Never Stop Being Dazzled by $20 – You Just Might End Up Rich

When I was a kid I can remember getting ridiculously excited on Christmas Eve. My mom used to decorate our tiny house beautifully for the holidays. We’re talking all the 80s trimmings. We had a small, but perfect, Christmas tree with multi-colored lights. Yes, multi-colored lights. The big ones! One goes out, the rest stay lit, baby! We had garland adorning the trim. And we had a feast fit for Whoville. Oh, snap! Sure, I loved all the festivities and the food and the fun, but that’s not why I got excited. What I loved most of all about Christmas Eve was getting a crisp $20 bill from my aunt and uncle.  

That $20 bill was the equivalent of gold in my eyes. I was dazzled. The funny thing is that I didn’t want to spend it, instead I wanted to keep that $20 bill forever. After the holidays, I was equally excited when my mom took me to the bank to deposit my crisp $20 bill. I felt like a big shot walking in with my statement savings deposit slip and cash and handing it to the teller. I felt…rich.


Never underestimate the power of your early financial decisions

Well, let me tell you this – I’m currently mid-career and wishing I had kept that $20 bill forever, because now a single $20 that I received on one of those holidays would be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $150!

Growing up in the 80s and 90s was one heck of a trip. Being a kid of parents without any financial background, I had to find my own way. Unfortunately, as I got older, that awesome emotion I felt after depositing cash diminished as my attention turned to boys and clothes and having the latest gadget. As I made my way from childhood into teenager territory, I got more excited about a new outfit than my statement savings register. Womp. Womp.

Frugality? What was that? Frugality didn’t hit the scene until much later. I’m talking 20 years later. Yep, back in my early years, flaunting your stuff was way more important than building your wealth. Remember Miami Vice? Please tell me you remember Miami Vice!

Time passed, as it typically does, and I turned into a full-fledged adult. Whoa. How did that happen so quickly?!

Suddenly, I found myself with a car payment, student loans, a mobile phone, a mortgage – you know – all the trappings of adulthood. Something else happened too… Suddenly, $20 wasn’t a lot of money anymore. 

Balderdash! I won’t accept that. $20 is STILL a lot of money, and I’m STILL dazzled by it. Let me prove to you why YOU should still be dazzled by a $20 bill.

Related: How To Get Rich By Living Like Mad Men


Invested money still earns compound interest just like it did when I was a kid. Had I invested all the $20 bills that ran through my fingers starting with those Christmas gifts from my aunt and uncle, I would be one filthy rich lady right now. Instead, I allowed things to get in the way. Boys. Toys. Clothes. Cars. Not necessarily in that order.

I continued to bounce back and forth between saving and spending all the way into adulthood. Not surprisingly, I would eventually find something that was more important than my financial future that I needed to spend my money on. When I was a kid, I would go to the bank with my withdrawal slip and pull out the crisp bills I once deposited. When I was a teenager, I would use my MAC to tap my cash (remember calling them MAC cards?). When I was a young adult, I would use an ATM.  Gone. Forever. Gone. 


Mad Money Cat always invests her 20 spots. #financiallysavvy

Despite the foolish decisions I made when I was a teenager and young adult, I finally got back to my emotionally-driven financial roots and am now on the path to financial freedom. YES! Mr. MMM and I have been attacking our debt and building wealth with fervor the past few years.

If we have an extra $20 here or there, we transfer it onto our mortgage or into our investment account – whatever strikes our fancy that day. And we get excited about doing it! When we glance over the statement for the previous month and notice we transferred $200 worth of $20 increments, we realize the power of a single $20 bill.

You see, there is no way we would’ve put an extra $200 on the mortgage or into our investment account at the beginning of the month, for fear of needing that money for something unexpected. But as the month passes, instead of using an extra 20 spot for pizza or beer, we throw it towards our financial goals. This tiny habit has been paying us dividends in every sense of the word.

We’re getting rich – one $20 bill at a time!


Is it really worth it?

So the next time you think – “It’s only 20 bucks.” – think again. Before you drop $20 on coffee, pizza, beer, make-up, movie tickets, fast food, magazines, candy, toys (I’m looking at you iGen! :), or anything else, think about THE POWER of that $20 bill. Think about what you’re blowing your money on and if it’s actually costing you your future financial freedom. Spend in service of your future self. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself when you get there!

Related: Why Aren’t More Gen-Xers On Fire

When did we stop caring about the 20 spot? Why are we so dismissive of 20 bucks here or 20 bucks there? How do you feel about such a paltry amount of cash? Does it still dazzle you?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • pegginglovers Apr 25, 2017, 8:46 pm

    is this? That is a decent superior quality.


  • Jennie H Apr 19, 2017, 10:10 am

    I agree that $20 still feels like a lot of money – especially when you can apply it to various things. I’ve recently decided that all the survey taking that I do will go towards credit card debt. My goal is at least $100/month in this way. Not much monthly, but then when you consider it’s $1,200/year it adds up!

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 19, 2017, 4:40 pm

      You know it! Every little bit adds up!

  • Julie @Millennial Boss Apr 19, 2017, 12:25 am

    The 20 spot was such a big deal growing up. You’re totally right that we take it for granted as adults. I wish I could get pizza for just $20 though. A large pizza can be $25 with tip!

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 19, 2017, 4:39 pm

      OMG…A $25 pizza??? I guess you are right. I usually go to cheap places so I’m not used to those kinds of rates, but I know they exist. That thing better come with some champagne for that price 😉

  • Miss Balance Apr 18, 2017, 10:14 pm

    $20 pays for my phone bill every month, or can stretch out to pay for lunch for a week if I’m smart about it so it means a lot to me. As my pay rate has gone up I’ve always tried to live as if I were being paid $20/hr and investing the rest. It helps to know if I ever had to take a lower paying job I could easily survive. We should appreciate all denominations – try paying for anything and being just $1 short!

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 19, 2017, 4:38 pm

      We, too, strive to live way below our means. I guess that’s why $20 is still a big deal to us 🙂 Sounds like you and I are in the same boat on this one!

  • Mrs. Farmhouse Finance Apr 18, 2017, 6:45 pm

    Great post! Watch those twenties and the hundreds (or thousands!) will take care of themselves. 🙂

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 18, 2017, 7:02 pm

      You said it!

  • Wall Street Physician Apr 18, 2017, 11:22 am

    Given that the ATM spits out $20s only, I still appreciate Mr. Jackson’s faces in my wallet.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 18, 2017, 4:29 pm

      Heck yeah!

  • Erin Apr 18, 2017, 9:27 am

    I absolutely think that credit cards make it incredibly easy to forget how much $20. After all, when you’re not physically touching it, in theory $1, $20, $100 are all just paper, right? I do use credit cards for everything for a couple of reasons, but I need to stop and think about how much a transaction would really be if I were handing over cash.

    I’m working on recognizing the power of even $5. Over the last month or so I’ve tried to log into my Vanguard account and deposit $5 (and much more on paydays). It’s not $20 because I can’t afford that each day, but it’s still nice to see how even $5 slowly but surely adds up!

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 18, 2017, 9:29 am

      Yes, this applies to any amount of cash. I told my daughter last night the power of a single dollar bill. She’s 7 and stated that $1 isn’t a lot of money. I told her that’s fine…then hand over one of your dollars so I can buy you some soap for your bath tub. Ahhh…suddenly $1 was a lot of money! Small amounts add up in a big way over the course of time. Nice work getting those $5 bills working for your financial future!

    • Erin Apr 18, 2017, 9:30 am

      Oy, the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.
      *make it easy to forget how much $20 is and *deposit $5 every day

      • Mad Money Monster Apr 18, 2017, 4:29 pm

        haha…caffeine is so very important 😉

  • Jackie Apr 18, 2017, 8:44 am

    Back then a $20 bill was a lot and was appreciated. Nowadays, it seems it’s all about $50 bills and $100 bills only in a give me, give me kind of world. I still think a $20 bill is a lot of money, especially if you have no money.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 18, 2017, 8:46 am

      I still love the 20 spot! I get excited to feel a crisp bill in my hands and often debate what I’ll use it for. Usually, it’s investing. Yes, I invest as little as 20 dollars into my Vanguard account. And, I still get a rush!

  • Claudia @ Two Cup House Mar 20, 2017, 10:02 pm

    I blame credit cards. We just switched to cash for our discretionary budget and it’s been a game-changer…not idea why. We’re both trying to stretch every dollar, so $20 is HUGE to use today!

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 21, 2017, 8:04 am

      That’s a great explanation. No one needs actual cash these days. It’s all electronic.

    • Mark Apr 21, 2017, 6:20 pm

      When I was trying to get my finances back on track I took my monthly discretionary budget in cash at the beginning of the month. Helped a great deal to re-discover the real value of money. Credit Cards definitely distort that reality. Once I got things settled and finally learned good budgeting habits, I did turn back to credit cards for the points but have paid off in full each month and still hit my budget.

  • Mrs. Groovy Mar 18, 2017, 10:19 am

    A crisp $20 bill still makes my fingertips tingle. But I have to admit that pizza looks pretty unbelievable! Paying off debt with $20 here and there adds up. And it’s certainly better than not paying off debt!

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 18, 2017, 4:31 pm

      I’ll tell you what, that pizza was delicious! I enjoyed that pizza on a day I spent in Philly a year ago – so worth it.

      A $20 bill is just wasted so easily these days. It’s a shame most people don’t realize how quickly “little” amounts here and there can actually build wealth.

  • Max Your Freedom Mar 17, 2017, 6:32 pm

    I’ll admit it…a $20 bill still gets my attention. Doesn’t go as far these days, but it’s still got versatility! You can add me to the dazzled list.

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 18, 2017, 4:28 pm

      Awesome! We’re a rare breed 😉

  • Jim @ Route To Retire Mar 17, 2017, 3:46 pm

    The question should really be “who DOESN’T remember Miami Vice?” Of course, I liked some other 80’s shows like Knight Rider better than Miami Vice… is that blasphemy? 🙂

    Great idea on using $20 here and there to make magic happen. It might not seem like much by itself, but each little bit can make a big dent over time.

    — Jim

  • Felicity (@FelicityFFF) Mar 17, 2017, 6:29 am

    $20 still dazzles me, granted not *quite* as much as when I was ten and visiting my grandparents.

    It didn’t always get dazzled, though. Once I got my first job out of college and was making way more than I’d ever made before, it felt like I was supposed to spend money on things like new cars and fancy clothes. I had the money, so I should look presentable, right? Well, turns out being professional looking is not a function of money spent! 😊

    • Mad Money Monster Mar 17, 2017, 7:07 am

      Yay for still being dazzled by the 20 dollar bill! We’re a rare breed in this modern world. There was a time (as I stated) that it lost its luster for me, too. Thankfully I got back on the right track 🙂

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