6 Smart Things to Do With $1,000 Right Now

An unexpected windfall landed in your lap. You could spend it all right now ... or you could put it to good use.

Jul 20, 2014 at 8:00AM

You just got an extra $1,000 from a bonus, tax refund, inheritance, or some other windfall. What do you do with the money now? Of course, your first thought may be to spend it all, especially since it's "found" money.

But wait. There are better choices. Here are six smart ways to use that money to achieve impressive benefits and a fair dose of instant gratification.

1. Pay down credit card debt. This should be at the top of your list. Paying off a high-interest credit card saves you money down the road.

2. Start an emergency fund. If you don't have one, $1,000 is a great starting point. The general consensus is that you need at least six months of living expenses saved in case of an emergency or job loss. Getting started now, or even beefing up an existing fund, will allow you to rest more easily.

3. Put it in an IRA. If you don't have one, take that $1,000 and start one. Studies have shown that Americans don't have anywhere near the savings they should at retirement. If that sounds like you, this is your chance to catch up.

4. Upgrade your home appliances. If you have anything around the house that's giving you trouble or is about to, $1,000 can go a long way toward fixing the problem and giving you peace of mind. Doing home improvements now will pay dividends over time, and you'll enjoy a more comfortable home in the meantime.

5. Go back to school. If your financial house is in order, how about investing in yourself? Using some of the money to take some weekend or night classes is a way to upgrade your professional credentials or check out other career options. This could be a great way to leverage that $1,000 into a promotion, a raise, or better job down the road.

6. Join a gym or buy a bike. Either option improves your physical fitness, and riding a bike gives you the added benefit of saving money on gas and car repairs. Moreover, studies have shown fitness and health have a positive effect on productivity. However you do it, an investment in your health can reap big rewards.

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Jennifer Streaks has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

A Financial Plan on an Index Card

Keeping it simple.

Aug 7, 2015 at 11:26AM

Two years ago, University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack wrote his entire financial plan on an index card.

It blew up. People loved the idea. Financial advice is often intentionally complicated. Obscurity lets advisors charge higher fees. But the most important parts are painfully simple. Here's how Pollack put it:

The card came out of chat I had regarding what I view as the financial industry's basic dilemma: The best investment advice fits on an index card. A commenter asked for the actual index card. Although I was originally speaking in metaphor, I grabbed a pen and one of my daughter's note cards, scribbled this out in maybe three minutes, snapped a picture with my iPhone, and the rest was history.

More advisors and investors caught onto the idea and started writing their own financial plans on a single index card.

I love the exercise, because it makes you think about what's important and forces you to be succinct.

So, here's my index-card financial plan:


Everything else is details. 

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