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The Day I Got Free Money at the ATM. What’s Your Best Found Treasure?

May 19, 2010 · 13 comments

in Commentary, Personal Finance

I was reading some articles on the internet the other day and one was discussing how not all free money is good money.  In this instance, the author of the article was given ten dollars in extra change at the drug store.  He then gave back the ten dollars as he didn’t want the cashier to get in any trouble.  He decided that the extra ten dollars was not worth the possible consequences, it just didn’t feel ‘right’.  (Good decision!)

Reading that tidbit brought back a wonderful memory of when my husband and I went on our first vacation back when we were 24 years old.  Our trip was all planned out; we were going to spend 3 days in Mammoth Cave Kentucky followed by 4 days in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.  We had bought a tent, a little Coleman stove, and had an incredibly tight budget for the trip.

So the night before, I went to the ATM to get the money that was allocated for our trip.  When I got to the money machine, nobody was around, as it was 8 at night.  I walked in the vestibule where the ATM was located, and there was a twenty dollar bill just sitting in the little drawer, waiting for me.  I grabbed the 20 and went outside to see if maybe someone was there I hadn’t noticed on the way in.  (I always look around before going to the ATM.  Seems like a real easy place to be robbed.)    Needless to say, the area was deserted- there was not a single soul I could try and return that twenty dollar bill to.

I have to admit, I was absolutely thrilled that I could keep that twenty dollar bill in good conscience.  I instantly started thinking about what that 20 dollars could buy.  Free night of camping!  Maybe food for a couple days!  It was so exciting.  That 20 dollars seemed like it could stretch forever.  It truly was going to make a difference to us.  That found money obviously made a big impact on me as I still smile 18 years later when I think about it.

If I found that same 20 dollars today, I would think ‘Cool’!  However, it would not have anywhere near the same impact as it did back then.  As we have dug ourselves out of debt and have a more stable life, twenty dollars does not have the same meaning.  We have more discretionary money now, so whereas free money is always good, that extra 20 dollars would probably just go in my wallet and be used for who knows what.  But when we were first starting out, that twenty dollars was like a wonderful gift, and we had plans for it!

So what was greatest amount of money or best thing you have ever found?  How did you use it?

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