5 really good things to do with $20

Guest post by Dootsie Bug
By: Chris SchrierCC BY 2.0

So you found some crumpled money in the pocket of an old coat, or your friend finally paid you back for that pizza from six months ago. You’ve just had a teeny windfall! Since it’s feeling like BONUS MONEY, it may start to burn a hole in your pocket.

But if you take a big, deep breath before you spend, you may think of a better way to put that $20 to good use…

Save it

No, really. You know you should be putting more money into savings — now’s a great time to do it. Skip right over your regular bank account, and tuck this money straight into your savings account. Why? If it’s in the pot of money you typically spend from, it’ll call to you like a siren, luring you to your inevitable shopping doom. So chuck it into savings and FORGET IT EXISTS.

Use it to make more money

Buy a dot com to host your blog or résumé. Spend it to advertise your blog, Facebook page, or Etsy shop. Invest in a personal finance book that will help you build a better financial life in the future. Buy a premium account with one of those money managing websites. If there’s something you can do with your $20 that will mean more money down the road, that’s money well-spent.

Tool it up

Adding to your at-home or in-car toolkit can help you immensely in the event of an emergency. My personal recommendations? A multi-tool or an emergency roadside assistance toolkit.

Give it away

Do it for the butterflies, man. Whether you give your money to a person in need, a cause you believe in, or just to support something you love, there just isn’t a monetary value on the emotional and universal rewards.


Spending a small sum of unaccounted-for money on something that’s absolutely pure luxury is perfectly valid and OKAY. Since we’re talking about money that you didn’t expect to have and at an amount that’s not life changing, there’s no reason to feel guilt about spending it on something you’d otherwise consider silly, frivolous, indulgent or otherwise splurgey! There’s value in treating yo self!

What are your favorite things to do with surprise pocket money?

Comments on 5 really good things to do with $20

    • What the heck are malteasers? Are they Whoppers, people familiar with all kinds of candy?

      And also, I read that as covering a book with a “happy ending” and well. $20 won’t buy you that. Yes, I am 12.

      • Malterers are the Mars Company version of the Whoppers (The Hershey Company). The real difference is that Malterers are chocolate covered malted honeycomb while Whoppers are chocolate covered malt. I also think Whoppers are big in the U.S. and Malterers are big in the UK and Australia. Or at least that is where I have found and consumed an inappropriate number of them.

      • I’m not sure I know what you mean ;-).
        Maltesers are a sweet which are made from honeycomb pieces covered in milk chocolate. I googled whopper candy, and those look similar. They are amazing, and can make almost any bad day better.
        Although I think I might be having currency conversion issues with my budgeting – I think £20 is worth a bit more than $20.

        • This “honeycomb” description is really tickling my fancies. Anyone know if this can be found in the US at all? My one trouble with Whoppers is that they’re a bit dense.

          I think $20 US is the equivalent of like 12GBP.

          • OK, I could get a book, a bag of chocolates and a cup of tea for £12. I’m all good.
            Megan, yep, that’s the stuff.

          • Crap. We have a back log of chocolate dipped peeps in our house right now. And yet…and yet… I now want to buy a bag of these. Both are perfectly good ways to spend part of $20.

          • They’re not honeycomb (though they’re crunchy on the inside) – they’re malt-flavoured. And one of the most delicious things in the universe. You will not regret it spending your $20 on them 🙂

  1. Things we do with extra twenties:

    Save it. We have a piggy bank for our daughter’s RESP, and we put cash in there periodically when there is extra floating around, or when she gets money for her birthday or other celebrations. We usually empty the piggy bank right after Christmas.

    Other saving options: the vacation fund (an old avon tin) or the computer fund (a kraft peanut butter jar). I’m not sure why but I find it easier to save money when I have a neat container for my cash stash!

    Donate it. Our church collection is an easy one, and we get to decide where the money goes (and the tax receipt never hurts). On a similar vein, buy stuff from kids. Cookies from the Girl Guides, apples or leaf bags from Scouts Canada, and cheap chocolate from the kid selling it outside the grocery store to raise money for their school playground. The money goes to a good cause, and I get to eat yummy things (or clean up my yard).

    Spend it. A twenty at Chapters is usually a cheap Young Adult paperback, some fancy chocolate, and maybe a trinket from the clearance rack. Not sure why but all my best nail polish has come from the Chapters clearance rack. I also have fun with this one: my challenge is to spend the money on ME and not on gifts for my family, and I can call the YA novel “professional development” since I teach junior high. Twenty bucks at the local Salvation Army is also fun!

    • I feel like the power of a neat container absolutely can not be overstated.

      It’s actually great to hear that I’m not alone in having a really, really hard time not buying stuff for other people, particularly in that situation! Bookstores always make me think “Ooh, this would be a perfect giftie for–”

      • Hey, just in general response to these comments, why not save a bit of the 20 and rent a book from the library. Might sound a bit boring or just old books but my nearest library has a large number of newish (last 5 years) books that still look new so you get the novelty of it. Just a suggestion. I normally ignore it because I prefer finance books which tend to go out of date quickly.

  2. “Use it to make more money” will probably cost you another $20 on a month or a year. Watch out.

    How about spend it on a friend or loved one? Call up a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while and invite them to lunch!

  3. We often find surprise 20 dollar bills. My husband is a bartender and he likes to trade in his dollar tips for 20s when he cashes out at night. For years now he has taken a single 20 out of his earnings periodically and stashes it around the house for a fun surprise later on. Pre-kid when we’d find one of his fun surprises we’d treat ourselves to Sunday lunch at the farmers market or local coffeeshop. After we had twins we did the boring deposit $10 into each of their savings accounts. Now that we have 3 kids (and dividing a 20 between them is not as even) we are treating ourselves to family ice cream shop outings.

    • I had a friend who would always drop a $20 in his winter coat pocket before putting it up for the season. Fully recommended!

      My mom used to pop little amounts of money into my bank account as a kid. Let me thank you in advance from your babies!

  4. Other option: pass on the glee! Leave or hide the $20 somewhere for someone else to find and imagine the joy on their face when they discover it. There have been many times that cash that has fallen out of my pocket, and my distress is relieved by the realization that my misfortune will TOTALLY make someone else’s day. 🙂

  5. Ha ha – yeah, stashing it can also be good. Then when the pizza guy comes and you suddenly realize that there is exactly $3,71 cash in the household, you’ll magically remember the $20 you stashed. I’ve also actually used it for a taxi ride home – I left my even drunker than me husband in the taxi as a marker while I ran up to the apartment to get it. 😉

      • I do this too! Since I tend to not use cash terribly often (we have various debit and credit cards that offer spiffy rewards for using them, and it makes managing our budget easier for me that way as well), whenever I happen to run across cash in my wallet it feels like I just won something. Especially an actual $20 bill, since usually all I keep in there are singles. ^_^

  6. I am down to my last couple of thousands in the bank and this post came just at the right time. I had just indulged in some guilt trip bashing after spending SGD76 on a pub binge last night. I am still pining over my impulse spending because that money could be put to almost 4 rounds of quality $20 suggestions that so many people would give a serious thought to.

    Saving pennies is good but it gets to a point when we feel too poor and want to splurge. It will be better to just lock up cards at home and keep some $20 bills in a box to take out on emergency days we just have to spend more. And when we spend, we really have to spend on the things we truly love that are close to our hearts. If not, we will just hanker for more money to buy things that can buy a moment of spending joy but can’t make us tick all morning / afternoon / night.

    Spending on experiences definitely lasts longer than purchases. If I could get more $20 bills next time, here is my top 5 list:
    1) Order in McDonalds home delivery for myself instead of walking in to the shop. Just because I deserve a pampering from time to time.
    2) Queuing up at a famous stall to takeaway a tasty and cheap meal for the whole family to enjoy at home.
    3) Buying a new toy for the family pet and reserving it for the next time it has been good and deserves a treat
    4) Treat a friend to the movies or take a ferry to the nearby islands to enjoy the day.
    5) Try out a new eating place. If that is too expensive, cook a delicious meal under $20. (should be kinda obvious by now I am a foodie)

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