Personal Finance

4 Smart Things You Can Do With $1,000 Right Now

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Getty Thousand Dollars

Image source: Getty Images.

Now and then we end up with some extra money in our hands. We can spend it in ways that will offer fleeting satisfaction or in ways that can benefit us for years to come. Here are four great uses for your extra dollars.

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Saving diligently for retirement can prevent you from running out of money. Image source: Getty Images.

Increase your retirement contributions

Selena Maranjian: A particularly effective way to spend $1,000 is to increase your IRA or 401(k) contribution by that much for the year -- and to keep it at the new, higher level if you can. Remember that IRAs have an annual contribution limit of $5,500 for 2016 (plus an extra $1,000 for those 50 or older), and that 401(k)s can accept even more money. The current maximum contribution to 401(k) accounts is $18,000 -- plus an additional $6,000 for those 50 and older, for a whopping max of $24,000.

To get an idea of what a difference $1,000 can make to your retirement, consider this example: Imagine that you contribute $10,000 annually, in total, to your IRA, your 401(k), or both, for 25 years. Let's say that it grows by an annual average of 8%. At the end of 25 years, you'll have just about $790,000. If you managed to sock away $11,000 per year over those 25 years, though, your end sum would top $868,000 -- significantly more. Specifically, you'd have about $79,000 more, just by having invested an additional $25,000 -- $1,000 per year.

Few of us are going to want to live on Social Security alone, and even fewer have pensions awaiting us in retirement. Thus, it's rather critical to sock away money for retirement. More and more people are living into their 90s -- you want to be able to afford to do that.

Image source: Pixabay.

Get smart about healthcare costs

Todd Campbell : All these ideas are great ways to make the most of an extra $1,000, but an often overlooked and savvy money move for that extra money is establishing a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA).

Many employers offer these plans to workers, and they're great because they allow you to pay for out-of-pocket healthcare costs with tax-free money. FSAs can be combined with any health insurance plan to cover dental work, co-pays, and other healthcare costs. You can contribute up to $2,550 to one this year.

HSAs have to be paired up with qualifying high-deductible health insurance plans. If your plan qualifies as one, then up to $3,400 (for individuals) or $6,750 (for families) can be stashed away in them.

In both cases, as long as the money is used for qualified medical costs, it won't be subject to federal income tax, and since a family of four could easily eclipse $1,000 in out-of-pocket costs annually, using these plans delivers an impressive return that's equivalent to your income tax rate.

However, there are some rules to remember about FSAs and HSAs. For example, money in an HSA can be rolled-over year after year, but money that's put in an FSA typically must be used in the year it's contributed. Therefore, make sure you don't put that extra $1,000 into an FSA unless you know you'll use it, or you'll risk losing it.

The tax benefits of FSAs and HSAs make them worth investigating, so chat with your human resources department about them soon!

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