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Posted on Jan 27, 2012 in Dear Diary | 34 comments

5 Things Friday: If I Had a Million Dollars

I believe I have already mentioned that as part of Chinese New Year tradition, we young folk receive red packets (“hong bao” or “lai see”) from our elders. These red packets are filled with money (score!) and are meant to usher in a prosperous new year… or something. Call me shallow, but I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to say that this is one of my favorite parts of the celebration, hehe. I mean, hey, money is money, and given my particular knack for being able to spend it poorly, well… yes. Anyway, now that I am slightly richer, thanks to my parents, aunts, and uncles, it got me thinking. Which we know is always a dangerous thing.

Red Packets for the New Year

What would you do if you somehow got your hands on REAL money? I tried to cleverly name this post after the Barenaked Ladies song, but let’s be honest. These days, a million smackers doesn’t actually get you that far. In fact, technically becoming a millionaire is something that is fairly reasonable for us normal folk if we work, invest, and spend wisely. But that’s not what I’m getting at here. I’m talking about winning-the-lotto, getting-an-inheritance-from-a-secretly-rich-relative, suing-a-company-and-winning money. Big and fast. Boom.

Wi$e-Guy  Money Roll

Aside from all the boring stuff that you should probably do — pay off any debts, hire a financial adviser, invest, give to charity, blahblahblah — what would you do if you found yourself with cash to burn? I’m not even talking dream-scenario stuff: buying an island or an airplane/yacht/submarine-hybrid or whatever other unnecessary things people might do. Just in day-to-day life, if money wasn’t really an object, what would you do with it? Here are my top 5:


1. Buy a nice house with a banging kitchen.

I don’t need crazy extravagance. I don’t want a house so big that walking from the living room to the front door makes me winded. But I would definitely go for something nice, a single-family home big enough to accommodate my someday-family and/or 5 – 10 more schnauzers, with a kitchen that even the stylists at Food Network would be proud of. And darn it all if I don’t finally get my Vitamix!


2. Hire a personal masseuse.

I don’t think that there is anything more beneficial to both your mental and physical well-being than a massage. However, at anywhere from $50 – $150 for a mere hour of blissful relaxation/pummeling (my massage philosophy: no pain, no gain), getting them more than once every few months is unrealistic for me. If I could afford it, I would get weekly massages in the comfort of my own home.

Where to?
From last January’s cruise

3. Travel.

Well this one is kind of a no-brainer. I literally grew up traveling. Every 3 – 4 years on the dot, my family and I would pack up our things and hightail it to a different international locale. Living overseas provided me with the opportunities to visit places that I might never have gotten to see otherwise: Thailand, Palau, Italy… the list goes on. Now that I’m an adult and on my own bankroll, I really miss traveling. My list of places I still want to go to is long (Greece, Australia, and Japan are at the top right now!) and if I didn’t have to, you know, work to have money, I would have been on a plane yesterday. Still though, whether it’ll be via first-class and five-star hotels or economy and youth hostels, I imagine this is one I’ll be crossing off of my bucket list regardless.


4. Get therapy.

So I know this sounds like a joke, but I’m serious. If I had the money, I would absolutely hire a therapist. Not for any particular reason necessarily, but just so that I’d have someone to hash things out with, for catharsis, to give myself some perspective… kind of like what I do in writing this blog, only more private. Because yes, there are things that even I, oversharerer extraordinaire, don’t divulge here, haha. I think that therapy is extremely beneficial, and shouldn’t be stigmatized as only being for those who have “problems” (though if that were a prerequisite, I bet my history and relationship with food could still use a few sessions just on their own). I always say that health is about much more than the physical, right? Of course, even without the stigma, it’s still fracking expensive — anywhere from $100 to $500 an hour.

Christmas Shopping

5. Shop. (Duh.)

Well, c’mon. I’m still ME, after all! If I had disposable income, I would obviously have absolutely no problem disposing of it. I would just be raising the bar in terms of where I was spending all that easily-earned cash, of course! Between Nordstrom, Williams-Sonoma, Kate Spade, Sephora… well, I think you get the idea. And these are just the places that I have at some point bought something (on sale) from in the past! When I start to think about opening the door to all the places that I wish I could shop at but can in NO WAY afford… oy. Louis Vuitton, Saks, Neiman Marcus, Christian Louboutin, Dior, Tiffany… okay, I need to stop. This is just getting depressing now.

So go on, tell me. If you had a million dollars (a couple times over), what would be on your list?


  1. Besides all that boring stuff, yes- defintely travel. That is a no-brainer, like you said. I’d love to go overseas of course, but my husband and I also have a bucket-list thing where we want to see a game at every MLB baseball stadium (and we’ve only knocked like 6 off the list so far.)
    I’d shop my brains out at Whole Foods and Sephora and I’d also buy a second home in Colorado.
    Oh, and I’d buy every Apple product. And I’d have money to buy a new one every few minutes when they upgrade them.

  2. Greece is also pretty high on my list too. My great-grandparents emigrated from there and I’d be really, really interesting to go back and see where a part of my heritage came from!

    I was extremely fortunate to go to Aussie while studying abroad at college. It was fantastic, but because I was a college kid I didn’t have the money to do everything I wanted to, i.e. go see the great barrier reef. So pretty much if I had a million dollars, I’d go back to Aussie and visit Greece too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I love your list! I never would have thought of therapy, which is weird since I’m a licensed counselor, but that’s a terrific idea. Who couldn’t use some therapy? I know I could for food issues and dealing with stress in better ways.

    I would spend my money on 1) Travel 2) A housekeeper, so I could spend more time on the things I enjoy, like my hobbies and time w/ family 3) A new house that isn’t almost 100 years old– I like it for what we can afford, but if I had a million dollars, I’d definitely get a kick ass house. 4) A landscaper for the house b/c I hate trying to keep up with flower beds and the lawn. 5) Charity or I’d open my own golden retriever rescue ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I also forgot to mention that getting therapy would probably be necessary just to deal with the HUGE LIFECHANGING EVENT of getting all that money in the first place! Hahaha

  4. Travel is for sure on the top of my list. We have a dream Lord of the Rings inspired tour of New Zealand itinerary and every so often I just open it up and read it. Someday!

    Lots of health insurance companies cover therapy, at least a certain number of sessions. Ours does.

    • I was going to say this exactly! Almost all insurance plans have mental health coverage, and often have social workers/psychologists/etc. one can see for $20 or $25 co-pays. Honestly, I think therapy can be really useful. And certainly an extravagance that can be made affordable!! Look into it!

  5. Travel. Travel. Travel.

    Then, I would purchase a big open warehouse and build my dream sports facility for kids. Our cheer gym now is far too small for that.

  6. hahaha 5-10 more schnauzers… i can get on board with that! if i had the money i would definitely travel a ton, hire a personal trainer, SHOP in excess and buy a condo in the city.
    oh and ps have you looked to see if any sort of mental health services are covered in your health insurance? mine is pretty crappy, but it still covers some options. check it out!

  7. Really depends on how much money I came into. But if you’re talking about a mega millions jackpot type of take home, on the order of 100+ mil… Honestly, I’d probably retire immediately, and then retire as many of my family and friends as I could take with me in the process. Like you, I’ve spent some time thinking about this, but really who hasn’t… and this is the scenario I’ve devised. I’m pulling a figure out of the air here of 5 mil as amount that you could give to someone to retire them immediately. it assumes a moderate house purchase (500,000) or so paid off, and day to day expenses for the rest of their lives being paid off interest earned on the remaining 4.5 mil or so, in addition to whatever they’d already saved. Even at 1% interest, you’d be on the order of 45,000$ without any sort of rent or mortgage payment, so I think it’d be doable (especially if the person has even moderate accumulated savings already). Using these numbers, you could probably take between 15-20 people into early retirement with you, or more depending on your actual take home from this theoretical lottery or relative was.

    This assumes that none of these people, including yourself, lead lives of extravagance in retirement. But IMO, as long as your bases are covered with regards to quality of life, the real prize earned by winning the lottery would not be anything tangibly purchased – but rather all of the time of your life returned to you to spend it as you see fit. And let’s be honest, what is free time if you don’t have good friends and family to spend it with?


    • You have certainly done a lot more of the math on this one than me, but you’re right! I think it goes without saying that if I came into that much money I would stop working… or at least stop working a job that was in any way unfulfilling. Now only one of us needs to win a 10+ million dollar lottery and take the other one with us! ๐Ÿ˜›

    • Wow Ed …. you definitely have a plan!

      Hope ya win that lottery soon! Ha.

      • I’m with Ed here. I’d stop working and buy a place and just settle in to the local scene. Get one dog. The key part of this plan is to retire a lot of your friends so you’d have people to hang with. Maybe do some volunteer work.

        Maybe start a goat farm and make artisan goat cheese.

        Yeah I’d get to traveling but I’d take my friends with me.

  8. Buy a house in the city (Atlanta, that is). Right now I am living in the suburbs and sort of hate it. That is the first thing I would do for sure. Also, hire a personal trainer and massuese.

  9. Ha! Your number 1 is also my number 1! I drool over gorgeous kitchens daily (thank you, Pinterest) and I think I could design my dream kitchen in a heartbeat, if I was asked to. After that, shopping, of course, and definitely put a huge chunk of money away for the kids’ educations. University costs *a lot* of money (I know) and I would love for my kids (all 3 of them!) to be able to go to any school without having to think about the financial aspect of it. But you know, there’s still time, my oldest is only 11 years old, after all!

  10. 2 things:
    1. I will stand by that sign on Wednesday. That is amazing news.
    2. As a non-practicing therapist (who used to bill insurance), check your health insurance benefits. Most will cover a set number of sessions a year, and I think anyone can benefit from either intensive short-term therapy or long-term infrequent sessions. Also, if there is a university near you that has a counseling program, they may have an almost-free clinic. You would be seen by a therapist-in-training, but they would be receiving intense supervision.

    If I hit the lottery? I wouldn’t tell anyone. I’d buy a condo in downtown Asheville, a Mini Cooper, and a Vespa. We’d both find volunteer “jobs” that could pay well enough to support us (without looking too closely) and we’d eat lots of amazing food and run races all over the country.

    I’ve thought about this a lot. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That’s amazing! You’re going to have such a great time — cruise or vacation??

  11. Oh course I would have to pack lots of it away in savings and take care of my student loans (you know, the boring, usual stuff)… and then I would pay off any debt my mom and sister had. With the remaining money I would be a sensible house (nice, but not overly extravagant) with a huge kitchen that was big enough to warrant having an island in the middle. And of course, my wardrobe would get a complete overhaul and my hubby and I would go on an AMAZING vacation.

    But once we got back, I’d immediately get to work on dream I’ve always had–I’ve always wanted to anonymously send needy families money. It’s never appealed to me to make giant donations with my name attached to it so I can be like, “Look how nice I am! I’m so generous!” That’s not me. I’ve always wanted to just send an envelope with a check to a stranger or someone I catch wind of that’s having a difficult time.

    I have no aspirations to be rich. Just comfortable. I’ve always wanted to be in a position that I am comfortable enough to help other people, too.

    Great post, Gretchen!

    • Love your ideas Courtney! Generous, sweet & practical.

      It is definitely a wonderful feeling to be comfortable …. and to be secretly rich/wealthy!

  12. Aside from house and debt and responsible college, etc. type things as you said, I would be extravagant in:
    Hiring a personal trainer
    Daily massages
    A personal driver and a bangin’ car
    Ridiculous stuff for my puppy
    Stop working
    Of course mega designer shopping would be included- hello Louboutin!

  13. I drive past the Mega Millions and PowerBall sign on my way to work Every. Day. So I have thought about this more than once.

    I would buy a Volkswagen Phaeton and an R32, pay off my parents mortgage, buy my grandmothers house on Cape Cod and send my kids to a Friends school. I would buy a nice, old house to fix up somewhere in the Baltimore – DC area, quit my job and spend all my time finishing my MFA. I would also shop at Whole Foods whenever I wanted, buy lots of fancy cheese and Icelandic yogurt and go to art galleries and readings. Then at Christmas time I would throw crazy huge parties (like the one in The Nutcracker)and buy presents for all the kids I could. My husband would do all the investing cause he is savvy with the monies, and he would probably want to open a business. It would be wonderful! We would go to all kinds of fantastic places on vacation and my girls would have money to go to college AND to help them get set up after college.

  14. Oh this is fun! For me, I think I would:

    1. travel internationally at least twice a year, for at least two weeks a time. There’s so many places to see!

    2. have my family come with me on the international trips, all expenses paid. Maybe close friends, too. We would all fly first class.

    3. hire a personal hairstylist. I don’t know how to make my hair look good: if I could have someone come once or twice a week to my house to make it pretty, that would be awesome.

    4. buy original art. It’s beautiful and special and out of my price range, but if I was really rich I could have lots.

    5. wear only really beautiful clothes and dry clean them all. This isn’t practical in real life, but if I was really rich, someone would take care of the details for me.

  15. 1. The song was the last song played at our wedding! We loved it.
    2. We would move somewhere where we could build a better house.
    3. Get extra therapy for our daughter who has Autism.
    4. Personal trainer- hells yes.
    5. All the clothes that are on my style pinboard on pinterest. LOL

  16. I love this post ๐Ÿ™‚

    If I had a million dollars, my top five (after paying off debt and what not)

    1. buy a house that has everything I want.
    2. Travel (duh)
    3. get hubby a new car
    4. yea I would shop too.
    5. buy lots of delish wine ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. I would most definitely travel! There are so many places stateside and internationally that I would love to see!

    And I would totally revamp my wardrobe. Which is something I’m trying to do now…It would just happen a lot more quickly! And buy pretty jewelry.

    I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who get their nails and toenails done all the time but I feel guilty spending the money!

    I would probably end up spoiling some of my family and friends too!

    • Oh I forgot! I would buy so much camera equipment, it wouldn’t be funny!! and a new laptop! Basically I’d have some awesome electronics!

  18. Hi Gretchen – FYI re: therapy. Most often this can be covered by your insurance, so you’d be paying a co-pay just as you would to see any other specialist. You should look into it – contact your insurance company girlfriend and find yo’self someone to talk to! Mental health is just as important as physical health! I do it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Very true Gretchen that “a mill” doesn’t go very far today. If you inherit, or win …. got to pay taxes regardless. ::sigh::

    The first thing …. I’d love to (?hire?) consult w/Suze Orman. Just for the hay of it. To help with suggestions. Sadly, Suze doesn’t do individual counseling. Sooo … I’d have to purchase a current book. Things have changed so drastically these past years …. we must relearn new ways to handle income.

    Material things come and go. If you are youngish …. they all seem appealing at the moment. But, trust me …. it wears off. I’d rather have a nice-comfy “nest egg.”

    ALWAYS …. pay yourself FIRST! S-A-V-E $$$$! It matters. Plus, it gives you a sense of accomplishment …. and definitely makes one proud. Keep saving. Never-ever take out money from a savings, etc. Think …. retirement!

    The kitchen in that photo is gorgeous. Who wouldn’t want one of those? Love blue + white floors! Overall …. I don’t think it would cost that much if you are careful and cautious.

    There are so many DIY folks these days. Myself included. Our family loves recycled oldies … but goodies. You know, furniture and the like. Just think of all the moola you can pocket!

    Great subject. Get’s all of us thinkin.

  20. Oh this is fun! ๐Ÿ™‚

    My top five (behind hiring a financial adviser [FIRST!], paying off ALL debt, investing handsomely, setting up future generations and donating a boatload to charity):

    1โ€”Go on a mega, huge, amazing Cass-only shopping spree. My closet is still full of clothes from 50 pounds ago. And the “new” ones are mostly clothes from the Goodwill or discount stores. I want a closet full of clothes, shoes and bling that I absolutely LOVE and make me feel like the number in my bank account. ๐Ÿ™‚

    2โ€”Travel. I am really not very well traveled. I’ve never been off this continent and certainly never been to a country that doesn’t speak English. I’d love to take a month or two every year and just see stuff. Experience stuff. I’ve always dreamed of seeing Greece and kissing my husband at the top of the Eiffel tower and seeing where my German ancestors are from and seeing where Craig’s Finnish grandfather came from.

    3โ€”Volunteer. This isn’t really buying something, but I’d use my freed up workday to work on things I am truly passionate about for free. Maybe even start my own organization or two.

    4โ€“House renovations. We’re buying a house that is amazing, but I’d love to have the cash to make it ours. We’d still do a lot of DIY, but it’d be nice to devote some serious money to do the big projects (finishing the basement, in-ground pool, etc.) so we can focus on the fun little artsy projects.

    5โ€“Adopt. Lots. I’d always wanted a big family, but I think overpopulation is already a HUGE issue on this planet and I don’t really have any interest in adding to the problem (except for two biological kids to “replace” us). I would LOVE to have a huge family made up of biological and adopted kids from all over the world. If I had the money to support them and make sure they had a comfortable life, I know I could give them the love they needed.

  21. By lots of presents for myself and everyone I love, hire a personal chauffeur, hire a running coach/personal trainer, travel, and not stress about the financial instability of working in performing arts–that would be the BEST part! So, about your #4, my insurance mostly covers my therapy. I pay a $25 copay, but only go about once a month, so it doesn’t amount to much at all financially and has been HUGELY beneficial (in fact I would say crucial) to overcoming my unhealthy relationship with food, and I honestly don’t feel like I have a ton of life issues lately, but the being able to talk about major and minor day to day challenges is so nice, and maybe I’m a freak, but I kind of look forward to going. You may be able to afford it more easily than you think ๐Ÿ˜‰

  22. A beautiful home, traveling the world, shopping, and many, many spa days would be at the top of my list ๐Ÿ˜€

  23. So many great ideas have already been said in the comments that I feel like I would mostly be repeating them, so I’ll add only two.

    1) Make a feature length movie from one of my own scripts.
    2) Invest in an animated tv show that I’ve created.

    A risky way to spend that cash, but I would do it in a heartbeat.

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