Sometimes it can feel like you need thousands of dollars to move the needle even a little bit on your finances.
So if you find yourself with a few hundred dollars--say from a tax refund or an unexpected windfall--the temptation to spend it can be great. After all, how much difference can $500 make? But used wisely, even a few hundred dollars can put you on the road to a more financially secure future.
Here are some ways to make even a small amount of money count.
Start an emergency fund. Ideally you want six months of living expenses stashed to cover unforeseen expenses, but $500 is a good start. And once you have a good start, it can spur you to keep contributing.
Take advantage of compound growth. Before spending that money, consider putting it into your IRA (individual retirement account. Not only will compounding potentially double or triple it over time, but increasing your pretax contributions can cut your tax bill.
Save for a bigger-ticket expense. Whether it's for a major house renovation or a dream vacation, put the money in a credit union savings account; whenever you have a little extra money over the coming year, set it aside also. You could end up with a gift the whole family will cherish for years to come.
Donate to charity. If you itemize deductions on your tax return, consider helping an organization whose works you admire. Not only can you deduct the gift, but it might ultimately mean more to you than spending the money on yourself.