This isn’t going to be one of those practical posts. I don’t actually know how you should spend your stimulus check. Without knowing your exact situation, it’s hard for me to say. Truthfully, I don’t actually know how I should spend my stimulus check.
But what I do know is that the idea of a stimulus check is powerful, and that’s what I want to explore in this post.
When the stimulus check idea was unfolded, it put a little bit of temporary pep in the stock market’s step, and it’s intended to rally the economy.
More than anything, though, the idea of a stimulus check makes me smile. I can’t help but remember the last time the government called on its people to spend. In an instant, my nana’s mild shoe addiction was suddenly a civic duty.
I will never forget the laugh on the phone line when my nana told me she had urgent plans to take a bus to Old Orchard Mall. “I have to stimulate the economy. It’s my job!”
Armed with that memory and the promise of a check of my own, I can’t help but daydream about bounce houses and so much more.
Hope is Not Canceled
Collectively, we are in a difficult situation. Individually, we are all struggling. Of course, some of us are facing much more significant challenges than others. But it’s not a competition.
You’re allowed to feel down. I’m allowed to feel down.
But we are also allowed to feel happy and hopeful.
For me, the notion of spending a stimulus check is a lot like planning a vacation. I’m not actually sure by the time I’ve returned home from my trip with a toddler in tow and a suitcase full of laundry that I’m markedly happier. (Truthfully, I often wish for a vacation after a vacation.) But the weeks and months of planning and leading up to a vacation? They’re lovely. They’re so lovely, that it’s scientifically recognized.
Planning to spend my stimulus check gives me bits of hope. It also lets me feel like I have some control, some means to help my community. It’s not a panacea by any means, and I have no idea how it will actually play out. But I find myself feeling hopeful when I think of it.
Putting Down the Frugality Badge
I know. This one is painful. Trust me, I get it. I actually *have* a frugality badge. Fine, fine. It’s not a badge. It’s a Plutus Award for Best Frugality blog. But the point stands.
So many people are struggling now. So many people were struggling prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and market tumble. But the millions of people who found themselves jobless in a blink is a really sobering thought.
As someone who lost her job twice in the last recession, I know will never forget that feeling. But somehow I let myself forget what a privilege it is to practice frugality by choice.
For me personally, the idea of being given a green light from the federal government to spend is exactly the practice I need. Since I can’t wait for that money to actually hit, we’re dedicated our normal spending money to supporting our local economy and we are continuing our regular charitable giving. If and when the stimulus check does clear, it’ll be an opportunity to have both those things play out on a grander scale.
Of course, my thoughts would be dramatically different if I lost my job. But by all indications, we will be paid through the end of the school year. We won’t spend frivolously, and we don’t intend to touch our emergency fund at all right now. Since these bases are covered, we are going to acknowledge that we have enough — and turn support to our community instead.
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Remember What You Want
I don’t have any definite plans, and I’m certainly not making any money moves until that stimulus check hits my bank account.
But I do know that this has really been an exercise in remembering exactly what I want.
A vacation would be nice. Another passport stamp would be fun. But what I want more than anything is the same thing that I’ve always wanted: To spend time with family and friends with a side of good food.
Every time I step through how I might spend some of my stimulus check money, I can’t help but think about my wedding or HP’s first birthday party.
Both cost far too much money to sit well with most people in the personal finance community.
But when it comes to expenses that I would shell out for over and over again, those two top the list. The reason is simple. It was a chance to pull together as many loved ones as I could in a single place and time.
I know there will be some charitable giving component to this stimulus check as well. Plus, we won’t touch HP’s money because that doesn’t feel quite like ours anyway.
But if I had to spitball some of the first purchases I’d make with my money on the spot right now, here’s what I’d say:
A catered open house party
I’d order trays of food from a handful of really good local eateries. It’s not just that I want to spread the wealth. It’s also that I want people who stop by to find something they enjoy. I would also make sure to tip really well. It’s a stimulus check designed to support the local economy, yes. But I also just believe in tipping well.
I’m not a big drinker even when my life is turned upside down. But some people are, so, yup, I’d stock the coolers from our local liquor store.
A bounce house
It was money well spent for HP’s first birthday, and it would be even more fun to rent one now that he will likely remember more of it. But let me be abundantly clear. Just like the first time, this is a rental. Clutter gods know we absolutely positively do not need a single additional thing in this house. If my party planning goes my way, I’ll also need to rent some tables and chairs. And maybe a tent because we having this shindig rain or shine.
In case you don’t follow me on Twitter and have missed some of the highlights of me being home with HP 24/7, you should know that he’s done impressive things like spilled an entire bucket of sidewalk paint and flung his potty across the room. No, it wasn’t empty either.
While we are generally having a joyful time being home with our toddler, it’s also been stressful. And it’s made me appreciate his preschool teachers even more. So yes, there will be teacher gifts.
Depending on when the check hits and how long the shelter-in-place order lasts for our state, I would love to send some books to some of my students. In fact, I’m already doing this. It would just be fun to have more funds to do it with!
A handful of my students have limited wifi access or live in unincorporated areas. That means that free e-books from public libraries isn’t the solution some people think it is. (I grew up in an unincorporated area, and it would have cost my mom $600 for a library card *per* year. It’s higher now.) Plus, I’m old school and love paper books. I’m also a really intuitive teacher and know that having a book arrive at your house really cuts back on your excuses for why you’re not reading. So maybe I’m just mean.
Being able to buy another handful of books from a local bookstore and ship them along would be such fun. For me anyway. Some of my students would probably equate this with receiving socks for Christmas!
How Would You Spend Your Stimulus Check?
There’s a time and a place to be practical. But I also think there’s value in letting yourself dream a little bit. Since word started to spread of the stimulus check, I’ve caught myself daydreaming a lot more than I usually do. And maybe that’s part of the beauty of it.
So Tell Me…If your basic needs were met (food, housing, emergency fund). how would you spent an unexpected $1000? Or $500? Or $100?