web analytics

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

May 19, 2010 · 72 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?

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or subscribe to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Thanks for visiting!!!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff May 19, 2010 at 10:20 am

I was cleaning up at the bowling alley I worked at in college and found a crumpled $10 bill near one of the ball racks after the place was closed. I was more happy than $10 should have made me, but I was in a tough place that semester.

I was taking mylast 12 hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-4pm, working the bowling alley from 4:30pm-midnight for $5.50 an hour, working Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8am-6pm as a tax office receptionist for $6.50 an hour, dealing poker and blackjack (legally) for 2-5 hour company parties on Friday and Saturday nights for $12 an hour, and planning my graduation and wedding. Like I said, it was a tough semester.

Needless to say, that $10 was a HUGE gift at the time (I’m a little choked up just thinking about how it felt like such a relief). Obviously, it didn’t go very far (probably 3 meals at the Wendy’s near the bowling alley…I loved their dollar menu), but it felt like I won the lotto.


Kris May 19, 2010 at 10:56 am

Isn’t it amazing what a difference a small amount of money can make? I bet you loved each of those Wendy’s meals.

Sounds like you had some pretty fascinating jobs!


Money Reasons May 19, 2010 at 12:28 pm

I’ll found small money out and about, but I did get $20 from the ATM machine once by accident.

Not paying attention one early morning, I selected saving instead of checking account at the ATM (I don’t have a Savings Account), and I pressed “Withdrawal $20”, and to my surprise the machine spit out $20. I check my Checking account balance to see if it took any money from that it, but it didn’t. I raced in and told the bank manager and he said I was mistaken, the machine doesn’t make mistakes… so I left. I tried, but I’m not going to fight the system. 🙂

Yeah, I was just thinking about the value of money and how it’s meaning has changed to me… But then again, part of it is inflation too. That $20 is more like $100 to me today…

Nice story, I enjoyed it 🙂


Kris May 19, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Money Reasons- I agree about the 20 dollars being more like 100 now. If I found a Benjamin laying around, I would go insane. Probably would end up being counterfeit though…:)

I wonder how that ATM error happened. Lucky for you, computers never make mistakes!


Young Mogul May 19, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I don’t think I have ever “found” money–none that I can recall. But, I have received more than a few unexpected checks in the mail–a small sum from a class action lawsuit; refund from escrow from mortgage, etc. Oh, but now that I think about it…just recently, I ordered a jacket from Nordstrom’s, but wanted an exchange for a bigger size. I received an email saying the larger size was not available, so the purchase amount was refunded to my bank account. A few days later, I received an email saying the jacket had been shipped, WTF? I thought the second email was a mistake, but low and behold, the jacket came in the mail a few days later. Score! If it had been a mom and pop shop, I’m sure I would have pointed out the error, but it was Nordstrom’s, so…


Kris May 19, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Young Mogul- so your lucky find came in the form of a jacket- nice! Not often you can ‘find’ something that fits you perfectly!!!


ctreit May 19, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I don’t remember ever finding any significant amount of money besides coins. But I am one who has left $140 at the cash machine. I hope that the finder was as happy as you were to have found it and that he or she had good use for it. There is no way that I would ever be mad at the person who finds money like that. If anything, I should be mad at myself for being so careless.


Kris May 19, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Oh my gosh, how did you leave 140 dollars behind? In my case, I just figured a bunch of 20s flew out and the previous person just left one behind on accident. You must have been so upset!


Anne June 23, 2010 at 11:27 am


I was reading Kevin’s Investitwisely blog and stumbled across your post about saving money by using coupons! I feel the exact same way, I felt like it was me talking! I have been reading through all of your posts; so interesting that I can relate to most of them!

As for this post, I have to say that I have been pretty lucky when it comes to ‘finding’ free money. When I was in Cegep (years between high school and University in Quebec), I went to the casino with a few friends (one of the first times), I went to the bathroom, took out a toilet seat cover and to my shocking surprise, a 100$ token came out with it! My heart started to race a little because I thought I was on some kind of a Punk’d show or something. I walked out of the stall, and looked around, nobody was there. I felt like a huge winner that night!

i have also found 5$, 10$ bills randomly on the ground when I was still in school, it’s always nice to find small change, especially when you’re a student with barely any savings.

My most recent finding was when I took a vacation last Winter to Southeast Asia, I was exchanging some money in Thailand and while waiting for the guy in the booth to count my US dollars, I glanced down on the ground and found a 50$ Australian bill just lying there. I picked it up and obviously looked around for an Aussie, but there was no one to be found. I took it and handed it to the guy in the booth and came out 50$ worth of Bhats richer!


Kevin@InvestItWisely June 23, 2010 at 11:30 am

You mean I picked it up and looked for an Aussie! 😛 Yep, that was a lucky find; our day was much better off after that.


Kris June 23, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Kevin, did she make you do all the work? Good job Anne! 🙂


Kris June 23, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Anne – I can’t believe you got money from the toilet seat cover box. That must have been planted just to make someone’s day. That is a great story!

Thanks so much for reading around the site! Its always nice to come across someone that has similar ideas! (Keep couponing! :))

I hope you find much more money on your travels. I really appreciate the comments!


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: