Coming into some unexpected money seems like a great problem to have. If you’ve picked up a second job or side gig, received your tax return or a yearly bonus, or inherited a sum of money, it’s important that you treat that money the same as you would any other income and have a plan for it. Think of your newfound income as an opportunity to pay down debts, save for the future, and reach your personal financial goals.
The first thing you should do when you receive a large amount of unexpected money is to assess your current debt load. Consider the debt avalanche method to pay down your credit card debt in order of interest rate in order to reduce credit card debt faster and to pay less interest overall. Focus on paying off one balance at a time in order of interest rate while still paying the minimum balance on all other debts.
Do you have an emergency fund? The general rule of thumb is to have an emergency savings equal to six to nine months’ worth of living expenses. Should you experience a loss of income, medical emergency, natural disaster, or any other type of financial emergency, you will be thankful for your savings. Check out this post to learn the basics of building an emergency fund.
Save for retirement. According to a recent poll by ACCC, 75 percent of consumers admit that they do not feel adequately prepared for retirement. (For more stats from the retirement poll, check out this infographic.) Saving for retirement is relevant for consumers at almost any age; it’s never too late or too early to start saving.
Consider your personal financial goals. Try to think about your goals in both the short and long term. Do you plan to take a family vacation this summer? Do you plan to buy a home within the next few years? Do you see children in your future? Use ACCC’s Saving for a Goal Calculator to help you figure out how much of your unexpected income you should set aside and how much you will need to save on a regular basis to reach that goal.
Treat yourself; just don’t go overboard. Sticking to a strict budget and living a frugal lifestyle all of the time can be exhausting. If you’ve found yourself with some extra income, find a small way to treat yourself. Maybe you’ve had your eye on a new handbag or maybe it’s a special night out on the town you’ve been looking forward to. Be sure that all of your debts are in order and that your savings are on track before treating yourself to anything too extravagant.