Mention to your friend that you suddenly received an unexpected $1,000 and I would be willing to bet he could come up with several suggestions for you. Most of those suggestions will likely involve handing the money over to him. My first suggestion is to refrain from telling your friend when you have $1,000 more than you know what to do with. Once that is achieved, it is best to have some ideas in mind just in case this situation presents itself.
Money Magazine has eleven suggestions for people who find they have $1,000 sitting around without a planned destiny.
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- Top off your emergency fund. If you don’t have an emergency fund, $1,000 is a great starting point. It is quite easy to open a high-yield online savings account so you can keep your emergency fund close while letting it earn as much as possible.
- Spend five hours with a financial planner. Here Money Magazine assumes you will go to a financial planner who charges $200 per hour. Unless your finances are unusually complicated, skip this suggestion.
- Buy a top-notch stock fund. Here Money Magazine suggest putting your money in actively managed mutual funds. I suggest sticking with low-cost non-managed index mutual funds. Vanguard requires $3,000 to start investing, but the low-cost Schwab Total Stock Market Index Fund (SWTSX) requires only a $100 minimum deposit.
- Upgrade your home appliances. I can see this being a legitimate option if you have problems with your appliances or need to switch to more energy-efficient models.
- Help on a large scale You can use the $1,000 for others’ good. Money Magazine suggestions buying sheep for farmers, offering small business loans through Kiva, and planting trees. Any charitable option is a good choice for an unexpected $1,000.
- Join a gym. If you know you can make your gym membership last, this could be a suggestion that saves money through your improved health. Otherwise, a gym membership could do nothing more than suck your money away.
- Beef up your IRA (if you’re 50 or older). Anyone age 50 or older with the appropriate level of income can invest an additional $1,000 above the standard maximum in a Traditional or Roth IRA.
- Pay down credit card debt. This should probably be towards the top of the list. Paying off expensive credit card debt saves you money in interest fees down the road. $1,000 can go a long way to getting out of debt.
- Update your estate documents. Money Magazine assumes you had your estate documents in order at one point. $1,000 should cover updates to your will, health-care proxy, and power of attorney.
- Start a young investor off right. Money Magazine suggests setting up a diversified portfolio for a child using a combination of Schwab’s low-minimum and low-cost index funds.
- Become a star at work. This is the most unlikely suggestion for spending your own $1,000. Money Magazine suggests taking a class, or any other course that might provide you with a competitive edge. Self-development is a good idea for your own money, but I wouldn’t spend $1,000 on an activity that does nothing more than increase my value to a corporation.
What would you do with an unexpected $1,000 right now?
What to do with $1,000 now, Money Magazine, October 12, 2009
Updated December 21, 2017 and originally published October 14, 2009.