Does the Source of Gift Money Matter in Spending?

This past weekend I was in Atlanta participating in a global health case competition.  The top prize was $6,000 for a team of 6.  My team didn’t win or even place (though I was very happy with our performance) but before the weekend I spent a little time thinking about how I would use the $1,000 if we did win.


If I received a sum of money as a gift from a family member, for instance, I wouldn’t have any qualms about spending it in any frivolous way I pleased.  Maybe I would save it toward the DSLR I’ve wanted forever or Kyle and I would go on a weekend getaway.  Realistically, with a sum as large as $1,000, we would likely tithe and put part toward our Roths, but we would spend most of it on ourselves.


However, I don’t think I would have spent the prize money from a global health case competition in that way.  After all, I just spent the weekend researching health and socioeconomic disparities in Sri Lanka.  I don’t think I could use money that I won by talking about malnourished babies, refugees, and landmines on a camera or vacation.  I was thinking that I would give 100% of it away but I’m not sure I would have the willpower to accept all that money and then send it all overseas.  I’d probably convince myself that I had earned part of it.


Ultimately I think I would have given 50% away, hopefully to NGOs working in Sri Lanka, and saved the rest to spend on something fun for me and Kyle.


What would you do with $1,000?  Would your answer change if you got it for a humanitarian-related purpose?

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14 Responses to "Does the Source of Gift Money Matter in Spending?"

  1. WorkSaveLive says:

    That’s a good question!

    I don’t think my answer would change because I believe in giving a portion of everything I get anyway. I would keep my percentage the same and the remainder would go to whatever goal we’re working at that time.

    Right now it is paying off our smallest student loan and saving up for a new car (again).
    WorkSaveLive recently posted..3 Words to Start the Week Off Right

    1. Emily says:

      I like that you have a hierarchy of priorities. I have one too, I just don’t like following it, and that defeats the purpose!

  2. Daisy says:

    Interesting.. I’ve never thought of it like that.

    I don’t think I’d be able to give it ALL away, but I’d certainly want to give a big portion of it to charity. If it were a gift, I think it would go in my EF or onto my debt.
    Daisy recently posted..March Spending and Net Worth Update

  3. Money is money no matter what the source of it may be. I don’t really believe in the policies of most charitable foundations, so I definitely wouldn’t spend it there. If I wanted to be charitable with the money, I would do something locally so that I knew 100% of it would be going to the cause, not to pay CEO salaries and advertising costs.
    Mike@Investing in Silver recently posted..Mexican Silver Libertads

    1. Emily says:

      While I agree that it’s important to vet charitable institutions to make sure they are being good stewards of the money they receive, I don’t know how you could find one that had absolutely no overhead whatsoever, in the US or elsewhere. Can you give a few examples of nonprofits that meet your standards?

      1. I don’t know any non profits that would meet my standards actually. I live in Thailand, so there is a lot of need an poverty around me. For me, I could go directly to the source and be charitable, which is what I mean by doing something locally. Of course this wouldn’t really work for most people.
        Mike@Investing in Silver recently posted..Austrian Silver Philharmonics

  4. Michelle says:

    Hmm very interesting. Giving all of the prize money away would be hard for me though. I would most likely keep some.
    Michelle recently posted..Spending, Life, Income and Food Updates… 4/2/2012

  5. Michelle says:

    My answer would change if I weren’t in debt, but I have stopped giving to the charities we used to give to for the time being. It breaks my heart when I get a call from a charity that I used to help and have to say “I’m sorry…we are not able to give right now, but please keep us on your list.” 🙁

  6. Renee says:

    When I had a career job (not RA), I’d get $250 bonuses here and there throughout the year when a project turned out well. I used to give those fully away to charity. I was already making more than I needed and probably not giving even enough of that away as it was! The ironic thing is this – I used to work even harder on each new project because I wanted to get one of those bonuses, because it was just so darn fun to find a cause to give it to! (and yes, of course the causes need to be vetted.) ( I don’t mean this to be a self-righteous story!! Like I said, I already indulged plenty on myself.)

    Great post, Emily. I wasnt expecting your charitable twist at the end! 🙂

    1. Emily says:

      I think I would work harder too to get the bonus so I could give it away! I love picking out organizations to give to.

  7. AverageJoe says:

    I would definitely give some away…but it would be the same percentage that I usually give of any income I receive. The remainder I’d probably use to fill in the gaps in my goals. I’d spend some of it…but just enough that I don’t end up spending tons of money later because I didn’t give myself a little “something” today.
    AverageJoe recently posted..Getting Through the “Broke Week”

  8. Funny you should ask. I believe I’m expecting about $1,000 from my previous escrow account when I did my home refinance. Although Mrs. MMD has this spent 5 different ways already, I will likely buy another round of dividend stocks.
    MyMoneyDesign recently posted..Will Dividend Stocks Help Me Retire Early?

  9. SB @ FPR says:

    There’s nothing like giving your labor and knowledge for free rather than money, think it through…
    SB @ FPR recently posted..TIAA Direct Savings Account Review

  10. I’d give half away to the high school I graduated from for a scholarship for students who want to work in the non-profit sector and I’d probably give the rest to my grandparents. The bf and I don’t “need” anything and I’d be happy giving money to both “causes”.
    Kari@Small Budget Big Dreams recently posted..March Spending Report

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