This is What You Should Do With Any Cash You Get for Christmas

Rustic holiday deer with roll of dollars.
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I come from a great big family that’s spread out all over the country. I have a number of well-off relatives who know I’m pretty much broke.

Aunt Nancy or Uncle Bob never know what to get me for Christmas. They don’t know what books I’m reading, what music I’m listening to, what size I’m wearing. They don’t know what I want.

So, bless their hearts, they always send me a little something they know I’ll like: Greeting cards with money in them.

Happy holidays! Spend this on something you want. Love you!

Maybe you have an Aunt Nancy or an Uncle Bob in your life. I hope so.

This holiday season, maybe you’ll be gifted with a $20 bill here, a $50 bill there, or perhaps a check with a happy smiley face written on the little memo line at the bottom.

Here’s the question of the day: What are you going to do with that money?

Here are two choices for you:

  1. You can waste it. It’s basically found money, right? You can blow it on mixed drinks, lottery tickets, dinners out, new shoes, overpriced lattes, expensive eyeliner. Let’s face it, you can burn through that cash pretty fast, and that’ll feel good. OR:
  2. You can open a high-yield savings account.

Wait, wait, hear me out! I know that sounds less fun than mixed drinks and eyeliner. But it’s important — and totally worth doing.

If you don’t already have a savings account, there’s no better time to start one. Do it now, while you have this little bit of extra cash in your pocket. Put your holiday money to work for you.

Even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, the way so many of us are, you should still have a little bit of money tucked away in savings. You never know when you’re going to need an emergency fund.

Without a savings account, you have no backup plan if you run into an unexpected car-repair bill, lose your job or worse. And should you find yourself in such an unfortunate circumstance, chances are you’d whip out the plastic — and end up paying interest.

Also: Next time you buy a high-dollar item, wouldn’t it be nice to pull that money from your savings account like a full-fledged adult? You’ll feel so accomplished. It beats charging your purchase to a high-interest credit card.

You can open a savings account at your local bank branch, but my suggestion is going with a high-yield savings account at an online bank — you’ll be less likely to withdraw the money.

There are a bunch of great online banks, but one of our favorites is the Aspiration Account — there are no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 100 times the interest rate of other banks.

This online-only account comes with a debit card and free ATMs, so you can easily access your money when you need it.

So don’t let Aunt Nancy or Uncle Bob’s cold, hard cash go to waste. They’re tucking those $20 bills in your Christmas card every year because they love you.

Make that love last. Put their money to work.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He doesn’t have much money, but he has a savings account, dadgummit.