Stimulus Checks & Bounce House Daydreams

Stimulus Check DaydreamsThis 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.

RELATED POST: 6 Ways We Are Helping During the COVID-19 Pandemic That Cost $0

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.

RELATED POST: Finding Contentment in Well Enough

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.

Booze

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.

Preschool gifts

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.

Books

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?

12 Comments

  1. I’ve been struggling with my thoughts around this. I lost my “safe government job” during the last recession, and if this expected recession hits the construction industry as hard as I suspect it might, I could wind up back on the chopping block. But I’m in a much better position financially than in 2009, and trying to remind myself that I learned a lot since then and have built myself a financial fortress to protect against another job loss.
    So I’m no longer traveling, but I’m spending that $$ towards local restaurant takeout and delivery. I’m still driving to work, but gas is cheaper by 30%? so I’m making more $$ donations to charities I care about. And I just pre-paid my HOA fees through the end of the year, since I have some neighbors who are furloughed. The association bills won’t stop just because my neighbors can’t pay right now.

    • That’s the rub, isn’t it? I feel this, too. No matter how “secure” my job is, I will always feel like I could have the rug pulled out from under me. But I’m trying to remind myself that I have my salary now that I can save. Since I’m in a position to use the stimulus money to “stimulate the economy,” I’m going to try!

  2. Hi Penny!

    Yes to all of this!! I’ve been having memories of September 11th when everyone felt it was our civic duty to get out, go to movie theaters and other public places, and buy stuff like new cars to support our economy and show that we could defeat the terrorist attacks with capitalism. I feel like as one of the few people with a job, I should be doing the same thing. But as a frugal person that tracks everything, it is killing me. I bought some LPs from a record store I love and is having some hard times this past weekend. And I’m thinking of *not tracking* the stimulus money as income and *not tracking* how it gets spent. Crazy talk. And I need to get Mrs. Gov to agree. But by not tracking it, it’d be easier for me to be generous with it and that’s what it’s for.

    • Yes! I am not tracking it either. I suppose a better clarification would be to say that I am going to track is separately (because, of course, I’ll write about what I ACTUALLY do with the money!). Keep me posted!

  3. Haley

    My 8YO learned how to ride without training wheels a few weeks ago after years of me trying to encourage her to do it. I’m dreaming of 3 brand new bikes for our family, a bike rack installed and all the gear. I feel like our locally owned bike shop would be happy to see us coming! I also see a donation to our local humane society and community center, we’ve been giving but would love to be more generous.

    • I was at Target last week, and I saw a dad buying a “big girl bike”…and I was SO excited for them. I bet your local bike shop would be THRILLED. Be well, Haley!

  4. Can we crash your bounce house party? I’m only joking a little teeny, tiny bit. 🙂

    This post is beautiful in many ways. We’re not spending much on ourselves during this time, but I’ve gone a bit overboard with gifting from the local economy during this time. (YOU get a gift card to this local restaurant–and YOU get a gift card to this local bookstore–and YOU get… You get the idea.) But, like you, what I miss the most is gatherings of all the people I love. I will be including monthly hosting in our budget after this has passed.

    • UM, YES! Nothing would make me happier!

      I do miss having people over and going places so much. This has given me a small taste of what it’s like for people who don’t have the chance to see family often, and I do not like it! Hooray for monthly hosting. That’s a great budget idea!

  5. You know what? This is going to be the best year ever to spend money. Looking for a new car? Lowest price ever. New appliances? New wardrobe? Or just about any other retail good — you’re going to find deals better than Black Friday when retailers try to move goods. So, I say, take that stimulus check and proudly get the best deals you’ve ever seen.

  6. There are a couple things I personally want but I wouldn’t bother with them now. That check would be split the way my money currently is: between a friend’s car repair which they need to work and to help someone to escape an abusive situation. If there was anything left, it would go to food banks and restaurants if they’re still doing deliveries.

  7. Living in Canada, I won’t be getting any kind of stimulus cheque (at least, not right now) in response to this. But I think if I did, I’d like treat it a lot like I would treat any other sort of unexpected cash — a little spending, a little saving and a little giving. On the spending end, I think I would likely end up getting a couple books, maybe some planner stickers from some of my favourite Canadian shops and maybe ordering some local takeout. I’ve been saving some of my spending money…not sure what for right now, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something. And on the giving front, I’ve been trying to do a mix of local and national/international options over the last little while. It’s not much but it’s nice to feel like you’re doing something, you know?

  8. With that stimulus check, I’m planning to do a few things with it: put some in both of our boys’ 529 account and spend it on the small businesses in our area especially the restaurants/cafes that are hit hard right now in this shutdown. They need all the help they can get. We’re doing that now by either takeout or delivery but that extra stimulus money will be dedicated toward them.

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