How to use your unexpected windfall to reach financial goals

June 11, 2020

Unexpected money is often best used unspent. By keeping your eyes on the future, you can achieve long-term goals.

If you’re like most people, your first instinct when you get a bonus or a tax refund isn’t about achieving a financial goal. Instead it’s about treating yourself to a new gadget, a few expensive dinners or some flashy clothes.

While that might be satisfying in the short term, will it really get you what you want? Here are three good reasons why it’s probably a better idea to put all — or most — of a financial windfall into something more strategic.


1. Your debt is making saving difficult

If you have credit card debt, private student loans or other forms of high-interest debt, you might be paying thousands of dollars each year in interest. That’s money you could save, if only you could eliminate your debt.

If you recently had extra cash come to you, you can reduce (or eliminate) that debt. In the short term, you’ll be losing spare spending money, but in the long term you’ll be saving far more. Ultimately, that’s money in your pocket.

Similarly, if you have outstanding bills that are soon to have late fees attached, pay them. You might not get that new gadget, but your money will be well spent — and you’ll save in the long run.


2. An emergency fund gives you peace of mind

Are you prepared in case you lose your job? Or what if you have an accident that includes sky-high medical bills? While you can never predict what life might bring, you can be ready.

Financial advisors recommend setting aside enough money to pay your bills for at least three months, and some even recommend having savings to cover six months. That safety net will give you peace of mind.

If you don’t already have an emergency fund, a windfall can get you started. Open a savings account so that your fund for emergencies earns interest, put your extra cash into it, and then keep putting away a little more every paycheck until you have the recommended cushion.


3. Your goals are greater than a new iPad

Have you been thinking about going back to college or taking a big vacation? What about a new car or having enough for a down payment on your first home?

Sometimes the things that are most rewarding take time and effort to achieve. Psychologically, a good way to start toward achieving these goals is with a decent chunk of money so that you feel like you’re already well down the road toward reaching your goal.

How do you get started? Open a savings account and fund it with your financial windfall. But don’t stop there. If you want to get that new car or take that dream vacation, you need to keep saving. Set up automatic transfers from your checking account so you save a little more each week or month.

You’ll get progressively closer to your ultimate goal and you’ll also have a sense of purpose as you save, which can be just what you need to avoid impulse buys.


There’s a lot to learn about managing money, so continue reading to find out how to determine which U.S. Bank accounts best fit your needs.

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