$1,000! Now what?
April 23, 2010 11:26 PM   Subscribe

If you were a college student and had an extra $1,000, what would you do with it?

I can't save this money, for various reasons, so how can I spend it wisely?

I, through a stroke of wonderful fortune, now have an extra 1,000 dollars to spend. I don't need the money for room or board this summer, and I can't travel with it since I'm pretty tied down. Given that all my basic needs are taken care of, I'm kind of at a loss.

I'm planning on purchasing a decent GPS for my car ($250ish), but I have run out of ideas for other practical things that would make my life better this summer. Thoughts?
posted by pecknpah to Shopping (43 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
New guitar.

(But save it. You say you can't, but that doesn't make any sense.)
posted by The World Famous at 11:31 PM on April 23, 2010

$1,000 worth of high quality clothes that will be appropriate for going on interviews in.
posted by paperzach at 11:33 PM on April 23, 2010 [11 favorites]

I really can't save it. For one, the financial aid I get requires that I remain under a certain level in my bank account, and I'm pushing that as it is. Second, I'll have to return part of the money I don't use, and since this is kind of a miracle to get a windfall like this I was hoping to find useful things that I couldn't otherwise afford.

Please assume for the sake of the question that saving it is not the best option here.
posted by pecknpah at 11:36 PM on April 23, 2010

Give it to someone who needs it more than you.
posted by thorny at 11:39 PM on April 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't know what should the criteria for these expenses i.e. if you have to produce the bills.
May be you could consider buying gold, say a ring or so? or a good quality bike (that you could really use it)

Plus, seconding pappazach's idea of clothes.
posted by zaxour at 11:41 PM on April 23, 2010

Throw an incredible party. Rent out a nice loft to throw a classy, incredible party. Use your backyard and rent out slip-n-slides, an inflatable jumpy castle and a good DJ as part of a labyrinthian, possibly bacchanalian incredible party. If you can't save it and can't think of any gadget to throw it away on, do something unforgettably fun with it.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 11:46 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I completely agree with paperzach. In my mind, when you're desperate for a job, you do NOT need the additional stressor that comes with selecting and paying for a new, appropriate, flattering outfit. (Some people do seem to de-stress by shopping, but that's not me-- and judging by your question, it's not you either.) If you have these need-to-have clothes on hand, you'll reduce your future stress enormously. Plus, as long as you don't significantly change size/shape, and you choose classic clothes, good interview clothes are a long-term investment.

Although, a GPS is also a good idea.

Can you buy gift cards? $1,000 in $50 denominations to your local grocery store might give you more flexibility in your budget over the next year.

And... yes. Give it to someone who needs it more than you. If you don't know what to do with it, consider the possibility that you simply don't need it.
posted by samthemander at 11:48 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

These Silicon Masks look all sorts of awesome and are something I'd consider if I had an extra 1K around.

Or an iPad... Definitely an iPad.
posted by Redmond Cooper at 11:48 PM on April 23, 2010

Ok, I'm a college student, and a nerd, and about to give the most unhip answer ever. But if *I* had an extra thousand I'd buy a kickass laser printer, student subscriptions to as many journals in my field as I could afford, and a plane ticket to a conference.

This from a girl who just happily spent her Friday night alone, at home, reading textbooks. Make of that what you will.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:54 PM on April 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

I received an award for ethical leadership. While I don't have to produce receipts or necessarily justify my purchases to anybody, I would like to be able to look the people who gave me the money in the face and know I didn't waste the gift they gave me.

In that vein, paperzach's suggestion is exactly the type of suggestion I am looking for. Sorry for not being more clear in my original question!
posted by pecknpah at 11:55 PM on April 23, 2010

+1 to what thorny said. Found money, and that sounds like what this basically is, must be shared. It's just the right thing to do, and btw it makes you feel good too.

Even if you can't save it, keep some, say one or two hundred, for something special that comes up. (a friend has a beach house for the weekend. a girl you just met really wants to see a concert.) Use some for spontaneity.

One really, really good meal.

Some for music

Buy some art, not just a poster, that pleases you, that no one else has. Something that can be yours for years.

All that with three or four hundred given away, and the gps should solve your problem
posted by Some1 at 11:59 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

The best, nicest suit I have came from the thrift store and only cost $25. I looked up the brand (Ann Taylor) online and similar suits cost $300+ new. So you can get a LOT of nice work clothes for $1000 if you make a habit of regularly checking the thrift and consignment stores.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:05 AM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Congrats on the award! Choose clothes that fit you well and make you feel confident!
posted by samthemander at 12:06 AM on April 24, 2010

"student subscriptions to as many journals in my field as I could afford"

But your university library probably has them all for free.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:07 AM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Gift certificates (Amazon?) for later. Quality shoes, knives, suitcases, headphones, bed sheets, sunglasses. Outdoor gear (bike, kayak, skis, tent). New technology (Photoshop, camera, laptop, netbook, video camera). Day trip somewhere. Air fare to somewhere over a break. Does your car need a tuneup?
posted by oceano at 12:07 AM on April 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

How old is your computer? Would a fast(er) laptop make school easier?
posted by Iggley at 12:18 AM on April 24, 2010

If you are anything like I was at your age (and still kind of am) maintenance for your car. I'm going to guess you are behind on something. Take it into the shop and prolong the life of your car.
posted by whoaali at 12:25 AM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know you can't save it, but can you throw it into a Roth IRA or blow it all on stocks?
posted by spiderskull at 12:27 AM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, it was earned money, well now you tell us. Give some to a good charity fund or use it to start a project at a local charity or shelter (community garden? new tutoring textbooks? fundraiser event?) and buy nice clothes with the rest. The first very ethical, second very leader-y.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 12:29 AM on April 24, 2010

External hard drive to back up your computer if you don't already have one. Awesome camera.
posted by whoaali at 12:31 AM on April 24, 2010

Have you seen a doctor? If not go to one.

Dental work. Go to the dentist. Negotiate too.

Also, if there is a student group or some other group of people who deserve a reward for being awesome, consider taking them out for dinner at a casual place.

Plants are always nice.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:32 AM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding healthcare.

Some other ideas:

subscription to a theater, museum, or any other sort of arts program
gym membership
books that for whatever reason are way too expensive ordinarily
public transportation pass
printer ink/toner
good shoes
good suitcase
solar panels
good blankets, winter coat, gloves, boots, etc.
School supplies for next year

posted by trig at 1:03 AM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do you need a new laptop? If not then maybe treat yourself to an iPad (if you want one), a GPS, and an interview suit (if your weight doesn't fluctuate too much to be buying clothes quite far in advance of when you'll need them). Definitely check consignment shops and thrift stores and places like TJ Maxx as there's no need to pay full price for it. Then get Amazon gift certificates with the rest. You can add the gift certificates to your Amazon account and there you go - you've prepaid all your textbooks for the next few years.
posted by hazyjane at 1:08 AM on April 24, 2010

seconding the subscription to a theater, museum, or other arts program

also seconding the suits- but you don't need close to all the money for this. when going to an interview, employers don't need you to be wearing an expensive suit, just an appropriate one, and a well ironed shirt and appropriate other stuff (shoes, socks, tie...).

do you have a nice watch?

If anyone was key in helping you get the award- maybe you got it by working on a project that involved a professor- maybe you can take him/her to a nice lunch and say thanks. they'll appreciate it a lot and be further impressed...

if you don't have some kind of gym membership you could get one. You'll appreciate it when really stressed out
posted by saraindc at 1:17 AM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

An external hard drive can save you in school. A decent reliable one will cost less than $150 (maybe half of that), and is the absolute best investment you can make for school. If you're backing up things religiously, you're not going to have the 1am panic when your entire paper suddenly disappears. Because you have a backup copy. It's the one thing I wish I had done before I needed it. Because once you need a back up, it's too late.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:39 AM on April 24, 2010

If you like to cook, even a little bit, spend the money now on a good set of knives. Buy Shun, Mac, Wusthof, Henckels or any other good manufacturer and they can last you for decades if taken care of. The difference between Wal-Mart knives and these has to be felt to be understood.

If you're a musician, buy yourself a really great microphone and a sound interface. So often with home recordings the microphone is the limiting factor to sounding good, so don't skimp out. $400-500 will put you into professional studio territory (lower end of this spectrum, but still). Take the rest and buy yourself a Firewire or USB mixer you can record with. Playing music is great, but being able to record and play with music that way adds an entirely new dimension to it without needing to learn anything really new.

You could spend it all on little things that you may need but haven't bothered getting. Rechargeable batteries are something that comes to mind as usually being pretty expensive. When was the last time you bought new socks and underwear? If you're a guy, how do you shave? Maybe buy an electric razor, or some new cartridges or a fancy new single-blade razor or something. A nice pair of sunglasses for the summer? These things wouldn't be a huge purchase, so it might not be as much exciting for you to do this.

A good pair of dress shoes doesn't come cheap, but stays in style longer than most clothes. You could spend $300 on a really well made pair.

If you're on a laptop, having a nice big monitor to plug into for home use is a wonderful thing. Couple that with a wireless mouse and keyboard with a docking station of some type and your home office will receive a huge boost.

If I could go against some of the answers here, I'd stay away from things like iPads because as a brand new item on the market, you'd be paying a lot extra just to be one of the early adopters. Wait for the price to drop and/or the technology to improve.

With anything left over, take your family/significant other/grandparents/someone on a nice dinner. Share some of this wealth and you'll feel great about it.
posted by battlebison at 2:00 AM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do you have student loans? You can pay back your loans early.
posted by bluejayk at 2:17 AM on April 24, 2010

I have a friend who won a thousand bucks in the lottery, and she spent it by giving presents to all her friends. And if you're looking at $50/$100 level, you can give a whole bunch of people a really great moment. Mine was such a nice surprise and it still makes me smile. You can throw in a gift to yourself too - an external hard drive and maybe a $100 grocery gift card, great ideas - and then just think of how many people whose day you could brighten.
posted by lemniskate at 4:36 AM on April 24, 2010

A bag of nice weed and a nice pipe... Smoke out your colleagues that helped you be an ethical leader!

Snazzy shoes

a completely frivolous gadget (iPad plus keyboard dock)
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:51 AM on April 24, 2010

Loan it all out on a microloan website like kiva. If you ever wanted it back to spend on something else you'd also be set.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:46 AM on April 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

Buy 100 McDonalds gift cards and donate them
to a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen or hand them out to the homeless and the hungry directly.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:27 AM on April 24, 2010

I second the idea of a Roth IRA - Financial aid usually can't hold retirement funds against you, is my understanding. The interview clothes thing is great but if you buy things now with no eye to go interviewing for over a year or so, I'd be concerned about how well the clothes would fit.

If you're an undergrad with an eye toward grad school, maybe use it for a GRE prep course.
posted by lizzicide at 7:02 AM on April 24, 2010

also seconding the suits- but you don't need close to all the money for this. when going to an interview, employers don't need you to be wearing an expensive suit, just an appropriate one, and a well ironed shirt and appropriate other stuff (shoes, socks, tie...).

I'd nth the suggestions above about thrifting/secondary market for clothes (I have a lot of $1,000 outfits that way, although when just starting out you can't plan well with that strategy), but get yourself some fabulous new shoes to interview with. And then wear them only for that until you get a job.

Conferences are also a great idea, as are parties and good works for others.
posted by jgirl at 7:07 AM on April 24, 2010

You received an award in ethical leadership which you want to hide from the financial aid office?
posted by JackFlash at 8:05 AM on April 24, 2010

Thanks for the great suggestions, everybody!

Jackflash, they know about the award. I'm just hesitant to leave the money sitting there so they can take a chunk of it, that's all. I'll look into IRAs and stocks though.
posted by pecknpah at 8:11 AM on April 24, 2010

You received an award in ethical leadership which you want to hide from the financial aid office?

I don't know where you get the idea it's being hidden. (S)he just can't keep it without risking going over the limit of money allowed to be in his/her bank account at once. Many of my friends have faced similar problems, blame financial aid offices for having strange rules.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:15 AM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Buy a year CD or put it in a no load IRA or something. I'm a little surprised. I had money in my bank account during college but it didn't affect the scholarship money I was given.
posted by anniecat at 9:00 AM on April 24, 2010

Sorry, i forrgot you can't get a 401K except through an employer.
posted by anniecat at 9:03 AM on April 24, 2010

Does "ethical leadership" mean leading people in an ethical fashion or being an ethical exemplar for others to follow? If the former, ethical leaders acknowledge the support of the team and celebrate the success of their projects together. I second saraindc's comment about lunch with your colleagues/professor.

Whatever's left over can go to an interview suit.
posted by gentilknight at 9:37 AM on April 24, 2010

If you don't already have one, a bicycle (and a helmet).
posted by easilyamused at 10:13 AM on April 24, 2010

Eat better for a month or two.

Most college students eat crap.
posted by rr at 10:44 AM on April 24, 2010

If you do just half the things you have checked as best answer, you are going to need ten times that much money. Just saying (now your back to the more common quandary, huh?)
posted by Some1 at 12:07 PM on April 24, 2010

Thanks for your help, everybody.

And, yes, Some1, I know that. I'm probably only going to have enough money to take people to nice dinner, get my GPS, and get some clothes. But if I ever get another windfall, at least now I'll have some ideas of what to do with it! :)
posted by pecknpah at 12:35 PM on April 24, 2010

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