Money Sundays: What Would You Do With An Extra Ten Grand, No Strings Attached?

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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Tragic Sandwich said...

Honestly, I think a lot of the things I'd do would still be "responsible"--like installing solar panels on our roof, or installing a well-designed gray water system. Not to mention paying for my daughter's speech therapy.

But if all of that would fit within the first 40K, then I'd go on vacations I've always meant to, but never quite arranged--more time in New England, upstate New York and Long Island, Washington State beyond Seattle, and so on.

amberwitch said...

I try to imagine what I would do, but stumble om the fact that the amount is so small.
We are probably spending this amount on our summer holiday this year.
My immediate reaction is that for this to have any impact on my life at all it would have to be something larger. 10.000$ is less than our household take-home pay each month.
If I had the money, though, I would most likely take as long as I could stay away from work, and enroll at an artisan boarding school. I'd love to learn to make jewellery or something similar.

Daniel said...

Amberwitch: Interesting comment. I'd say, though, that the absolute dollar amount of $10,000 isn't really the point. Whether a given amount of money is small or large depends on many things, like where in the world you live, what your income situation is, how much of your household take-home income you save, etc. Readers here at CK are going to have a wide range of financial situations.

Therefore, you could perform this thought experiment with any dollar amount: $1,000, $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, $100,000 or whatever amount resonates with you, given your specific situation. Right?

Regardless of the absolute dollar amount, the main question still stands: What would you do, and why are you waiting to do it?


mcmvoices said...

It's funny - I was just fantasizing this morning about what I would do with a very large sum of money, which would include endowing a history professorship at Columbia, a biology professorship at Princeton, and funding my own research indefinitely (well, until it's time to retire).

Oddly, the activity that popped into my head with your question didn't come up in the more unrealistic scenario. I would like to take my kids to France and stay there until we're all fluent in French.

mm1970 said...

Wow, I don't know. If it were $10k, I'd consider solar panels for the house.

If it were $50k, I'd add a bathroom.

If it were $100k, I'd probably get a camping van.

If it were $150k, I'd add a room on to the house.

Owlhaven said...

Sock it away for our 'wanna renovate a fixer-upper someday' fund.

Or, take the kids on a long camping trip around the US.

Amanda said...

I'd travel with it. So why am I not doing that now? Well, now my husband and I are taking fewer, less costly trips so we can pay down our mortgage. Post payoff, our plan is to save the mortgage+extra payments for a year or two, then both take leaves from work for a year, rent out our house, and travel around the world.

Louise said...

This is such an interesting thought experiment.

My immediate thought was some kind of long, relaxing vacation. Maybe in the mountains or some other place where it isn't fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot.

But then I remembered: BOOKS. Think of how many books you could buy with that much money! (And shelving/storage options for keeping them, obv). We've only recent reached the point where we can afford to buy a book or two every month instead of just borrowing from the library or friends.

chacha1 said...

Fun question. If it was *just* $10K with no strings attached, I'm afraid I would be responsible with it.

If it were $10K out of $50K and I'd already been virtuous with $40K, then I would probably apply all my unused paid-time-off and take a three-week vacation in Australia with the hubs.

As to why we don't just do that: jobs. Bills. Cats. It wouldn't be responsible at this time to do it by taking that money away from our obligations.

oilandgarlic said...

I would definitely take a longer vacation with my family and bring my mom along! I could probably take an extra week from work without too much penalty if I plan carefully and with this extra money, I could afford some unpaid days.

Little Les said...

I would fund my dream non-profit business. Ten grand would go a long way!