Imagine there is a knock on your door and standing outside is a man holding a big cardboard check with your name on it. Imagine the balloons and cameras and a marching band too. Congratulations, you have just won the Random Chance sweepstakes! Your prize? Ten thousand tax-free dollars in cash. It’s not enough money to change your life, but it is a nice unexpected windfall.
Now that you have won this money, what is the very first thing you do?
a) Grab your car keys and head for the shopping mall, car dealership, boat showroom or hot tub warehouse.
b) Fire up the laptop and start searching for flights and hotels.
c) Write a check to one of your creditors and run to the mailbox before you change your mind.
d) Call your friends and family because dinner is on you tonight.
e) Book an appointment for the estimator to come by and give you a quote on fixing the *&^%&! roof.
f) Visit your banker or broker and add the money to one of your accounts.
g) Start measuring the kitchen for new cabinets.
h) Make a donation to a cause you are passionate about.
i) Hide the money in your underwear drawer and hope your partner does not find it.
j) Something else.
Now that you have made your choice, think about this question.
Does the fact that this is “found money” influence your decision?
Some people might describe this as “free money” but we all know that money is rarely free. Usually there has been some payment or effort to bring that money into your cash flow, but in this case it falls outside your normal income so it`s considered free money. It also might not make it into the income column of your budget.
Here are some examples of funds that people might classify as found or free money:
Tax refunds, rebates, refunds, gifts, prizes, expense reimbursements, bonuses, inheritances. Your friend pays you back the $20 you lent him. You redeem points to pay for something you had budgeted to pay cash for. Etc, etc.
Do you track the found money that comes into your life?
Does it become part of your budget or do you keep it off the books and therefore are not accountable for how you dispose of it? Does found money inadvertently derail some of your financial progress? Do you use it to justify poor financial choices or binge spending?
I’ll bet there is more found money coming into your life than you realize. It may not come in the form of a $10,000 sweepstakes win, but I assure you it is there if you look for it. It is important to track this money to keep yourself accountable and most importantly, so that we can acknowledge and appreciate the abundance in our lives.
How much money did you find today?