National Numismatic Collection—National Museum of American History
By Kara Brandeisky, Sarah Max, and Ian Salisbury
September 24, 2015

Finding that you have an extra $1,000 on hand gives you a chance to make a fresh start and do something new. That could be a timely investment, a better fitness routine, or a home upgrade. In fact, we found 20 smart things to do when you have $1,000 burning a hole in your pocket (and 15 totally realistic ways to come up with that cash.)

When you’re fortunate enough to be looking at a $10,000 windfall, the stakes feel higher—and the results can be more dramatic. With a five-figure sum to deploy, you can change a life or seriously improve your financial prospects. Here are ten ideas for making that happen:

 

 


Tee Up Your Second Act

Commencement at Western Governors University
UPI/Bill Greenblatt—Newscom

Study to be a teacher. The licensure programs from Western Governors University combine online training with student teaching in an elementary, middle, or high school. Cost: $12,140 for two years, $9,105 if you finish in 18 months. “It’s a great solution for somebody who doesn’t want to spend a lot of “seat time” getting ready,” says Kate Walsh of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a think tank that ranks training programs. Licensing rules vary by state.


Plug Holes in Your Portfolio

Foreign stocks may be underrepresented in your portfolio.
Daniel Roland—Getty Images

With a sizable six-figure portfolio, you may need to shift 10 grand to rebalance right. Scott Donaldson of Vanguard’s investment strategy group suggests targeting these areas:

TIPs: Young investors can use stocks to stay ahead of inflation. Near or in retirement, making inflation-adjusted TIPS bonds 5% to 10% of your total portfolio is a safer move.

Foreign Stocks: Overseas stocks are hurting even more than U.S. shares, so they may be taking up less of your portfolio now. Aim to get back to 20% to 30% of your equity stake in a foreign stock fund.


Fall in Love With Your House Again

Add more natural light with tubular skylights.
courtesy Solatube

For $10,000 total, these three modest projects can drastically change how you feel about your home.

Put on a New Face: You can give kitchen cabinets new life with paint and more modern knobs. Or, says Jason Kyser, resident expert at home services website Pro.com, “you can order new doors and drawer covers from a cabinetmaker or doormaker.” Refacing the average-size kitchen with wood veneer: $6,000.

Let There Be More Light: Dark spaces are a common homeowner complaint, says Florida architect Bud Dietrich. Tubular skylights are ideal for small spaces such as bathrooms and hallways and are far more economical than full skylights. Four tubes, installed: $2,000, solatube.com.

Tidy Up: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is a bestseller for good reason: People hate clutter. Spend $1,000 on built-in organization systems in key spots: master closet, laundry room, and pantry. Then spend $1,000 on a professional organizer ($50 to $150 an hour) to help you purge junk and tidy up what you’re keeping.


Take a Vacation That Changes Your Life

Taktsang Dzong monastery or Tigers Nest built in the 8th century Paro Bhutan
Peter Adams Photography—Alamy

Psychologists have found that paying for an experience, such as travel, is more rewarding than spending on things. One reason: The experiences shape your life’s story. With $10,000 you can take a trip that shifts your worldview….

Walk Off the Beaten Path: The tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan is hard to get to, so it’s not crowded with tourists. A walking tour to see its ancient monasteries and unique way of life: $7,845 for single occupancy including airfare to and from Thailand from ClassicJourneys.com. Add $1,000 to $2,000 to get to Bangkok.

…. or gives you new skills (see next).

 


Master the Art of Cooking

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) chef Sandy Dominguez, at right, prepares her students in her culinary ''boot camp'' on how to how to filet a perfect side of salmon.
Zuma Press—Alamy

For another life-changing vacation, learn a new skill. The prestigious Culinary Institute of America offers five-day “boot camps” in California, upstate New York, and Texas. Go as a couple for $2,200 each, plus hotels and airfare.


Help a Child Get a Foot in the Door

Getty Images

Millennials have been slow to embrace homeownership. As long as your own planning is on track, pitch in. To lure first-time buyers, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac now allow as little as 3% down, with gifts from family okay. Unlike with similar FHA loans, mortgage insurance stops when their equity hits 20%.


Kick Your Kid Out of the Basement

Kathleen Finlay—Getty Images

If your child hasn’t even left your house, use $10,000 to lure him out (in exchange for his setting up and sticking to a budget). A fresh-start stake based on average rents, debt, and car prices: $2,800 for a month’s rent and security deposit, $4,000 on a (very) used car, and $3,400 to wipe out credit card debt.


Get Behind a New Old Wheel

2009 Mazda Mazda3 hatchback
courtesy Mazda

If you’re looking to spend $10,000, you can pick up a quality used car that has a dash of style. A 2009 Mazda Mazda3 hatchback is versatile like a station wagon but still fun to drive, says Jack R. Nerad of Kelley Blue Book, an automotive research firm. With its good fuel economy (24 mpg), the savings will keep rolling in. For a roomy sedan (front and back seats), check out a 2009 Toyota Avalon, which has an EPA rating of 23 mpg—decent for a used model of this size.


Seed a Grandchild's Bright Future

Getty Images

Setting aside $10,000 for a newborn will cover just a year of public college tuition—but that’s a welcome foundation for parents to build on. Annual in-state tuition at a public college runs $9,850 today. Based on historical 5% annual tuition growth, you’d be looking at a $23,700 price in 18 years, according to SavingforCollege.com. Assuming 6% annualized investment returns, your $10,000 investment would grow to $28,500 by 2033. Use a 529 savings plan, such as the low-cost Utah Educational Savings Plan.

 


Make Your Home a Forever Home

Getty Images

Getting ready to start retirement? Spending $10,000 to prepare your home now can save you hassles down the road, says Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, head of the AARP’s Livable Communities initiative. One top priority: Providing easier access by getting rid of iron rails and adding a concrete walkway that rises gradually, eliminating the stoop in front of your front door. You should be able to accomplish both for about $4,000. For another $6,000 to $7,000, tackle widening your driveway and entranceway. Improved access to your home won’t just help you. It will also be a boon when the grandkids arrive: “It makes life easier for everybody, whether you’re a senior or coping with a stroller,” says Wallace-Brodeur.

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