POLL: How Americans would spend an extra $1,000

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Most Americans would probably be thrilled if they received an extra $1,000 to spend. Although everyone knows the importance of saving, a recent study by Pew found that 46 percent of Americans spend more than what they make every month. This insight suggests that many people struggle with balancing necessities and frivolous spending. However, if given additional money to use this month, how would people spend it? Would a single sum be treated differently?

To learn more about the personal finance habits of Americans, we ran a survey and asked people what they would do if they were given an extra $1,000 in cash. Our survey revealed that about 3 in 10 people would put that amount into their savings, while 7 in 10 would spend the money for other purposes.

In our survey, we asked 1,500 Americans what they would do with an extra $1,000. Our results revealed a vast majority of them (75%) would use their extra cash for practical reasons like investing, paying off bills and buying necessities.

When it comes to age, the idea of paying off debt with an extra $1,000 seems to be shared across all age groups. However, there were some slight generational differences. Older Millennials and younger Gen X’ers (aged 34–54) comprise 44 percent of those who would use their extra cash to pay off debt, significantly higher than the other generations. This finding aligns with a recent report from Comet, which found that an overwhelming majority of American adults owe money in some way, shape or form, which was consistent across the generations. The 18–24 age group was less likely to pay off debt — their younger age means they have accrued lower debt.

However, when it came to using the extra $1,000 toward savings or investments, attitudes seemed to change with age. Of the 31 percent who chose to save or invest, 24 percent of them were in the 55-64 age group. On the other hand, only 12 percent were in the 18–24 age group. This doesn’t come as a shock, considering those in the older age groups have developed a better understanding of saving money and investing in stocks.


The attitude toward savings seems to change for those older than 65 years old, who form only 14 percent of those who would save their money. 65 is the general retirement age, which suggests that people in this age group already have some form of retirement income and savings.

After debt and savings, giving to charity was the third way Americans would spend their extra $1,000. While older Americans seemed keen on saving, Millennials were more open to giving out their extra money. Our survey revealed that 38 percent of charity givers were those in the 18 to 34-year-old age group. With possibly less debt and bills to pay, 34 percent of Millennials were also open to using their money on shopping. Overall, however, only 5 percent of Americans would spend their $1,000 on shopping.

When it came to a more personal endeavor like traveling, we discovered interesting attitudes among the age groups. Americans in the 18–24 age group (19%) and those in 35–44 age group (24%) comprised those who would spend their extra money on traveling. Generational views on traveling could explain this preference, as younger Americans are beginning to grow in their independence and those in their 30s and 40s are more interested in trips as they grow their families and earn more income.

Men and women differed in how they would use their $1,000. While women were more likely to apply their $1,000 toward existing bills and debt, men seemed more willing to funnel their extra cash to other sources. Men were almost 20 percent more likely than women to allocate that money for savings and investment, charity and purchasing necessities.

Discretionary spending was equal concerning gender. For those that didn’t save, donate or pay bills, both men and women agreed in using their $1,000 to travel and for shopping.


Overall, it seems that when presented with a meaningful amount of money like $1,000, Americans would choose more prudent spending. A significant amount of people in our survey indicated they would save or invest their extra cash. A recent report revealed that almost half of Americans wished they saved their money better, and our poll shows that Americans can use a short-term amount for a long-term purpose.

However, an equally significant amount of people would also use their $1,000 to pay off bills and settle a debt. This suggests that while Americans may be practical in their use of an extra sum of money, perhaps they aren’t as effective at managing their current finances. In order to have healthier finances, it is crucial to balance income and expense and to be able to use any extra money towards saving for the future.

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