Finding a spare $100 in your bank account or back pocket can make even the most stoic saver feel giddy. That rush from extra “unexpected” cash might prompt you to wonder, “What exactly should I do with $100?” The good news is you have tons of responsible options — and a few of them are even fun.
Although $100 may not sound like a financial windfall, you can still make it work for you, instead of blowing it on something you won’t even remember. But first things first: If you have high-interest credit card debt, you definitely want to put the funds toward that. It may not be fun, but paying off debt that accrues at a 16% annual percentage rate (or more) is by far the smartest move.
Next, check your emergency fund to make sure it’s fully funded. “If your goal is a set amount or a certain months worth of expenses, check in every once in a while to make sure you’re still at that level,” Arielle O’Shea, investing and retirement specialist for NerdWallet, said in an email. “If you’ve had to tap the account, you may need to build it back up.” Finally, check your retirement funds and see if your IRA could use some love.
All good with your credit card payments and savings? Great. Here are 10 more creative ways to make even a modest $100 pay dividends.
1. Turn your freezer into an “emergency fund” for food
A big reason for eating out is because there’s nothing good in the fridge. Whether you didn’t have time to shop over the weekend or the food you meant to eat has gone bad in the back of the fridge, you could be wasting hundreds of dollars.
A well-stocked freezer is your friend. With $100, you could stock up on bags of frozen vegetables, berries, chicken breasts, salmon and gyoza. While you may lose a bit of flavor with frozen food, the nutrients are still there. Best of all, it lasts way longer than fresh food: For example, frozen meat is good for up to 12 months, Today reports. For the healthiest option, go for freshly frozen foods that don’t contain salt or other additives.
Another trick is to freeze fresh food on your own. Purchase food when prices are lower and fruits are in season, taking advantage of buying in bulk and using coupons. Bought too many bananas? Just peel and slice the extras into a freezer bag, then add them to smoothies all year long.
2. Purchase discount gift cards
One of the coolest ways to drop some Benjamins is to score discounted gift cards on sites like Gift Card Granny or Cardpool. The marketplace allows people who don’t want their gift card to sell it to others at a discount, which means that GameStop gift card someone gave their mom is going to be a lot cheaper for you. Expect to find discounts of as much as 35% off the normal gift card price, Cardpool notes. Hypothetically, that could be like paying $100 for a gift card worth about $150.
3. Market yourself with this polished touch
While resumes are a necessity to landing a sweet job, more optional moves can still pay off big. Consider enhancing your profile by creating a professional website featuring your work and accomplishments. You can create a basic WordPress website for about $100 or on Wix for as low as $5 a month.
What should you pack into your website? Definitely include the best examples of your work from your portfolio, The Muse says. Adding a strong, professional blog could enhance your site, along with any testimonials from former clients or colleagues. Make sure the testimonials don’t make it sound like you yourself are bragging, and avoid vague comments like, “Mary is great!”
4. Treat yourself now to prevent overspending later
While the notion of “blowing” your money on a manicure, massage or another indulgent experience may sound irresponsible, doesn’t being bad feel so good? Dropping $100 like it’s nobody’s business may prevent a large-scale shopping extravaganza from long-term deprivation if you do it once in an while.
Don’t think about the return on investment on this expense, just go with what will make you smile. “The latte — or whatever your equivalent of a small indulgence is — is like your financial Hershey’s Kiss,” Nicole Lapin, GoBankingRates’ best money expert for 2015, told Business Insider. “If you deprive yourself too much on the small stuff, you’ll end up splurging on something crazy later on when you could have just planned for a morning latte and stayed on track.”
5. Sharpen your mind and skills
If tennis or cooking lessons always seem too expensive, you might use that $100 to get ahead. Check your local community center for course offerings or inquire at a local cooking school or community college — plenty of classes might be more affordable than you realize.
You could also put that money toward updating or obtaining professional certification. Check with the professional organization for specific costs. If certification costs more than $100, start a special money bucket to help you save toward the total cost. Plus, several options exist to study in cutting-edge areas for free or cheap.
6. Create a “celebration” fund
Instead of saving for a rainy day, save for a sunny one. A celebration fund is a great way to have ready-to-use cash when it’s time to celebrate a promotion, new job, birthday, wedding, new baby — or even summer. Open or add to your high-interest savings or checking account to make your money grow, and consider adding to it whenever you find some “extra” cash each month.
If you are feeling especially ambitious, let that fund grow from new deposits and interest for a year — and then see if you have enough for a celebratory weekend getaway, a trip to a winery or an exciting helicopter ride.
7. Finally fix that broken cell phone screen
As long as you can still read your smashed smartphone or tablet screen you are “all good,” right? Wouldn’t it be much better without all the cracks? For $100 or less you could cover the repair cost to make your life a little easier.
Although the manufacturer is typically the best place to start (AppleCare+ customers can get their screens fixed for $29, for example), a number of services like iFixit or iCracked will do it as well. And while $100 may seem like a lot for a convenience, it’s still cheaper than buying a new phone.
8. Primp your place
Whether you need to stage your home or condo for a sale or just want to make your current living situation feel cozier, spending $100 to spruce up your digs goes further than you think. Some free moves you can make include moving furniture into a more pleasing design or decluttering your space. If you are really feeling dedicated you could sell some of your unwanted items for cash and make money.
Inexpensive decorative upgrades include buying a new lamp, a few throw pillows or some pretty potted plants. Spruce up the bathroom by adding a fun trash can, fluffy hand towels and a new bath mat. And make the kitchen sparkle with a colorful tea kettle, nice dish towels or colorful utensil crock.
9. Become a micro-investor or lender
Nervous about investing or not sure how it works? Think of $100 as your financial training wheels and dive in using an app like Stash, which lets you start with as little as $5 to build your portfolio and add as you go. Another app to check out is Acorns, easy for first-time investors.
You can also explore something like LendingClub, which allows you to make interest by lending money to peers in the network. Just open an account, choose your investment strategy (such as a pre-selected strategy or browse the funds) and then transfer $100 into the account.
10. Donate to someone in need
Giving money to an organization or movement can be fulfilling, as HuffPost suggests. In fact, at least one study cited by the publication found that people who spent more on others than on themselves reported being happier.
How can you maximize your $100 donation? Give to specific projects and give on a regular basis, but offer smaller amounts of money. Before you give, make sure the charity is a 501(c)(3) and check its rating on a site like Charity Navigator. Then keep your receipt and take the tax deduction.
Sign up for The Payoff — your weekly crash course on how to live your best financial life. Additionally, for all your burning money questions, check out Mic’s credit, savings, career, investing and health care hubs for more information — that pays off.