Story highlights

Three roommates bought a couch at the Salvation Army for $20

It seemed lumpy, so one of them unzipped a cushion to check out what was inside

$41,000! $41,000! $41,000!

'If we spent the money, we wouldn't feel good about it,' one roomie says

CNN  — 

Many of us find money in our couch. A few quarters here and a few dimes there. If we’re lucky, maybe enough to buy a drink.

Imagine finding enough to buy a small coffee stand.

Three New York roommates, investigating the cause of their thrift-store couch’s lumpiness, discovered $41,000 hidden in envelopes tucked in the old sofa.

Lara Russo said she and roommate Reese Werkhoven were sitting on the couch, watching a Harry Potter movie, when he unzipped one of the cushions to see what was making it uncomfortable and found a small package.

“It was just in a bubble-wrap container,” Werkhoven told “Erin Burnett OutFront.” “We were like, ‘Oh, my God. This might be drugs, it might be money; we’re getting scared about it.”

It was money, a stack of $100 bills an inch and a half high. The two started “freaking out” and went into a bedroom to show Cally Guasti. Her first impulse was to lock the doors in case it was drug money and the owner wanted it back.

The roommates found more envelopes in the couch, which they had bought at the Salvation Army for $20. One of the envelopes had a name on it.

Like many a wise man, Werkhoven turned to his mother for advice. She investigated the name and texted her son a phone number to call.

He said he hung up the first time when an older woman answered.

He called back, according to CNN affiliate WCBS, and told the woman he had “found something that I think is yours.”

What is it? she asked.

A couch.

“Oh my God, I left a lot of money in that couch,” the woman told Werkhoven.

The woman told the roommates that family members had mistakenly donated the couch, where she had been stashing the loot.

“This was her life savings, and she actually said something really beautiful like, ‘This is my husband looking down on me, and this was supposed to happen,’” Guasti told WCBS.

Russo said at first they played around with the idea of what to do with the money, but the thought of buying new stuff gave way to doing the right thing.

“I think all of us were under the understanding that even if we spent it, we wouldn’t feel good about it,” she told CNN. “We would have felt we took something that was not ours. It didn’t make sense – it was her money, she deserved it.”

According to WCBS, the woman, who wants to remain anonymous, gave the roommates a reward of $1,000.

They didn’t rush out and get a new couch. After all, this one might smell, but it is pretty lucky.