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Best 5 Ways to Spend a Lump Sum of Money

Updated on April 25, 2016
Robie Benve profile image

Robie is a writer interested in frugal living and ways to acquire financial strength. She got her MBA from the University of Venice, Italy.

What is the best way to use an unexpected lump sum? Windfalls are hard to come by, and one you've got your hands on one, you should plan carefully how to use it.
What is the best way to use an unexpected lump sum? Windfalls are hard to come by, and one you've got your hands on one, you should plan carefully how to use it.

Make the Most Out of Your Money

How wonderful when we can enjoy a nice fat check as extra income! Sometimes the windfall is small, sometimes it’s big, and for the super-lucky ones, it may even be huge.

An unexpected lump sum is a lucky happening, and it deserves careful planning on how to use the money, in order to make the most out of it.

Examples of Lump Sums

  • Tax refund
  • Bonus
  • Inheritance
  • Lottery
  • Gifts
  • Loan pay backs
  • Short job/project
  • Dividend
  • Gratuity
  • Found treasure
  • Court settlement

Unexpected Windfall vs. Regular Income

What am I talking about? A windfall as intended here, is an unexpected amount of money that comes to form some source. Unexpected means that this is an uncertain source of income, like a bonus at work, or a court settlement, that we don’t know if we get it until the time comes.

A windfall has an aleatory nature, which means that it’s related to other events that are beyond our control, and sometimes it depends on risk or luck, like getting good dividends from the stock market, or winning the lottery.

Your regular income is expected, and, unless you depend a lot on commissions and highly variable pay, you know how much you are earning and when the check will be deposited. For this kind of predictable income, you should have already a plan in place on how to use it.

Generally speaking, your regular income should cover your fixed expenses, variable expenses, and savings toward your financial goals.

So, while your regular income is pretty much already allocated, you have a lot of choices and options on how to use a windfall.

What’s the Best Way to Invest a Windfall?

I love tax refund time, because you hear people cheering about their refund check, and I always hope they use it wisely.

Unfortunately, most people I know go wild when they see a lump sum, they feel like it’s a freebie and they can just splurge it on whatever.

In reality, especially in the case of tax refund, that’s your hard gained money that the Government held for you and it’s giving it back.

What to do with a lump sum of money?

Any windfall should be treated as a precious chance to improve your financial situation.

The first thing you need to do is write down all your options of how to use the money and then go through your list of options and prioritize.

A Lump sum of money can be your opportunity to make your dreams come true.
A Lump sum of money can be your opportunity to make your dreams come true. | Source

1. Using the Lump Sum to Pay Off Debt

Becoming debt-free should be your priority #1, especially if you are paying high interest rates. Use your lump sum to pay off your debts.

If you have several credit cards, pay them off in full, and then call the company and ask them to close your account.

Make sure no further interests are charged after you paid. You don’t want to close a card that carries a balance.

Also, ask the rep to write a note that states that the account has been closed at your request.

2. Using the Lump Amount to Beef Up Your Emergency Fund

We all should have a “peace of mind” saving fund that allows us to take care of anything that may happen in terms of emergencies.

While the amount necessary to provide peace of mind varies from person to person, the recommended amount to have in an emergency fund is 3 times your monthly expenses.

If you don’t have an emergency fund that covers three months’ worth of expenses for your family, your lump sum should go to the emergency fund before you make any purchase.

How would you use a lump sum?

If I won $10,000, I would....

See results

3. Applying Your Windfall Towards Your Financial Goals

We all have a list of things that we’d like to buy or do, but we kept them on the back-burner because we can’t afford them.
And hopefully we also have a list of financial goals for which we are actively saving each month.

Once you are debt free and have a nifty emergency fund, you can finally use the money towards your goals and dreams, including buying things, saving for college, or saving for a down payment on a house you’d like to buy.

4. Investing Your Money

Many options are available for investing your a large lump sum of money, and before you choose any particular form of investment, you need to consider the risks and advantages of each opportunity.

Is your attitude to risk low, medium or high?

Do you want capital growth or income, or a bit of both?

What are your plans for the future: retire early, start your own business, or starting a family?

All of these factors and many more have a big impact on which investment choices would be ideal for you.

If you have a big sum of money and no idea which way to go to invest it, I recommend you talk to your financial advisor.

5. Buying Something that You've Wanted for a Long Time

We all have something we have been freaming to buy, but we have been postponing because too expensive.

A lump sum could be just the thing you needed to finally fulfill your dream.

Whether it is new furniture, a motorcycle, a trip, or anything else, the extra money you received can be certainly used to get it. Maybe you've been waiting to propose to your girl because you could not afford the ring she deserves, this could be your opportunity.

My only advice: before you spend the precious lump sum on anything, look first at your debt situation, and make sure you are not wasting a great opportunity to pay down those credit card balances!

But if your credit is in order, and there is something you really need, go ahead and enjoy the extra money.

© 2012 Robie Benve


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    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 2 years ago from Ohio

      Hey Thish, now that you mentioned it, it is pretty unusual and kind of funny to talk about the problem of "what to do with all the extra money"! Good problem to have anyway! :) Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Thish profile image

      Thish 2 years ago

      Just looking at the topic gave me a smile. Normaly we see lot of articles on " how to earn money" and what you have written is the other way round and love it.

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      Hi Ruth, Your two priorities should be get debt free and create an emergency fund of three times your monthly expenses, to keep readily available in case of need.

      If you already have those two things in place, then you can consider investing the lump sum. Choose lower risk investments and mutual funds. Low risk is key to keep your money safe.

    • profile image

      Ruth masterson 4 years ago

      I will get£900 per month pension for life and lump sum of£76000. Where should I put my lump sum? I retire at 55 as a staff nurse but I will reduce my hours and net monthly income will be £1500 per month. Any ideas?

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      William, investing in a pension is a great option. Before doing so you need to consider if there is any high interest debt that you need to pay down. Also, depending on your age it may take a while before you can cash out the tax free amount. Thanks for reading. :)

    • profile image

      william keep 5 years ago

      l have a lump sum i was thinking put in a pension and just get the FREE tax back yes or no .

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      Hi Monicamelendez, getting out of debt is a great accomplishment. I wish you best of luck and lots of financial stability in your future.

      I just saw you comment - it went to spam for no reason, sorry about that.

    • monicamelendez profile image

      monicamelendez 5 years ago from Salt Lake City

      Sound advice! I'm finally getting myself out of debt and now I can start thinking about big girl topics like this one!

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      You know what they say: if you can visualize the big fat check and believe it's coming in the mail, get ready for the good surprise! :)

      Thanks Marcy for your comment!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Okay - now that I've learned this, when can I put the information to use? I'll be watching my mailbox, etc. for the big news!

      Great information - voted up and up!

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      That can be complicated... makes you almost wish you could come up with a secret formula that transforms you in Superman and lets you fly. :)

      Thanks for your great comment and support. :)

    • TFScientist profile image

      Rhys Baker 5 years ago from Peterborough, UK

      Sound if I can just save enough money to get an emergency fund. When you pay more money on petrol than on rent, this is tricky!

      I liked the use of examples and the poll. All very engaging and improved the feel of the hub. Voted up!

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 5 years ago from Ohio

      Summerberrie, that sounds great. I bet if you make a plan on how to use a windfall, you'll really get one. It's worth a try. ;)


    • profile image

      summerberrie 5 years ago

      Thanks for the sensible tips. I would love to have a windfall of money. You have encouraged me to create a plan for when I do!