Readers share the surprising ways they would use a windfall.
Real Simple March 2008
Credit: Lucas Allen

Spread It Out

I would purchase $20 gift cards at five of my favorite stores and restaurants and paper-clip them to my desk calendar on months when I might enjoy a much needed treat. I'd look forward to five surprises throughout the year―just for me.
Pam Pettit
Georgetown, Texas

I would take my dad's advice: “Save a third, spend a third, and give a third away."
Kathy Nielsen Viehman
Buffalo Grove, Illinois

Reward Friends and Family

I'd spend it on a romantic dinner with my husband at a restaurant we haven't tried. Or I'd just buy new bathroom towels.
Kelli Healy Salazar
Atlanta, Georgia

My husband and I believe that the key to a successful relationship is to cut down on stress, so every month we treat each other to a massage. I would spend the $100 on an extra massage for each of us.
Marlow Sipes
Tulsa, Oklahoma

I would have a party and spend the money on food, wine, and a good CD or movie. My friends get together so rarely, and it would be nice to earmark the money for something memorable.
Karen Mulligan
Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

I would put it toward airfare to visit my best friend, who's in law school in Cleveland. We've been best friends since third grade but haven't seen each other in two years. It would be great to spend a weekend together.
Jakcee Bobel
Las Cruces, New Mexico

Invest in Learning and Culture

The last time I had extra cash, I enrolled in a creative-writing class at the local community college. For $92 I developed the beginnings of some great stories and got constructive feedback. It was a great way to spend that money.
Jennifer Urbanic
Columbus, Ohio

I'd buy a family membership to a local art museum. I'd enjoy sharing culture with my family and friends throughout the year.
Kathleen Godwin Brown
North Richland Hills, Texas

I would spend the money on books. Clothes don't last very long, a vacation is a nice (but short) getaway, and a fine bottle of wine is drunk all too soon. But good books last forever.
Brenda Ward
Bozeman, Montana

Spring for Fitness

I would use it to go horseback riding. I love horses and rode for two years after graduating from college, but I gave it up to save money when I started a family. I'd really like to ride again; I thrive on the physical and mental challenges.
Janet Hensel
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I go through a pair of running shoes every few months―I wear them down to nothing. The money would be well spent on a new pair.
Sarah Nicole Parker
Denver, Colorado

I would take golf lessons. Not only would it be fun and challenging to learn how to play correctly but I'd also enjoy spending time with family and friends who love the game.
B. Browne
Asheville, North Carolina

Go Shopping

As a single mother of a four-year-old daughter, I always spend any extra money on her ever growing feet and body. With an extra $100, I would buy some clothes for myself. I'd like to look as fresh and updated as my little girl.
Jaimi Dean
Ashburn, Virginia

I work in a kitchen with quite a few men, and we always dress down, so I don't often spend money on fancy clothes or accessories. I would use the money to buy a beautifully cut coat, a pair of silver earrings, or a bottle of perfume. I'd buy something that reminds me that I'm a girl.
Erin Terkelsen
Falmouth, Massachusetts

I would buy a painting or a sculpture from an art gallery in my area. I think it's important to support local talent.
Dianne Settineri
East Syracuse, New York

Spruce Up the Home

We are renovating a house, and every room is filled with sawdust, plaster dust, and paint fumes. I would hire a service to clean after each improvement. That way I could admire the results instead of worrying about the mess.
Ann M. Kaser
Canton, Georgia

I would buy flowers to keep in my home throughout the winter. Plants brighten any room, and that's so important during the short winter days.
Jill Snowden
San Francisco, California

I love to restore furniture and other treasures. I would buy a fixer-upper project at the local flea market and pick up paint and other supplies with any leftover money.
Katie Linder
Portland, Oregon

Indulge Yourself

I would pay for a baby-sitter and spend an afternoon reading and relaxing in Central Park, eating a lunch of my favorite foods―good cheeses, crackers, and chocolate.
Lindsey O'neill-Myers
New York, New York

I am a student and do not often have the opportunity to treat myself. To me nothing is more relaxing than a manicure and pedicure.
Lexa Ferrill
Tallahassee, Florida

I would take the $100 straight to a cosmetics counter and get a makeover. The last one I had was in 1996, and it's time to update my postcollege look.
Amanda Mace
St. Louis, Missouri

I would put it toward my coffee-addiction fund. I get my latte fix during my morning commute, and it puts quite a dent in my wallet. The $100 would help me stay awake―without the guilt―for at least a month.
Karrie Schaffler
Naperville, Florida

Share the Wealth

My church might send a medical mission team to Rio de Janeiro in June. As a registered nurse, I am eager to go and serve in an area that needs me. I'd put the money toward that trip.
Brandy Gregory
Nashville, Tennessee

I would donate the money to an animal shelter to help keep it running. I recently adopted a loving cat, and shelters across the country are filled with great pets just like her.
L. Schroeder
Plano, Texas

Pay Off Debts and Plan Ahead

I would spend it on an hour with a certified financial planner. My budget is a mess, and I could use professional advice on how to organize it. Planning for my future is well worth $100.
Jessica Shamoon
Julian, California

I would use it to help pay off my Visa bill. Staying on top of my credit-card debt is the best way to ensure I can buy anything I want―without the headache of owing a ton of money to a creditor.
Laura Parker
Austin, Texas

Stash Away for Small Emergencies

I put any extra cash into an old tea tin in my desk. I would use the $100 as a safety net for unpleasant surprises, like parking tickets or late fees.
River Morgan
Seattle, Washington

I would save it for the evenings when I just don't have the energy to cook for my family. It would be a relief to order pizza or Chinese food without having to dip into the weekly grocery budget.
Memory Layne Sampson
Winchester, Massachusetts