10 Smart Things to Do With $25


So, you’ve got $25 burning a hole in your pocket. Or, you just found it in an old pair of jeans. Maybe it represents the contents of your piggy bank, or a check you got from an aunt in another state for your birthday. However you came by this $25, you’re trying to figure out how to spend it without blowing it.

Here then are 10 ideas, some fun, some serious, that will help you make the most of your 25 buckaroos. (See also: 15 Fun Things to Buy for Under $5)

1. Go on a Goodwill Shopping Spree

The bargains I find at Goodwill never cease to amaze me. I recently purchased a mint-condition, sealed Sopranos jigsaw puzzle for $2. I sold it for $10 just a few days later. OK, not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but if you could do that with $25 worth of Goodwill stuff, you turn it unto $125. Rummage through the collectibles and glassware, and check out all the pictures, CDs, and garments. Every Goodwill store holds gems, you just have to know where to look. And remember, the money you spend in there goes to a very good cause. It’s win-win.

2. Adopt an Animal That Needs a Good Home

We recently adopted two kittens from our local animal shelter. We were shocked at how cheap it was to do this. They had so many cats, dogs, and other animals to care for that they were almost giving them away. It was sad to see a sign like “buy a kitten, get a grown up cat free,” but I guess tough times call for new ideas. The price for the adoption of the two kittens, plus inoculations and spaying/neutering, came in at less than $25. We gave the shelter double that because we know how much they rely on donations. But, if you want to do some good with your $25 and make a friend, spending it on a new pet could be just for you. As always, don’t do it on a whim, and don’t buy a pet as a gift for someone else (unless they come with you). Animals need loving homes. If you can provide one, get down to your local shelter.

3. Buy Previously Viewed Movies and Games

DVD rental stores have hit on hard times. It doesn’t bother me too much, because I remember being charged ridiculous prices for new releases and having to pay horrendous late fees. The rental stores had to adapt, and they also had to find a way to make extra money. By selling off previously viewed DVDs and pre-played games, they’re recouping some of their losses; and you get yourself some sweet bargains. I picked up movies including A Serious Man and A Nightmare on Elm Street for just 99 cents. I also recently bought Blu Ray copies of Inception, Horrible Bosses, Machete, and Predators for around $7 a piece. That’s way below the price of a new copy, and they play just as well. Some discs look untouched. These stores have dozens of copies of the popular movies, so many of the discs are played just a few times. And they all come with at least a seven-day guarantee. Bring it back if it’s scratched or doesn’t play, they’ll replace it for you. Now that’s smart.

4. Start a College Savings Plan

With $25? Well, it’s $25 dollars more than if you don’t have a plan right now. And if you have young children, the price of college by the time they reach 18 will demand every penny you can amass. By investing $25 a month for 18 years with a 7% rate of return, you’ll have over $11,000 in that account. True, it’s probably not going to cover a lot by then, but it’s better than nothing at all.

5. Hit the Sales at the Grocery Stores

If you want to grab yourself some real bargains, go and buy the food that is “going off” in the stores. It’s often heavily discounted because it has reached its sell-by date. But that’s an arbitrary date set to protect stores from lawsuits and ensure you get the freshest food. So much of that food is still very good, and you can get it really cheap just before it hits the dumpster. Your $25 could easily get you $75-$100 worth of food. Pop whatever you can in your freezer, and bring it out when you need it.

6. Loan It to a Farmer or Entrepreneur in a Third-World Country

One of the best non-profit ideas I’ve seen in a while is Kiva.org. It’s based on the principles of “microfinancing,” which basically means you can donate a sum as small as $25 to the fund. The borrower will make a request for funds, and if successful, he or she will get a loan funded by the more than 500,000 lenders around the world. The borrower then makes repayments, so if you put your money in, you will get it back at a later date. But in the process, you have helped someone realize a dream who normally wouldn’t have a chance to.

7. Hop the Farmers Markets

An article I wrote in the past warned of things to avoid at farmers markets, and that resulted in a lot of angry letters and comments wondering why I was against them. That, I am happy to tell you, is not true at all. I love farmer’s markets; I simply wanted to point out a few pitfalls. But when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables, these markets can’t be beat. So take your $25 to a local farmers market, get some good quality food for less than supermarket prices, and support a local farmer.

8. Buy Some Original Art

You may think $25 will not buy you much of a work of art, but you’d be mistaken. Yes, granted, if you’re looking for a 6 ft. canvas by a well-known painter, you’ll be out of luck. But if you are willing to look around local art shows, search on Craigslist, or even peruse the walls of local eateries and record shops, you will find amazing prices on original works. These are from artists who want to be discovered and also want to cover the costs of materials. Who knows, in the future that piece you buy for $25 could be worth six figures.

9. Get a Free Massage or Haircut, and Tip $25

Students who are enrolled in massage or haircutting courses will often give away their services for free (or very cheap) to practice. You’ll find ads for free massages or haircuts on Craigslist and in newspaper classified ads. But while they are free, or very cheap, these people do deserve a tip. So, for the complete price of $25, you help a student with their studies and get a service for at least half of what you’d regularly pay.

10. Take a Music Lesson

So many of us have guitars, old pianos, or other instruments just lying around. Maybe we bought them decades ago and gave up on them, or they were gifts. They could be hand-me-downs. Either way, why not see if it’s really something you want to do. Playing an instrument is a great way to release stress, and it’s a wonderful hobby. For $25, you can usually get a 30-minute to 1-hour lesson for a variety of instruments. Some charge as little as $10 for a 30-minute lesson.

Additional photo credits: heypatrick, JoeInSouthernCA, o5com

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Guest's picture

Really number two is BAD advice. I mean, if you're in the kind of place where $25 is something you'd give this much thought to, you can't afford a[nother] pet. Adoption is cheap, sure. But there's food, which is not so cheap, no matter how good you are at finding cheap. Plus the vet bills, and the meds - even baseline care will cost hundreds of dollars a year.

Kentin Waits's picture

I have to politely disagree. Caring about $25 doesn't imply poverty and poverty doesn't necessarily mean a person shouldn't be able to have a pet to love. I know a lot of folks with solid, healthy incomes who watch every penny.

Guest's picture

Kind of unrelated, but a good way to get that extra $25 is selling stuff on eBay. I just went through my closet a week or two ago and sold an old jacket that I never wore.

That was an extra $60 in my pocket for doing almost nothing.

Guest's picture

I would consider starting a portfolio on Lending Club or Prosper as well.

Guest's picture

I like to get a bottle of wine and some weird cheese at a fancy grocery store. For $25, I feel like I'm living THE LIFE and splurging my heart out!

Guest's picture

My favorite is the goodwill shopping spree!!!
I'm gonna go look this weekend!


Guest's picture

A friend of mine and I used to buy the most exotic thing we coudl find in the grocery store, like alligator or shark and figure out the best way to grill it, keeping the total cost under $25.

Guest's picture
Sean H

I really like the massage idea. I love getting professional massages but its 50-60 bucks each time. Sure they might be a little bit more trained but whatever, a massage feels good either way. I looked on Craigslist and sure enough, there are students who are doing this in my area!

Guest's picture

If Publix is in your area, you need to take your $25 there and get $50 worth of food with their Buy 1 Get 1 deals!

Guest's picture

Gosh if I had an extra $25 I would want to do all ten of these!! Great ideas on making a little money count a lot. I'm addicted to farmers market. They have such fresh products that gives a homemade taste you just can't find in the store. And where can I get a free massage or haircut? That'd be a dream come true! And of course, if I had the extra cash it'd be best to donate it to the people (or animals) that truly need it. Thanks so much for the taughts

Guest's picture

I say have dinner with a friend. Either cook something nice at home or go to a reasonable restaurant. The people around you are the most important part of your life, so nurturing friendships is a good investment!

Guest's picture

Having adopted several cats and kittens through the years, I have NEVER been able to do this from a shelter for a mere $25. It's usually more in the $100 range but the unconditional love is worth it. The last two we adopted from a rescue organization and the pair was $300.

Guest's picture

Our shelter in Omaha (no kill) offers adult cats for little to nothing. They often do give them away with their shots and a spay or neuter. Unfortunately there are just too many for them to care for. Kittens are usually $75, but adults are often buy one get one free or just plain free. Thankfully they have an application process to make sure you will be a suitable cat mommy.

Guest's picture

Number 5 is my personal favorite, and the one on which I find myself spending my "extra" $25. On my paydays, I hit up the grocery store for the things about to expire- it's a great way to spend that money!

Guest's picture

#8, Buy Some Original Art, is my favorite surprise on the list. :)

As an artist who uses Etsy.com, I KNOW you can get tons of really beautiful/fun/creative artwork for under $25.

Love the other tips, as well! Thanks! :)

Guest's picture

So maybe I'll head out to Etsy this weekend for some art. Something I had never thought of.

Also - I think giving to charity is a good idea. I have a monthly donation to modestneeds.org and split up my $20/month between 4 cases, helping people better their lives.

Guest's picture

I will just save it and take it out to use when I think of something I really need such as toothpaste or grocery. Having money doesn't mean you have to spend it right away.

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