A thousand dollars might be pocket change or a rounding error to multimillionaires and billionaires, but it's a meaningful sum for the rest of us. Any amount of money that we can save can be put to good use.

Here are 15 examples of smart things you can do with $1,000. Depending on your particular situation, some will be more valuable for you than others.

About 7 hundred dollar bills isolated on white background

Image source: Getty Images.

Check out these smart ways to spend $1,000 and see which make the most sense for you.

No. 1: Pay off debt.

First things first. If you're carrying significant debt, especially high-interest rate debt, such as what credit cards typically charge, you should make paying that off a priority. (If you don't have high-interest rate debt, consider making an extra payment or two on your mortgage or on student loan debt.) Whether you owe $2,000 or $25,000, applying $1,000 to reducing your debt can make a big difference in your financial health. If your interest rate is 25%, you can avoid paying $250 in interest -- each year!

No. 2: Establish or bulk up an emergency fund.

It's risky to go through life without available emergency money. Most of us need to have about three to nine months worth of living expenses tucked away and available in case some unthinkable event, such as a job loss or costly medical expense, happens. If your bank account is usually close to empty, putting your $1,000 in it can establish a buffer between you and overdraft fees. Meeting certain minimum thresholds can get you other perks or avoid other charges, too.

No. 3: Sock it in a retirement account.

Put the money in an IRA. A traditional IRA contribution will shrink your taxable income, while a Roth IRA offers tax-free withdrawals in retirement. The 2017 IRA contribution limit is $5,500 for most folks and $6,500 for those 60 or older. A single $1,000 investment won't provide for a comfortable retirement, but it can certainly help provide for one -- especially if you're still young. Check out how powerfully it might grow over various periods at various average annual growth rates:

$1,000 invested for:

Grows at 8% to:

Grows at 10% to:

10 years



20 years



30 years



40 years



Source: Calculations by author.

Investing in an inexpensive broad-market index fund such as one based on the S&P 500 will get you market-matching returns, which will be pretty good. It can be hard to beat that, but if you'd like to try, you might invest in one or more individual companies that you believe will grow at an above-average rate over the coming decades. They won't always perform as hoped, but if you research your candidates well and then follow the progress of whatever companies you invest in, you stand a chance of outperformance. Here, for example, are some 15-year growth rates of a few familiar companies -- plus what they would have turned $1,000 into over that period:


15-Year Average Annual Growth Rate

$1,000 Would Become










Starbucks Corporation






Source: Yahoo! Finance and author calculations.

No. 4: Save for college.

Open or fund a 529 Plan account for Junior. You can sock away a lot of money in them, where the funds will grow on a tax-deferred basis. Contributions are often unlimited until the balance of the account reaches several hundred thousand dollars -- though contributing more than the maximum allowed for annual tax-free gifts (recently $14,000) can trigger taxes. Distributions for qualifying college-related expenses are tax-free.

Boy in glasses at laptop, mouth agape in astonishment

You and your kids might be surprised at how much wealth they can build through investing. Image source: Getty Images.

No. 5: Get your kids investing.

If you can employ that $1,000 to help your kids get into investing, it can pay off exponentially over the long run. You might open a custodial account for them at a local brokerage and then study and invest in some companies together. Our book, The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens, can also help (and it costs far less than $1,000). Have discussions about companies and how they grow and face challenges. Have the kid(s) choose a few companies that interest them to follow and/or invest in -- possibilities include Activision Blizzard, Apple, Boeing, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Disney, Hasbro, Netflix, Nike, Starbucks, Target, Under Armour, or VF Corp.

No. 6: Protect yourself with insurance.

If anyone is depending on you financially, you need life insurance. Term policies are generally better deals than whole life ones. You may need other insurance, too, such as renter's insurance or an umbrella policy to cover big claims against you. It's also smart to review your homeowner policy regularly, to make sure it's still covering you for an appropriate amount. And an annual call to a bunch of different home and car insurance companies can help you snag a better rate, perhaps saving hundreds of dollars a year.

No. 7: Have critical documents drawn up.

Most of us need to have several vitally important documents prepared and ready. These include a will, a power of attorney, a living will, and a health-care proxy. Hire a lawyer to help you with these and any other estate-planning matters, such as perhaps setting up a trust.

Man looking through big magnifying glass

Have a professional review your finances. Image source: Getty Images.

No. 8: Get a financial checkup.

Another smart thing you can do with $1,000 is to get a financial checkup. Find a good financial planner (perhaps a Certified Financial Planner, or CFP) and have them evaluate your financial condition and make recommendations. Favor fee-only advisors, whom you can find at www.napfa.org.

No. 9: Add new work skills or certifications.

You can make yourself more valuable at your workplace and marketable in your career by adding some new skills or professional certifications to your resume -- or even a new language you've mastered.

No. 10: Have experiences.

Studies have shown that spending money on experiences instead of material things tends to deliver sense of well-being. Experiences, after all, create memories that can be savored for a long time. Traveling is a great way to rack up experiences, but you might also spend your $1,000 on music or golf lessons or on tickets to some great performances, perhaps even via season tickets.

Five suitcases stacked against window through which we see a plane taking off

Image source: Getty Images.

No. 11: Travel.

The benefits of traveling are legion, as it can boost creativity, enhance appreciation of differences, help you to better understand other parts of the country or world and the people who live there. With $1,000, you might be able to visit Europe, drive cross country, enjoy a cruise, or take a scenic train ride.

No. 12: Spiff up your home.

You don't need to spend $50,000 on remodeling your home in order to enjoy it more. You may be surprised at how much you can accomplish with just $1,000. Perhaps add some kitchen backsplash tiles and new cabinet handles in your kitchen. Replace an aging appliance or two or get new porch furniture. Give one or more rooms a coat of fresh paint or get a bunch of new replacement windows. There are many possibilities.

No. 13: Tweak your lifestyle for the better.

If you've been thinking of changing your lifestyle a little for the better, $1,000 can often help. For example, you might buy a bicycle in order to bike to and from work, thereby saving money while also getting in shape. Just biking recreationally is also good.

No. 14: Get healthier.

The $1,000 can help you get healthier in other ways, too. You might hire a personal trainer for a bunch of sessions in order to kick-start a new work-out routine or join a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program for fresh locally grown produce, supporting local farmers and eating more nutritiously.

No. 15: Give it away.

Finally, a smart thing to do with $1,000 is to give it away. No matter how much you think you need it, there are millions of people who desperately need it more. Billions of people around the world, including millions in the U.S., are trying to live on just a few dollars per day. You can look up highly rated candidates for your donation(s) at sites such as CharityNavigator.org, Give.org, CharityWatch.org, and GiveWell.org.

Don't just let an extra $1,000 slip through your hands, spent in impulsive ways you hardly remember. Put a little thought in how to best spend it. Deploying your $1,000 in one or more of the ways above can enrich or improve your life -- or the lives of others.