The Moneyist: I received $500 from an auto insurer for minor damage to my car — can I spend it on something else?

Dear Moneyist,

Here’s an ethical question that arose at our family Thanksgiving gathering: My parked car received relatively minor damage from a motorist who filed with her insurance company. They issued me a check for $500. I can live with the slight cosmetic damage to this already old car.

Can I spend the money as I please, or am I obliged to fix the car? It seems to me to be my money to spend at my discretion, though I could afford to spend it to fix the car, if that matters. I’d rather keep the dough and let the car, now eight years old but totally serviceable, finish out its life as is.

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