a week doing something you hate. If you have this money in the bank, there will never be a better use for it than getting yourself out of a horrible situation. Think of it this way: which will give you more happiness in the long run, owning a house one day while working at a job you hate to pay for it, or renting and working at a job you love?

Wait so who won the $20,000?

lnaturale (#4,995)

Smaller (but still antihistamine money) windfall earlier this year went 50% to paying off credit cards, 50% to a high-interest savings account that allows me to freelance without worrying that I’ll be out on the street if my clients all dry up at the same time.

My Billfold essay, “I used my dad’s life insurance to pay for all the stupid crap I bought while he was sick,” is forthcoming.

@lnaturale please do write that

alexr (#3,028)

I’d use $1,500 to max out my Roth IRA contribution for the year and then use the rest to make a dent in my student loans. Sounds bland, but I’m living in sub-Saharan Africa right now (NGO work) with effectively zero expenses and a tax-exempt salary. Besides, there’s nothing worth buying out here, anyway!

Actually, my fiance is about to get a bonus somewhere around 15k. We’re trying to figure out whether it should go toward my student loans or his car loan. Hurray.

Dancercise (#94)

I’d pay off my $9K car loan, and put the rest into savings and let it accumulate interest while using it to pay for my dance team tuition (about $3K a year) for a couple of years.

la_di_da (#1,425)

Student loans, $1k, Japan trip $2k …and I’d save the rest, hoping that it will be enough to cover 9 months of living expenses during my first year of grad school.

Lily Rowan (#70)

I really want a new sofa and dining table, so say $5K on those. Then probably savings. I mean charity! Some to charity. Then student loans. But keeping some cash on hand, I think.

2for1cheesecake (#3,591)

My only quandary is how much of the $20,000 I should put into my student loans: all, or most? Most likely, I’d use $15,000 towards loans (that would aaaaaalmost pay them off), then put $4,000 into my savings/emergency account, then blow $1,000 on fancy restaurants.
It’s weird, usually I would say I’d spend it on travel but – maybe because I just moved from one state to another – there’s nowhere I’m dying to go right now.

Socksberg (#4,928)

I actually had this happen to me a few months ago in the form of an inheritance from a family member that passed away. If you had asked me a few years ago what I would have done with the money, I would have said round-the-world travel, no question. What I actually did was put it towards my down payment savings. Boring but it’s what my Grandmother would have wanted me to use it for, and I’d feel horrible if I spent it on the kind of frivolous little things that would go to along with the travel (makeup, boots, eating out, hair dye).

pizza (#599)

I think about this all the time. I’m debt free so I would really just use the money to move out of my current apartment with roommates and live alone. So that $20k would cover one year of rent for a 1BR in the middle of Bushwick. :[

Penelope Pine (#2,808)

My savings/investing situation is in pretty good shape. I don’t want a house and have no great ideas for a small business at the moment. TBH would spend it all on designer clothing. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Megoon (#328)

@Penelope Pine Ditto.

Liz the Lemur (#3,125)

I’d get a dog. I’d have to research how much that costs. And travel, Iceland specifically. I’d ask my bf if he wants help paying off his student loans, but he would probably say no. A winter bike. All the outdoor gear. And then savings. Hopefully at least 8-10k would make it to savings.

breakfast (#633)

I would pay of my smallest, highest interest student loan–$8,000. The rest of my loans are more than $20K and it would be too depressing to use all the money and still have loans. Go on a vacation out of the country, because I have never been out of the country, because I have never been able to convince myself to spend the money (but always convince myself to buy beer or food out) $5K. Put the rest in savings- $7K. Oh god, I feel anxious about mismanaging even this fake money!

r&rkd (#1,657)

Jia: I have complete confidence in your ability to write a bestselling YA dystopian trilogy, just putting that out there.

Oh I love dreaming about these things! I would pay off my line of credit ($4,600), my Visa ($750), and my student loan (only $3,400 left!). It would be such a relief to get all that paid off that I don’t even know what I’d do with my remaining $11,000. Probably buy a used car ($5,000? I have no idea how much cars cost) and put the rest in savings.

Megoon (#328)

I had this happen to me! Right after college, I randomly got a voiceover gig in two really annoying Citibank commercials that ran All. The. Time. Every trip to the mailbox became an adventure: how big is the check this week?! This should never happen to a 22-year-old.

I lived off the money for a year while I “worked on my book.” In hindsight, I should have followed Chiara’s plan and moved to Rome.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

I would pay off all my credit card debt and then throw them all behind my dresser so I couldn’t use them ever again. Then I would probably put money down on a new (used I can’t bear the idea of buying a brand new car) car because mine is at $211,000 miles (still going strong though!) and I would get the car I’m really sweating right now, a Mazda 3 hatchback.

With the remainder probably do some traveling with the husband – we’ve been wanting to go to Paris and maybe one of those all-inclusive thingies in the Caribbean. Then with whatever is left from thaaat buy something dumb and expensive like an ipad and then put the rest in savings because we want to have kids and they are like crazy expensive.

Stina (#686)

When I got a smaller inheritance a few years ago I bought a new/used car because with my previous car I could only start the car when it was turned off A. Less than 5 minutes or B. More than 3 hours from a prior start. So I could get gas, go to work, go to a somewhat long social engagement, but I couldn’t go grocery shopping, to a Doctor’s appointment etc. by car.

We are sort of facing this right now as my husband just got word that he got an inheritance from a distant relative in the perhaps somewhat over $10,000 range. I don’t know yet how much it will be as I don’t believe the estate tax has been paid yet but I would stash it into invested savings/Roth. As to what he’ll do? Don’t know.

sony_b (#225)

1) A weekend getaway with my husband because we didn’t get to take a honeymoon yet.

2) Debt, in this order – credit cards, student loans, mortgage paydown.

Annifest Destiny (#2,700)

I would probably pay off my car, but the biggest thing I would do is stop panicking about money every night.

Allison (#4,509)

So late but I love this game. I would pay off my student loans ($11K) and enjoy the extra $200/month in my life and probably take my parents to Hawaii or something as a thank you for how much of my student loans they handled.

Three years ago now I received just this amount in an unexpected bonus from a job I was fast getting tired of.

I used it to:

-support my living expenses during a MA (supplemented by teaching part time)
-support my expenses during 6 months of unpaid internships that directly led to my new job, that is in my desired field.

Mila (#4,223)

This happened to me in my early 20s, and it is funny to think how different I would act if this happened now. So in my early 20s, my step-grandmother, a very sweet woman who I barely knew and had only been my step-grandmother a pretty short time, suddenly passed away and left all her grandkids and my grandfather’s grandkids $25K. At the time my husband and I were debt free (thanks parents for paying for college!), very poor grad students, but going on a full-ride (with stipends), so no debts or education expenses to pay off. We knew that we were never going to make any money in our chosen professions, and I was constantly calculating how we would afford a house some day. So every penny of the surprise money went into savings for a few years until we bought a house, and it went to down payment (along with every penny we were given as wedding presents). I can’t believe I didn’t even consider spending a little of it on something fun. I must have been a very dull, over-serious person in my early 20s.

Now I am 36, and actually, it is sort of happening again (and I am still totally debt free, house is paid off). My mom just offered to front me half of my inheritence from my grandfather (he has said he will leave us all $50K. He is in his 90s now). I am trying to decide if I should take it. When I think about inheriting the $50K, I think of doing some of the bigger home remodeling jobs I dream of doing (building a screened porch! The kitchen!). But $25K is the amount I would feel like I need to do the responsible things with – I would use some of it to pay for my daughter’s therapy expenses (she has autism) and my son’s preschool (when both my kids are in school that will feel like a major windfall, not having to pay for preschool anymore, and also me going back to work). Also doing the boring home repair stuff (tree trimming and repainting trim and stuff like that that I have been putting off because we have no money. I have a very long list of those type things, none fun and exciting). But I am sure I would spend a little on fun stuff this time around (some clothes, some date nights with my husband, custom slipcovers for our beautiful couch destroyed by children and cats). Also, just keeping us from sliding into debt, which we seem to be very, very close to these days (ran a credit card balance for the first time ever last month).

The totally irresponsible fantasy answer is that I would go on a vacation and pay to take our beloved babysitter and her husband with us, so they could watch the kids half the time. Portugal is the place my husband and I have been dreaming about for a long time.

DarlingMagpie (#1,695)

$20,000 eh?

I’d put about $10,000 on me and my boyfriend’s debt, which would clear the both of us (OH GOD YAY)
$1000 – Lasik surgery!
$500 – New couch. Ours looks like we found it on the street.
$1000 – New laptop, my battery is fried, the speakers are kaput, and it can’t run YouTube 720p videos. Poor old friend.
$1000 – Top up our vacation fund. Whut whut.
$1000 – New clothes/shoes/accessories. Oh my god. I’ve been living in clothing swap leftovers/clearance sale/final sale items for years.
$500 – Take my family out somewhere nice to eat for dinner (aka, take my inlaws one place, then take my mother, grandma and brother one place, and my dad and his girlfriend to another, so three dinners)

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@DarlingMagpie LASIK what a great suggestion. Also, I would move into a new apartment and then put the rest in savings. Maybe a new TV, too.

mishaps (#65)

I came into $25K unexpectedly a couple of years ago, and it went: $10K towards kitchen/bath renovation fund (still not renovated); $10K into retirement savings; $5K towards a week at a LUXURY SPA, which was awesome and in all honesty a great experience. Highly recommended.

Now, I think it would be $10K towards college for my sister’s kids, and $10K towards the mortgage. But that might be because I already took a vacation this year.

selenana (#673)

I’d pay off the rest of my student loans, just under 5k. Probably put 10k in some kind of savings/retirement account. Maybe I’d use this chance to actually teach myself about retirement accounts! All my money is just in savings accounts. The remaining 5k I would spend: maybe some travel, some people mentioned Lasik, that would be nice, that’s about it. I’m not a stuff wanter!

Charlsie (#442)

This is so interesting. Due to a family issue, I ended up with some extra tax liability this year. At first it was a scary amount, like $10k, but then it ended up being more like $3K. Either way, it is due on October 15, and because I am a federal employee, my Friday paycheck was about $1,000 less than usual and I have no idea when I’m going to get another paycheck.

Most of my savings are in two brokerage accounts, one that I’ve never messed with, and one that is an IRA that I’ve rolled over 401Ks into, and that I’ve messed with off and on for things like college and a down payment on a house. I was under the impression the account that I’ve never messed with was also an IRA, and that I couldn’t or shouldn’t mess with it because of tax penalties.(My dad started both accounts when I worked for him in high school, and I got control of them in college)

Welp, since my paycheck is being held hostage by Congress, and taxes have to be paid, I decided I was going to sell something, tax penalties be damned. Then I discovered that this second account is not an IRA, and I can sell it, and the taxes would be capital gains and not additional income with a penalty. And the account was worth about $18k.

So, I sold some of it, to pay these taxes and to be sure I can pay my rent and car payment next month (and to pay off most of my modest credit card debt, you know, why not raid it just a tiny bit), but just knowing it is there, and that I can sell the rest of it if I want to, and go on a trip around the world, and I have a cushion if something happens, is so breathtakingly freeing. It also makes me feel irresponsible for being unaware of my assets, but that’s a guilt trip that’s going to be buried along side the raiding of my investment account. Congress isn’t being responsible and I’m being negatively impacted, maybe a new pair of boots would make me feel better.

And I’m going to continue dreaming about going to Michael Franti’s yoga retreat in Bali, but since I’ve taken care of the credit cards, as soon as Congress gets it together, I’m going to save money to go to Bali, and swear to myself not to mess with this account again any time soon.

What would I do with twenty thousand dollars?

To be honest…probably the same thing I do with all my other dollars. Put it into the bank right away, and then look for some prudent investments (the recent debt-ceiling crisis, and the fact that disaster has been merely postponed and not averted permanently, has me leaning away from Treasuries, which would have been my first pick six months ago, and more towards international stocks). In other words, I would put it all towards our long-term goal of an early retirement (or at least the option of one). Even if I spent some of it now, it would probably be on something practical, like a new furnace, which we will need in the next couple of years anyway. The closest I could get to “splurging” would be to spend some on landscaping our front yard.

I am a boring, boring person.

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