Monday, June 2, 2008

Poll: What to Do with a Windfall

Over Memorial Day weekend I was at my parents' house in Michigan for my niece's high school graduation. My parents still live in the house I grew up in: a little 1100-square foot 1950s ranch that back in the day had only one bathroom for the five of us to fight over. The house sits in a cute subdivision in which all of the streets carry nautical names: Embarcadero, Aquarina, Levee... It also has a subdivision beach sitting on a man-made lake. When I was a child, we lived at the beach every summer, and it's still an active, fun place for kids. This weekend included a Memorial Day parade; a "holiday egg hunt" that was actually a delayed Easter egg hunt, as Easter was too cold this year to have kids outside hunting up eggs; and various beach fun. During the egg hunt, I was approached to buy a raffle ticket for $1; I had a few bucks in my back pocket in case the kids wanted something from the concession stand -- known as the Wienie Shack when I was growing up. So I bought a ticket and forgot to ask what was being raffled.

That afternoon I got a call at my parents' house saying I'd won the raffle, which turned out to be half the money the raffle had taken in. Seeing as they'd sold $125 of tickets, I won a jackpot of $62.50. Phil suggested that this was about enough gas money to get us home -- actually, it was just under the $62.62 it took to fill our van for the return trip. But I reminded him that this little windfall was mine, and that I'd put the $1 I spent back into our joint money, but that left me with $61.50 all to myself. I've been ruminating for a week now on how to spend it. Here's what I've come up with:

The indulgent purchase. This likely would be a baby pouch from Wallababy that I covet but don't really need. One of the women in a breastfeeding support group I attended while on leave owns Wallababy, and the slings are adorable and handy. We have a Snugli, which is also handy if a little more cumbersome, so I don't really need the sling. But the $45 pouch price is now well within my extra cash.

The super-indulgent purchase. This would be something that I absolutely don't need, and that doesn't serve any real purpose except to make me happy. Like, say, a few bottles of wonderful wine to share with friends, or a little splurge at my favorite online window-shopping site,, where I can pick up fun fabric like Lil' Cowpokes to make a cute quilt for Sylvia:

Saving toward a big purchase. Back when we were moving to a Brooklyn apartment, we purchased a vintage Heywood Wakefield table and chairs, which served us well when our single friends were gathered around, eating sushi and drinking sake. Since we've started having kids, however, the table, which only comfortably seats four, has started feeling teetery and a little too delicate for our growing-family, heavy-use needs. I've been dreaming of a big, solid, distressed farm table with supports on all four corners and enough room to spread out crafts or serve a big potluck meal. So the $61.50 could be the seed money for a solid replacement table, which even after selling our Heywood Wakefield set, could cost several hundred dollars.

Investing. This is why I'm an amateur tightwad: Even though $61.50 could go far in the next several years if invested in stock or in one of the kids' 529s, I haven't gotten too excited about this option. But it's an option. And a good one. Probably the right one.

So a poll, which you might have noticed at the top of the page: If you came into a little windfall, how would you spend it? I'll leave this poll up until my birthday at the end of the month, at which time I'll take your advice to heart and see where my riches should go.


Hooked on Houses said...

Congrats on your windfall! That's fun. I'm lovin' the li'l cowpokes, so I'm going to vote that you buy them for Sylvie! -Julie :-)

Amateur Tightwad said...

I have to admit... I'm leaning toward a little splurge involving Lil Cowpokes. We'll see if I start feeling more practical as the month continues!

Anonymous said...

So glad you asked. Our own recent windfall was the "economic incentive" refund from Dubya's administration. We contributed it to organizations opposed to his policies and wrote a note to the White House saying thanks and that's how we used it. But you wouldn't get the same satisfaction we got from the refund. I do think you should use it for something fun and identifiable. Being prudent and careful with a one-time infusion of $62 doesn't get you much so you might as well enjoy it. Leneta

Laura said...

I'm a total tightwad, so I would stash the cash for now. If after a little while the Lil Cowpokes fabric is still haunting your dreams, spring for it. If not and you find that the novelty has worn off, you've still got the beginnings of a dining room table. Totally skip the sling--it looks a little too much like the sort of sling arrangement we both tried for our kids and rejected as being unhandy and seemingly uncomfortable for the passenger. Besides, Sylvie will be out of it and walking before you know it.

And that's all I have to say about that. :-)

mommy2twinkies-Deb said...

Congrats! I think you should go with one of the indulgent purchases. They sound great, and a raffle winning doesn't happen very often!

Anonymous said...

Wait and if the fabric is still callin' you, buy it. The quilt will last for many years and bring joy to many.
You will probably find a new table and chairs at a real bargain, so that will just come along if you are patient.

Koningskind said...

I would choose option four and open a special savingsaccount to put all the little windfalls you will have in such as money-back actions, coupon-actions.
It will show you clearly how much you save by living frugal and you will get interest on it. $61.50 is a nice start to become a millionaire. ;-))