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8 Smart Things Financial Experts Would Do If They Landed Some Extra Cash

Whether it's a tax refund or winning the lottery, extra cash is exciting. But before you buy that designer bag or book that trip, read what today's top personal finance experts have to say.

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Pay down student loans

“You’ll usually save the most money by paying down the loan with the highest interest rate first. The faster you pay down the loan, the less interest you’ll pay overall. Plus, if you’re paying more than your usual minimum due, your loan provider may consider your loan ‘Paid Ahead.’ This means you will have already covered the minimum due for future months, reduces your balance ahead of schedule, and gives you flexibility on your payment schedule if unexpected expenses come up in the future.” Joe DePaulo, CEO and co-founder of College Ave Student LoansRead up on these money-saving tips from people who are great at saving.

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Save for retirement

“It sounds boring, but the payoff is big. I certainly want to retire someday, so the more I can save now, the greater the chance that I’ll be able to have enough for a comfortable retirement. Plus, contributing to a retirement account helps me save money on taxes today. As a self-employed worker, I can deduct my retirement contributions on my tax return.” —Cameron Huddleston, award-winning personal finance journalist and the Life + Money columnist for 

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A little bit of this, a little bit of that

“I may go against the grain here, but I would spend at least half of it on travel. That’s my passion and if I could, I’d be on a plane going somewhere exotic every other month! As for the rest, I’d save it in my retirement account because it reduces my taxable income. Not only does it make a big difference, I know I’m doing the right and responsible thing for my future.” Erica J. Sandberg, personal finance expert. This is what your dream vacation reveals about your personality.

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Earmark it

“When I get extra cash, I give it a purpose right away. I say ‘this is credit card bill money’ or ‘this is an extra car payment for June.’ Otherwise, it just goes in the bank and it disappears into meaningless Seamless orders or those last minute ‘I’m just gonna grab some toilet paper’ drugstore runs after which I always walk out with more than I set out to buy.” —Mandi Woodruff, executive editor of and co-founder of the Brown Ambition podcast

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Invest in the housing market

“While I’ve always worked hard at jobs and my various side hustles, nothing has increased my net worth and boosted my sense of security as much as real estate. I would choose property close to home and with minimal upkeep, even if the return was a bit lower. Keeping things simple and less stressful is also important to create a life of financial freedom.” —Bobbi Rebell, financial journalist and author. Need extra cash now? Try these ways to make money fast.

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The 90/10 Rule

“I’d put 90 percent of it toward a financial goal. For me, that goal right now is starting to save for my daughter’s college education. Then I’d do something fun with the remaining 10 percent. Depending on the amount, maybe dinner with my husband at our favorite restaurant or a weekend trip with our daughter. Being smart with your money isn’t about deprivation; it’s about setting yourself up for success.” —Alexa von Tobel, founder of LearnVest and author of Financially Fearless. Follow these money-saving tips from people who didn’t take loans out to pay for their kids’ college.

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Pay down debt and earn interest

“If you are one of the 44.2 million individuals that are suffering under a staggering amount of student loan debt – here’s an opportunity to make a dent, or make it go away! There are some terrible statistics out there about Americans—as in, six in 10 people don’t have $500 in savings. You never know what form of emergency might pop-up. Unplanned events bankrupt people, make them homeless—it sounds dramatic, but it’s just true. Everyone needs a safety net, and throwing cash in an interest-bearing account makes those unforeseen events less of a burden to you.” —Andrew Meadows, VP of Brand & Culture at 401K advisory site, Ubiquity

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Three buckets

“When I have any excess cash, I divide it into three buckets: 1) my safety bucket, which is 90 days of living expenses as an emergency pool in case something happens; 2) a safe investments bucket where I keep 80 percent of my cash. This pool includes ETF’s, low fee funds like Vanguard, and lots of rental properties; 3) 20 percent of my free cash is in my risk bucket, where I take risks and try to get huge wins, like buying Tezos, a crypto currency that should grow in value in any market and potentially sky rocket if the world has any major destabilizing events occur. (Unless of course it gets hacked in which case all bets are off).” —David Osborn, co-author of Wealth Can’t Wait. These are things that rich people aren’t telling you.

Trae Bodge
Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator who specializes in smart shopping and saving money. She writes for and, and her expert commentary can be found on,,, and, and in magazines like Newsweek, Better Homes & Gardens, and Woman’s Day. She has appeared on-air hundreds of times, including on NBC Nightly News, Inside Edition, and network affiliates around the country. You can find her money-saving tips at and at @truetrae on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.