Fun and frivolity with $10,000

Over at Facebook, and in personal conversations (how retro!) I’ve been asking a question lately which has sparked quite a discussion. I started off by asking how people would spend an extra $10,000, but it turns out that my friends are upright responsible citizens. People first wanted to pay off debts, save for retirement, etc. All good ideas, but not really what I was getting at. So let’s rephrase the question this way:

Say you received an unexpected $50,000. You do the responsible thing (saving, paying off high interest loans) with $40,000. We can all agree that the last $10,000 could be fun money, right? So what would you do with it? The ground rules are that, at the end of your life you want to look back and think whatever you did was a cool idea. Some suggestions:

  • You and your spouse could fly to Mongolia and then do the 11-day multisport trip REI is touting ($3,599 pp, then figure in airfare). Camel trekking? Staying in desert tent camps? Sounds memorable.
  • While we’re over at REI Adventures, you and a friend could cycle from Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) to Hanoi ($2,999 pp, then airfare, but actually this is one I know you can do cheaper by booking with a local operator — so you could bring another friend!)
  • You could commission a major choral work. As a reference point, the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus pays $1,000 for the grand prize winner in our annual Competition for Young Composers, and we get great entries. For $10,000 you could get a fascinating piece and hire a group to perform it.
  • You could underwrite the production of a small and interesting play, or shoot a series of short plays you’ve written, paying something to the cast and crew, and post them on YouTube (hat tip to Erik Sherman, a fellow BNET blogger, for that one).
  • Publish a book on your family history — pay a researcher to dig up your genealogy, and pay a writer to turn your family interviews into vignettes to accompany old photos (and then pay a self-publishing outfit to print it).
  • Hire an artist to illustrate a children’s story you wrote for your own kids.
  • Cruise around Alaska in a suite with balcony, possibly a grand piano (I don’t get why you’d want a piano on your cruise, but hey, you could probably pay someone a few hundred bucks to serenade you for a bit too).
  • Via DonorsChoose.org, send 125 kids from a high poverty school in Indianapolis to the zoo for the day… and then do it for 9 years in a row.
  • Via GlobalGiving.org, underwrite the production of an album from the winner of a Haitian American Idol-style competition (with proceeds going toward Haiti rebuilding efforts), and then still have plenty left over to underwrite independent news radio in Liberia (an emerging democracy)…or any of zillions of other projects.
  • Buy good camping gear and spend a week camping in Yellowstone with your family.
  • Take lessons to get your private pilot’s license, and rent a plane for a few hours of flying afterwards.
  • 80 1-hour massages. Mmm….
  • Lots of people wanted to re-do their master bathrooms. Home improvement sounds suspiciously practical to me, but I’ll take this as an answer if you promise to turn it into a spa-like retreat and then spend hours taking bubble baths.

What would you do if you needed to spend $10,000 in a fun and memorable way?

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8 thoughts on “Fun and frivolity with $10,000

  1. 1. I’d put some toward a (lightly used minivan) b/c one of my goals this year is to take a road trip with my husband and two kids and if they want the grandparents too every other Sunday –the zoo, the beach, just wherever, and invest in those experiences rather than things… b/c your writing and most of what I read does support the whole investing in experiences and planning for leisure time
    used cars with young kids is better b/c if they throw food in the vehicle who cares … one day I will have a new convertible but not these days with toddlers.. the other sundays my plan is to send kids off for daddy day so I can do the other things on the list (read, get a massage etc)

    2. join weight watchers
    3. hire a personal trainer or a personal chef or both
    4. try to avoid cooking at all costs –I’ve tried cooking, really tried and I hate it. I’d love to be able to order out several times a week without guilt as I really really hate to cook.. hate it.
    5. set up a home gym so i can run and watch my soap in an area that is completely mine — no kids crawling around the treadmill as it is now

    6. the issue of debt is interesting b/c taking it on on the one hand implies the ability to take risk… but there is also something freeing bout living debt free and knowing that when you work you do it b/c you want to and not b/c you need to pay for debt but i tis pretty hard to grow most businesses without some risk tolerance and some debt..
    we are really fortunate in america to have access to pretty cheap money and interest rates have been so low for such a long time… (this also means though that most of us aren’t getting much on our savings)
    we have a home equity line right now that costs us very little like $150 bucks a month in interest though the interest rate could go up — so we should pay it down — but it brings up interesting questions, like should we really do that before I get a massage, get that minivan and make the commitment to take a road trip every other sunday with my hubby and kids…
    7. the issue of personal savings — not retirement — not the kids’ college fund but just the cash cushion is interesting b/c usually most articles about that $ are written for folks on salary… as an entrepreneur I am always torn between paying myself and building up some cash and investing in my business, my family and just my general quality of life… especially right now where most great money markets are giving you like less than 2 % interest… you think.. ok so I am banking cash.. at 1% interest, who cares and does this make me happy…. I mean clearly you need some retirement and some cash cushion but being able to go out to lunch or get a massage probably makes me happier… as does extra babysitting, having a cleaning lady or someone to do my laundry… all these things make me happier than say a ton of cash savings…

  2. Travel the US with the family, Grand Canyon, Disney World, California, Oceans … All of the places I say we can’t go because it’s too expensive at the moment.

    1. @D – sounds good! I think travel figures in many people’s answers, because we know it will produce memories. So I guess the question becomes, is there a way we can change our economics so travel becomes more doable?

  3. We’d rent an RV and travel around the US all summer. When we got to California it would be time to hop a plane to Hawaii, where I’ve wanted to return since my honeymoon, 17 years ago. I was too afraid then to try all the water sports, but I’ve become more daring in my 40’s. Then we could take another route home again.
    @Laura, upon my return to work in 9 months, travel will be more doable. I plan to set aside a fund for it, so there are no excuses and the money doesn’t just ‘disappear’ on ‘stuff’ before we’ve even realized it.

    1. @Denise – great idea! The good thing about money is it can be used for anything… but that’s also a downside because sometimes we use it for things that are more pressing. Here’s to having more of it!

  4. I think travel actually IS fairly cheap by historical standards. But STUFF is absurdly, ridiculously cheap by historical standards. So it’s always cheaper to buy stuff than to go places.

    That said, we’ve signed up on one of the home swapping sites — we’re just outside of DC, and are hoping to find some folks w/in an easy drive who want to do some weekend exchanges.

    And if you’re willing to ride the bus, intercity travel has become really cheap on the East Coast lately. And it comes with wifi.

  5. This post and the comments intersect with my life in so many ways it is freaky.

    For one, this actually just happened to us. We received an unexpected $50,000 and we are trying to decide what to do with it, ranging from refinancing and paying down the mortgage to get to a lower interest rate to buying a boat or some other fun outrageous family time-focused choice. I like the 40/10 split plan and we may go with that.

    Some people have talked about ways to make travel more affordable. It is a priority for us. When we realized that our cars were paid off but still looking and running great, we put the amount of our monthly payments into a dedicated travel account – this is a substantial amount monthly, but the transfer is automatic and whenever we want to take a trip, we are pleasantly surprised by the amount in our travel account and we never feel like we are choosing family time and travel vs more practical expenditures.

    Others have talked about traveling the country. I recently counted our trips for 2010 and we went on 19 “getaways”, large and small, local and as far as Asia, weekends to as long as 6 weeks, almost all with the kids ages 6 & 9. So my first instinct for that fun money would be to take a fantastic trip but we already prioritize that and travel a lot, so then what?

    Someone mentioned renting an RV. It just happens that we have a small motorhome, by the way, and we love to rent it out to other families when we are not using it. I highly recommend it for family fun, adventure, and memories.

    I will continue to follow this discussion…

    1. @Sarah: How funny – that’s amazing that the situation I described exactly happened to you! If you guys come up with creative ideas to spend the $10k of fun money I’d love to share them. I’m hoping to make that a rather lengthy list in the book. I also love the idea of switching the car payment to a travel account so it doesn’t mingle with the other money. I have been talking a lot about money being perfectly fungible so it can go to anything. That is a plus, but sometimes it is a minus in that the brain likes to have separate categories. So a lot of people find separate accounts useful for precisely that reason — when the money is already assigned to travel it doesn’t feel like you’re taking it from something else (e.g. groceries).

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