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If you have $100, you can use it wisely, or you can blow it. Before you head to the mall, consider these 15 smart things to do with $100.
A Little or a Lot
When you were a kid, $100 seemed like an enormous amount of money. If you had $100, you were rich! Now that you’re an adult, $100 doesn’t look like all that much.
But $100 is nothing to sneeze at no matter how old you are or how much money you have. And you can get the most out of the $100 when you use it well.
1. Save It
A penny saved is a penny earned, and the same is true of $100. But how you save it can make that $100 worth even more.
Putting that $100 in your piggy bank or your checking or savings account means it’s earning no, or almost no interest.
Currently, the average rate of inflation is about 3.0%. What that means is your $100 is losing value when it’s in your piggy bank or a low yield account.
If a bottle of water costs $1 today, in one year it will cost $1.03. But a $1 in your piggy bank is worth $1 today and $1 in a year. The $1 in your checking account is worth $1 today and $1.01 in one year.
So you won’t have enough to buy that bottle of water. That’s how inflation works. It erodes the buying power of your money.
What can you do with your $100 to make more money, enough to beat inflation? You can invest it.
The stock market goes up and down, but over time, the average return is about 10%. If you take your $100 and invest it with a company like Acorns or Betterment, it will make you enough money to beat inflation and then some.
If you want to grow your money, investing is the best way to do it Do keep in mind that only long-term money should be invested.
If you are going to need that money in the next five years or less, perhaps you’re saving for a home or to pay for your child’s education, keep it in a checking or savings account.
Money invested for five years or less may not have time to weather the ups and downs of the market.
Another smart thing to do with $100 is to use it to start or increase your emergency fund. Your emergency fund should be kept in a checking or savings account since you never know when you’ll need to tap into it so it’s not growing your $100 like investing will but it can save you lots of money in the future.
If you don’t have an emergency fund and you have an unexpected, urgent expense like a car repair, you could end up putting that expense on a credit card or taking out a high-interest payday loan to cover it.
If you can’t pay off the credit card or pay back the loan right away, that repair could end up costing you hundreds of dollars more in interest.
Having an emergency fund is probably the most important financial move you can make. It really can be the thing standing between you and disaster.
2. Pay Off Debt
High-interest debt like credit card debt is such a drag on your financial goals.
The longer it takes to pay it off, the more money you’re wasting on interest. If you have credit card debt, use this $100 to pay it down. And come up with a plan to get it all paid off as quickly as you can.
When you pre-pay for certain things, you can get a discount. If I pay my renter’s insurance up front for the year, I get a 10% discount.
Some auto insurance companies offer a similar discount. Using your $100 to pay for something in full, up front can save you money for the year.
4. Buy in Bulk
Buying ten pounds of chicken is cheaper than buying one pound of chicken. This is true of many items, the more you buy, the less expensive it is.
Think of things you use a lot of, chicken, cans of tuna, paper towels, and toilet paper. Buy these kinds of things in bigger, money-saving quantities with your $100.
Not only does this save you money, but it’s so nice not to have to run out and buy these things week after week.
When my parents visit me, they buy me enormous quantities of paper towels and toilet paper, like enough to soak up the next Katrina, because I don’t drive, so it’s hard for me to buy such large quantities since I have to carry them home.
I love never having to worry about running out of these two things.
5. Buy to Sell
It’s so easy to sell things these days as a way to make some extra money.
You can have a yard sale, you can sell on community sites like Craig’s List and Next Door, or you can set up an online shop in sites like Poshmark or eBay. Depending on which method is most appealing to you, do some research to find out what sells best.
Children’s clothes and toys sell well at yard sales.
Furniture and appliances sell well on Craig’s List and Next Door. Poshmark is for higher-end women’s clothing and eBay is great for expensive sneakers, classic video games, and collectible toys.
Check out thrift stores, yard sales, liquidation sales, and estate sales for items you can buy with your $100 and “flip” for a quick profit. You might be so successful at this that you make it your side hustle.
I have two friends who make a full-time living selling clothes on Poshmark and eBay.
6. Shop Early
Christmas comes the same day every year; it’s always December 25th. And it seems like each year the hype surrounding it starts earlier and earlier each year.
If you think it’s disconcerting to see fully decorated Christmas trees for sale in stores before Halloween, you should come down to New Orleans.
Our stores start with the Christmas displays in October too, but we’re still in shorts and t-shirts nursing sunburns! I still haven’t gotten used to it.
So given the consistency of the date and plenty of advanced warning, why are so many of us blindsided by Christmas? We do everything at the last minute, including buying gifts. And when you procrastinate, things are often more expensive. But not this year.
If you have an extra $100, start your shopping now. Make a list of people you need to buy gifts for, some possible gift ideas, and then start looking for sales.
7. Buy Gift Cards
When you buy gift cards from a site like Cardpool or Raise, you get a discount. Cardpool is currently offering a $50 gift card at 16.9% off so you’ll pay just $41.55. Raise is offering a $50 Petco gift card at 6.9% off so you’ll pay $46.57.
Using your $100 to buy gift cards, either for yourself to stores you frequent or to give or use to buy gifts for people will make that $100 more valuable.
8. Learn Something New
Learning something new can save you money and make you more money. Udemy offers online courses that can teach you to do both.
Some of the courses that can help you save money include Personal Finance Masterclass and Learn How To Budget. If you want to make money, take a look at Salary Negotiation, Investing in Stocks, or The Passive Investing Blueprint.
Udemy courses are typically inexpensive. If you see a pricey one that you’re interested in, wait for a sale. Udemy runs sales all the time. In fact, with your $100, you might be able to buy several courses.
Is there something in your home or on your car that needs some maintenance? Sometimes we notice a little thing, but it’s so little we let it go. My air conditioner needs to have its filter changed once a month.
I don’t do it that often but recently everyone in the building got an email from the management company telling us that if we didn’t regularly change the filters and it caused damage to the air conditioner, we would be responsible for the cost of repairs or replacement if it couldn’t be fixed.
I know change my filters religiously.
Don’t let little things that could have been addressed with a few minutes and a few dollars go until they become a much bigger, more time consuming, more expensive problem to fix. Take your $100 and spend it on that kind of maintenance.
10. Make Your Home Nicer
This one is a little self-indulgent, but there is nothing wrong with doing something nice for yourself once in a while. Especially if that something nice makes your home a little nicer.
A good night’s sleep can improve a lot of areas of your life; it can make you healthier, happier, and more productive. Investing your $100 in a nice set of sheets or a new comforter for your bed can make getting good sleep easier.
Is your shower curtain mildewed and your towels and wash clothes thin and threadbare? You can replace those things with nice new things for $100 or less.
Cooking at home is a great way to save money and while no one needs a kitchen full of single-use gadgets, (like a garlic press or that thing that plucks the seed out of an avocado) having the right tool for the job can make cooking easier and more pleasurable. And when something is easier and more pleasurable, we do it more often.
A good chef’s knife, a quality cast iron skillet, or a mandolin if your knife skills aren’t great are all smart ways to spend $100.
11. Buy Some Games
On the face of it, buying games, video games or board games, might not seem especially frugal but consider how much use you’ll get out of them.
These activities can save you a lot of money if you indulge in them in place of more expensive things like going to the movies, out to dinner, or going shopping.
12. Buy a Membership
I recently bought a membership to the New Orleans Museum of Art. I love going to museums, and this one is my favorite in the city.
Since buying it for $80, I have been to the museum three times, one time bringing a friend and once bringing my parents. A single entry is $12 per person. My membership is dual which means I can bring an additional person in with me for no charge.
Not only does my membership allow me to visit NOMA for free, for the month of August, several other museums in New Orleans are offering reciprocity.
If you have a membership to any museum of the those participating, you can enter any other for free.
With this added benefit, my membership, which I’ve only had for about two months has paid for itself because I also took my parents to the World War II museum for free. Normally it would have cost $28 per person.
If you have a museum, zoo, botanical garden, or amusement park that you like to frequent, spending your $100 on a membership might be the best money you spend all year.
Memberships also often come with other benefits like the program I described above, free tickets to special events, early access to new exhibitions, and discounts in the attached cafe and gift shop.
To really get the most bang for your $100, find out if any of these institutions have membership drives. During this period memberships are sometimes discounted. Memberships like these also make great gifts.
13. Buy a Bike
You can’t get a Tour de France quality bike for $100, but you can get a perfectly serviceable, “starter” bike for that much. You don’t necessarily have to buy a new bike either. Look at yard sales and local sales pages on Facebook or Next Door.
Buying a bike is a smart way to spend $100 for a few reasons. You can use it to commute to work if you live in an area with safe bike infrastructure and don’t live an unreasonable distance from your office.
Biking to work saves money on gas and car maintenance. If you can’t commute to work, you might still be able to use your bike to do some errands like going to the pharmacy or the bank.
Your bike can save you money when you use it as a form of exercise; it’s cheaper than a gym membership.
And a bike can save you money when you ride it for a hobby rather than more expensive hobbies like golf or photography. Biking might save you money on health care costs too, especially over the long term.
Regular exercise helps to decrease the risk of all kinds of expensive diseases and conditions like Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and even some cancers.
14. Replace Your Bulbs
By now, most of us know that over time, LED light bulbs will save us money. They last twenty times longer than the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs and use a fraction of the energy. But the LED bulbs are a lot more expensive than incandescent bulbs, and when you’re frugal, it can be hard to pay $10 for something you can get for $1.
But if you use your $100 to replace your old bulbs with LEDs, you’ll save money over the long term. And you won’t have the hassle of replacing bulbs so often.
15. Give it Away
Do you want that $100 to buy you as much happiness as possible? Then don’t do any of the above things on this list with it. Use that $100 to do something for someone else. It’s been shown that being generous makes us happy.
There are a lot of ways you can give money away that will make you happy. You can treat someone close to you to something, a nice dinner, a gift, or a treat like a massage or facial.
You can donate the money to charity. If you choose this option, check out Charity Watch first. It’s a watchdog organization that rates charities based on how much of the money donated to them is actually used for the purpose people donate for.
If you donate to an animal charity, you want to make sure the bulk of your donation is going to help animals and not to pay charity executives obscenely bloated salaries.
Even a small gesture like bringing in breakfast for your office or paying for the coffee for the person in line behind you at the coffee shop makes us happy.
We should spend all of our money this way, with an eye toward making it go further, improving our life, or really enjoying it.
Whether you find $10 in an old coat pocket, get $100 in a birthday card, or win the $100 million Power Ball (you won’t so don’t make plans based on that!), you should spend your money well.
There are a lot of dumb ways to spend $100, so we hope these 15 smart things to do with $100 will give you some ideas to get the most of your money.