Winning the mini-mini-Lottery: What would you do?

I sat in a comfy chair downtown reading my iPad for two hours, and received $175 in Amazon credit for my troubles. That’s nice work, if you can get it. Even better is getting paid four figures to fly to France on a private G5 and take four naps a day for a week. (Yes, I’ve done that too, but napping on a rigorous schedule is much more difficult than it sounds.)

What do you do with this unexpected little bonus?  I’ve been making a list of possibilities with accompanying pros and cons.  For example, normally I’d buy books but we’re packing up our apartment to move to Paris for six months, and more books are the last thing we need. (BTW, available: one apartment in Brooklyn, stocked with scripture/Mormon-nerd books. Sublease, and I don’t have to pack.)

Ebook/Kindle, you say? You can get a lot of $9.99 ebooks for $175. However, I try to buy serious ebooks on Logos if they’re available, but Amazon doesn’t sell those. For non-serious books, I tend to use the library. Since I like to run, I’ve considered cold-weather running gear (Smartwool!) or nicer headphones that can go for more than three months without losing all sound in one ear (I’m looking at you, Sony!) After nine years, my laptop bag has started to develop dangerous holes, and could stand to be replaced, but that seems so boring and practical. On the other hand, “boring and practical” is often another way of saying “performs such a necessary function on a daily basis that you’ll really miss it if you don’t have it.”

Do you go for practicalities or do you go for luxuries you wouldn’t have bought otherwise?

Multiple items in the $10-20 range or a few “big” items in the $50-70? I can usually get away with one or two of the first in the monthly budget, but items in the second price range or higher generally have a price-to-actual-need ratio that is too high.

Spend it all at once or wait for other things to come along?

Spend it on yourself or others? Early Christmas shopping?

Wait until you’re both out of school, and laugh at how much the value of money appears to change once you have more of it?

Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind maker-upper to make up his mind. So how do you do it?

11 comments for “Winning the mini-mini-Lottery: What would you do?

  1. Amanda in France
    October 27, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Welcome to my corner of the world! Will you be in Paris itself?

    Whatever you buy, buy it before you get here, because credit isn’t valid on Ask me how I know.

  2. Jax
    October 27, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I don’t wait until the money is available…. Every few months my wife and I sit down and come up with a “needs” list and a “wants” list. Usually the list is 3-5 things each and most of the time the lower items just more up when we redo it. But as we think of things that we need (like a laptop bag) we add it to the bottom of the list. When extra money comes in or accumulates we take the top two items from each list and decided which is more wanted/needed and buy it.

    As I describe this process it sounds really boring, but it is nice to look at our dry-erase board each time we put money into our money tree know that we are getting closer… to see the goal we are working for. Plus it gives us a chance to sit and talk pretty regularly about our spending habits, budgeting, and goals – and those talks help keep our marriage running smooth.

  3. Janell
    October 27, 2012 at 10:22 am

    With surprise money I tend to take a rough 30% savings, 30% practical things I want but couldn’t necessarily justify the money for, and 30% splurge. (Savings because $120 surprise money is just as awesome as $175 surprise money.)

  4. October 27, 2012 at 10:47 am

    The Amazon part of it would be hard for me. I am pretty committed to my local retailers, and Amazon and Walmart are kind of my anti-local shopping names. I think I would personally donate it to a charity.

    Now, if it came as cash, then it would be a different set of thoughts. If it is money I earned, then my breakdown would most likely look something like this:

    10% to tithing
    10% to fast offering
    10% to another charity
    20% to practical things on the needs list
    50% to a splurge for me and my husband to do something special

  5. October 27, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Amanda- Oui, Paris meme for most of it! Any housing suggestions?

    Jax- That’s remarkably forward looking.

    Janell- A practical solution, to split between needs and wants.

    Julia- The Amazon thing is what forces a bit of creativity. Normally when we wander into unanticipated cash, it goes directly into the bank account.

  6. October 27, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    My husband tells me you can get real British marmalade and a bunch of other “exotic” foodstuffs on Amazon, so I am guessing that his desire to splurge on stuff we usually wouldn’t get would win out. As long as I get some clotted cream and short bread, I could be pretty easily bought off.

  7. Kevin Barney
    October 27, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I’m interested in the answers, because I finally cashed in my 5,000 points from giving blood over the years and will be getting $90 in Amazon gift cards. There are books I would like to get, but those are usually what I ask Santa for. When the cards arrive I’ll have to noodle on it.

  8. Geoff - A
    October 28, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    When you see how peole in France look/dress, you might wish you had saved it and spent it on French clothes. Don’t know how Amazon money helps.

    Have always been impressed by how people of both sexes somehow look classy/different in both France and Italy.

    If you are taking a job with a european company you will probably have lots of leave to see the rest of europe, 8 to 10 weeks annual leave?

  9. Amanda in France
    October 29, 2012 at 7:44 am

    If you are paying your own way (i.e. not working for the Embassy), finding reasonable housing can be hard. Be prepared to be cramped! The 18th, 19th, 20th, 13th, 11th and part of the 17th are relatively affordable, although some areas are not so great. Otherwise you’re looking at the suburbs, some of which are very affordable and getting into Paris is easy (yay public transportation). We live over 20 km from Paris, but can be in the center in about 25 minutes.
    Feel free to contact me if you like.

  10. Allison
    November 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Amazon sells about so many things that I would have spent it immediately. I keep getting credit from taking polls and use it mostly to buy music (usually mp3s for my phone, but a few CDs for the car too.) They have some LDS books too. This is enough to get a new smartphone or other tech toy if you need/want one.

  11. December 4, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Might I ask how you got the $175 credit? Sounds like an opportunity not to be missed!

    Does the credit have an expiration date? is part of Audiobooks might be a worthwhile investment for travel, running, etc. (You can also get one free audiobook perm month at It’s been a mixed bag over the past couple of years, but some of the free titles have been really good!)

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