Money

This 24-year old won free rent in NYC for a year—here's what she plans to do with the money

New York City-based Emma Sandler received a check for $12,924, the equivalent of a year’s worth of her rent
Courtesy of SpareRoom
New York City-based Emma Sandler received a check for $12,924, the equivalent of a year’s worth of her rent

New York City rental prices are notoriously high. On average, a one-bedroom will cost you $3,680 a month.

One lucky Manhattan resident won't have to worry about covering rent for the next 12 months. Emma Sandler, 24, won roommate matching site SpareRoom's annual LiveRentFree competition, which gives users the opportunity to win a year's worth of free rent if they tweet out what they would do with the extra money.

"I said that I would save and invest it," the winner tells CNBC Make It.

Sandler, who was selected at random from among 16,000 entries, received a check for $12,924, the equivalent of a year's worth of rent in her Washington Heights apartment.

"I realize it was a lottery system in which I won, but I feel very humbled by this and I really do feel like it has the capacity to change my life," she says. "I'm still continuously bewildered at the fact that I won."

As for what she'll do with the lump sum, Sandler is sticking to her original plan: "I did meet with a financial planner [last] Monday in regards to my saving and investing goals, but I have yet to formally invest in anything."

She's on the same page as the average American: When personal finance site GOBankingRates asked Americans what they would do if $10,000 fell into their lap, the most popular response was to put it in savings, followed by investing in a home.

A new survey by Bankrate.com found that the most popular answer for how to invest money was to buy real estate, even though investing in the stock market has proven to be the wisest way to maximize returns in the long run.

While "saving and investing is a priority for the majority of this money," Sandler also plans to treat herself to "a little something nice," though she hasn't yet decided what. She says that "there are certain things that I want, but thinking about something special is a different matter entirely."

Although Sandler is this year's big winner, SpareRoom also hosts smaller, more frequent LiveRentFree competitions that give users the opportunity to win one month's worth of free rent.

Don't miss: How to invest $100,000

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