An extra $1,000 can go a long way — if you’re smart about handling it.
The next time you get a generous birthday check or unexpected corporate cash bonus, assuming you’re already debt-free, check yourself before splurging on a new iPhone or vacation. It’s OK to treat yourself a bit, but blowing everything at once isn’t usually the best move.
Here are the three smartest things to do with your small windfall, according to New York Times-bestselling author and co-founder of AE Wealth Management David Bach.
1. Build up your rainy day fund
If you don’t have at least six months worth of living expenses set aside, build up your emergency fund, says Bach.
Life doesn’t always go as planned — you could lose your job, have a medical emergency or deal with a car breaking down — and it’s important to give yourself a safety net.
As for where to stash the fund, there are a few good ways to boost the returns of your savings while knowing you can access your money pretty quickly if you need it. Try a high-yield online savings account. Or, Bach suggests, “Put it in a money market account that pays reasonable interest. A money market account is one of the simplest and most secure alternatives around for anyone who wants to put aside some cash and earn a reasonable return on it. ”
2. Up your 401(k)
The more you can set aside in your employer sponsored retirement account, if you have access to one, the better. Increase your 401(k)contributions “by at least 2 percent,” says Bach.
A 401(k) is an effective savings vehicle for a few reasons: It offers large tax advantages, the money is automatically taken from your paycheck before you have the chance to spend it and often, companies offer a match, which is essentially free money.
3. Open a “dream account”
Think about something exciting or meaningful you want to do between now and retirement, like traveling outside of the country, going to the Super Bowl or enrolling in grad school.
Then use your extra savings to “open up an investment account specifically for that dream,” says Bach, and commit to adding to it on a consistent basis. Having a goal will make saving easier and more rewarding.
This article original Appeared on CNBC: