Whether it’s $5 from a lottery scratch-off or a couple thousand dollars from a tax refund, unexpected money is usually a welcome event for people on any budget.

While that cash can sometimes be a lifeline to those who need to cover immediate bills and expenses, often it’s a nice little boost that you may be tempted to use without caution or planning. 

Of course, the size of the cash windfall and your own financial situation may completely change how you decide to spend it. But in any case, having the right mindset around extra cash can help you avoid squandering the opportunity when it arises.

Sometimes you know a windfall is coming, like if you’re expecting a decent tax refund. But other times, like a winning lottery ticket, it’s a pleasant surprise.

In any case, here are three steps you can take to prepare for a cash windfall.

1. Write down your financial goals

It’s always a good idea to set financial goals for yourself, from the long-term, like retirement, to the short-term, like getting out of credit card debt. And writing them down adds a layer of accountability that can help you stay on track. 

“If you get a windfall of $500 or $5,000, whatever the amount is, and you’ve never thought about your goals, it’s very easy to use it for something that’s very short-term,” Kamila Elliott, a certified financial planner and member of CNBC’s Advisor Council, tells CNBC Make It.

The windfall might not be enough to achieve your biggest financial goals, but no amount is too small to put toward your progress, Elliott says. Even when her clients are doing relatively well money-wise, Elliott challenges them to dream bigger.

“I ask, ‘Do you see yourself continuing to work hard for the next 20 or 30 years?’ and a lot of them say, ‘No, I want to retire early.’ Or, ‘I’m doing this to make money and then at some point, I want to do what…

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