I’ve found that when you work hard and handle your money well, you tend to catch breaks.  It’s not universal, but you may be surprised at the money-making opportunities that come your way, the discounts you find, and the money you can save when you start doing things right.

Sometimes that may take the form of unexpected income, and it could come from any of the following sources:

  • A bonus at work
  • An unexpected gift
  • A refund check, tax or otherwise
  • An inheritance
  • An expense being cheaper than you planned

It’s not part of your normal budget, so what do you do with it?

Whatever you do, don’t do nothing!  Doing nothing is a sure-fire way to fritter away the extra money you received.  You’ll look up and it will be gone!  You’ll be furious with yourself, wondering where it went.  I’ve been there.  That’s just the nature of money – it flows away from people who don’t manage it.

Here’s a few ways you should handle unexpected income when it comes your way:

1) Talk about it with your spouse, if you’re married.
That might be obvious, but if extra income comes your way, it’s always the best policy to talk about it before coming home with a new MacBook Pro or gifting yourself a wardrobe makeover.

2) Give.
Did you ever consider that maybe God flowed that money through your hands at a specific time so that YOU could be a blessing to someone in need right now?  We’ll never know the way God works, just as we will never know all the needs.  Your unexpected blessing could be someone else’s unexpected blessing, just waiting to be given.

The King James Version of the Bible describes the tithe as a “tenth of  your increase,” which I think is a helpful term here.  Did I/we receive increase from this unexpected money?  Yes, we did.  We should tithe on it, then, at least.  Giving on everything you receive helps increase that giving muscle; it breeds generosity in all aspects of your life.  Start at ten percent of what you received, and then think or pray about how else you can be a blessing.

3) Apply it to the Baby Steps.
Depending on where you are in your financial journey, the lion’s share of the money should probably go to this step.  If you’re getting out of debt, apply all that you can to the debts.  If you need to build an emergency fund, throw most of the money at that.  This is, of course, relative to the size of the gift and your financial position.  If it’s $20, it’s probably ok if you don’t put all $18 on debts; just buy something you need.  But something like a bonus or inheritance (hundreds or thousands of dollars) should really help you make forward financial progress.

4) Have some fun.
You didn’t think that I’d forget this did you?  You gotta have fun with some of the money!  Again, this is relative to your financial situation – if you’re deeply in debt, I would recommend paying off debts before going to a cruise.  But go to dinner, give yourselves some extra blow money, and have a little fun with it.  Once you are debt free and have an emergency fund, go ahead and use some more of the money to have fun!

Here’s to unexpected income!  It’s a blessing, but it can be a huge frustration to look up and have nothing to show for it.  We’ve all been there.  Next time you get an unexpected blessing, be ready to make it count!

What are you going to use your next unexpected income for?