Trick I use when I make unexpected money

Ramit Sethi

Here’s a trick whenever I make some unexpected money.

I’ve had a lot going on lately, so I’ve been having to transfer money to a bunch of different accounts. Sometimes I’ll “borrow” from one of my accounts and promise to pay it back to myself, etc.

Anyway, I made some unplanned money in the last couple of weeks, which was basically exactly the amount I needed to pay back one of my self-loans.

But here’s the thing: Instead of paying it all back, whenever I make money that I didn’t expect (win a bet with a friend, tax refund, bonus, etc), I always use part of it for fun. Always!! This way, I keep motivating myself to do weird, offbeat ideas that may result in some kind of reward.

Quiz: What is your earning potential? Choose the answer you agree with the most
View Results

Anyone who reads this site knows that I’m not the kind of person who squirrels away all of my money for “some day” in the future. I think we probably all know someone like that–someone you could charitably describe as The Cheapest Goddamn Person in the World. Don’t be That Guy!! Pay yourself back for creating your good luck.

I think in this case I took about 15% and I’m going on a trip with it. So imagine the ways you could reward yourself next time you run across some unexpected money.

Do you know your actual earning potential?

Get started with the Earning Potential quiz. Get a custom report based on your unique strengths, and discover how to start making extra money — in as little as an hour.

Start The Quiz

Takes 3 min


  1. Cady

    I do something similar – or try to. In Debtors Anonymous, (12-step program for dealing with any kind of issues with time or money), the informal rule of thumb is that with windfalls you spend 1/3 paying back debts, 1/3 goes to savings, and 1/3 is for fun. The idea as I understand it is that many of us tend to go to extremes with our money – we live in deprivation ourselves while paying it all to bills or debts, or we ignore debts and binge-spend on fun as a reaction to deprivation. Having a rule of thumb that says “no, some of it is for debt and most of it is for you” helps people practice balance.

    I suppose if I didn’t have any debts left to pay back, I could just use 2/3 of it for fun 🙂 As it stands now, I usually end up paying my living expenses with any windfalls, but that is changing.

  2. Matt

    Ramit has it right on the money with unexpected windfalls. I have seen folks do all sorts of stupid things with “free money” as I described here –>

  3. ph2072

    I have a bad habit of not treating myself due to guilty feelings. I’m learning, slowly but surely, to change that thought pattern and treat myself from time to time.

  4. Verdant Green

    I am surprised that no one has mentioned so far of giving a small percentage of an unexpected windfall to charity. If the money is truly unexpected, then you won’t miss it, but the impact this charity will have will last longer than a vacation or a special night out. This applies to businesses as well–if you own and operate a small business and you make a sudden windfall, your business can donate a portion of it to a charitable cause.

    Don’t be surprised if more money comes your way as a result. This seems to be the case with our business.