Let's say you received a large sum of money. Say $50,000. Maybe you inherited it from a relative, maybe you got a surprise windfall from an investment, whatever.
Let's also assume (since you're a Your Money Or Your Life devotee and a mindful spender) you apply $40,000 of this money toward "responsible" things: paying down debt, pre-paying your mortgage, giving to charity, establishing your two year savings buffer and so on.
In other words, now that you've done everything you're supposed to do with the vast majority of this windfall, the ten grand that's left over is truly no-strings-attached dough. You feel okay doing whatever you want with this money.
So what would you do with it?
In Laura Vanderkam's book All the Money in the World, where I got (uh, I mean stole) this idea, the author shares a few fascinating suggestions:
* Use unpaid leave at work to take a one month retreat somewhere.
* Earn your pilot's license. (Sounds awesome, doesn't it?)
* Start an award for new poetry ($1,000 per year for five years), and create and promote a Web site to feature the artists you discover (another $5,000 to do a really bang-up job).
These are some pretty cool ideas, aren't they? I'd add a few of my own:
* Rent an apartment in Waikiki and practice surfing every day for two months.
* Live in Santiago, Chile, take six months of Spanish classes, and become a competent Spanish speaker.
* Take two consecutive summers off and hike the "47 Peaks" in New York State's Adirondack Mountains.
What would you do?
This is an incredibly intriguing exercise, because it helps you discover exactly in what way money brings you satisfaction. Money is just a tool: what really matters is how you use it to make your life more fulfilling.
This exercise also indirectly illustrates what kinds of important life experiences you're displacing when you passively decide to apply most of your money toward things like mortgage payments, car payments, credit card bills and other things that actually aren't all that fulfilling.
It gets you to think what money is really for. Hint: it's not for credit card bills and mortgage payments.
One final thought: If the ideas you generate while doing this exercise would truly bring you satisfaction and happiness, why not just... do them? What are you waiting for?
Readers: If somebody handed you an extra $10,000 with no strings attached, what would you do?
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