Magic Money: 5 True Tales of Unexpected Windfalls

By Erika Morphy

NEW YORK (Learnvest)—Who doesn't want a little more magic in their lives? And the best kind of hocus-pocus is not a card trick, a rabbit pulled from a hat or a disappearing act ... it's magic money.

The cash could be the small inheritance from a distant relative that buys a nice dinner, a couple bucks you found in the dryer on laundry day, or just a lucky penny staring up at you when you need a good omen.

Whatever the source, we love it.

In fact, we tend to spend small windfalls differently than our everyday money. Harvard University researchers found that when shoppers received an unexpected $10 off at online grocers, they spent an average of $1.59 more than they would have otherwise without the discount. That's because of a behavioral finance quirk known as "mental accounting," which means we treat money differently depending on the source.

So if you get some magic money, use it wisely or at least understand when you're splurging.

RELATED: 6 Times We Tend to Overspend

We asked five people who have received a money surprise to tell us what it means to them and how they dealt with it.

Cash From the Past

Carlton Schofield, a 76-year-old artist, lives in the row house he grew up in Washington, D.C. He moved there to take care of his sick mother and stayed after she passed away. Schofield delights in occasionally finding some of his family's stashes of cash they left behind.

"My family, especially my mother, had the habit of hiding small sums of cash for a rainy day in odd places," he says. "So sometimes I find them, these little wads. I like to think of it as my relatives sending me a little something when I need it."

Recently, when cleaning out a jumbled closet of a seldom-used room in the house, he found a fifty dollar bill in the pocket of his mother's old coat. "I swear when I found it I could feel my mother smiling about it," he says.