As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and the economy continues to struggle, the government has once again authorized a round of stimulus checks. These will be $600 per person (with some income caps). This means some households will get $1200, $1800, $2400 or even more; as the checks also are being sent for children that live in the household. Those stimulus checks should be hitting mailboxes soon, and now is the time to make your plans for the money.
If you are behind in your bills and struggling to pay the rent, it is clear what you should do with your stimulus check. Paying essential expenses should always come first, so use the extra money to make up the ground you have lost. But what if you do not need the money right away? How can you make the most of your stimulus payment and put it to work? Here are 14 ideas to get you started ranging from investing to paying for school and more.
What to do with your stimulus check
1. Pay down (or off) your debt with your stimulus check. If you owe money on credit cards and other high interest rate loans, paying off that debt is the single smartest thing you can do with your stimulus money. Paying off a credit card with an 18% interest rate means getting an instant 18% return on your government cash. Also pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first.
2. Start a college fund for the kids. If you have children, they will be getting $600 COVID stimulus checks of their own, but blowing the cash on candy and video games is probably not the best idea. Instead, use the money to start or add to a college fund; those expenses will be here before you know it. Or start an investment account for your child, as that $600, if given time to compound, can turn into a large sum of money.
3. Invest in yourself. Taking an online class or seeking an industry certification is a great way to use the money. This is even more important as the pandemic has and will change the way we work as well as the types of skills that employers require. The investment you make now could come back to you many times over in terms of higher income and future promotions. Whether you get a hot IT certification or take classes online, investing in your future employment prospects is always a smart thing to do.
4. Start a side hustle. This is similar to investing in yourself, but with the economy more unstable during this timeframe, and unemployment much higher, a smart thing to do is invest that stimulus check into a side gig job. Maybe buy a computer to start an online company, or invest into transportation for a ride share type job. Or try a work from home position. A side gig can help you stabilize your income during the COVID pandemic. Get a list of, and find side hustle jobs to start.
5. Weatherproof your home. Adding insulation and other weatherproofing to your home is another investment that can make sense using your COVID-19 stimulus check, and the savings will pay dividends over time. Taking small weatherization steps can help you save $100 to $200 per year on your energy costs; even something as simple as a programmable thermostat. You will see the savings every time you get a utility bill in the mail, and the sooner you start the home improvements the better off you will be.
6. Fund an IRA with your $600 check. You may not be able to max out your individual retirement arrangement (IRA) account, but you can put a chunk of your stimulus money to work. Investing in a traditional IRA can also lower your taxes, giving you more cash to work with when April 15 rolls around.
7. Open a health savings account. If you have a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), you might want to use your stimulus payment to open a health savings account. This can be another way to cut back on or save on future medical costs. You can use the money in your HSA to pay eligible medical expenses, or you can save the cash to pay future costs, including the cost of a Medicare supplement plan down the line.
8. Job Training. Now may be the time to go to a local job training center near you. The $600 stimulus check can help pay for any expense in doing so. Take advantage of all the free employment resources out there from workforce one centers, GED classes, computer coding workshops, and so much more.
9. Shop smartly with the $600 check. Stock up on household essentials or buy items in bulk. Hoarding toilet paper during the pandemic has become a trope, but it is also true that stocking up on basic household goods is a great way to save money and stress. Buying household supplies in bulk can be up to 20% cheaper. Now that you have some extra money in your checking account, look for sales and buy when those household essentials are on sale.
10. Beef up your emergency savings fund. If any event in recent memory has shows the importance of having savings, it has been the COVID 19 pandemic. Having emergency savings has never been more important, so take a look at your account and use your $600 stimulus check to add to it if necessary. You can even start a savings account, and start to invest, with as little as $1 to start the path to be a millionaire. It never hurts to have some extra money in your savings account, so put that money to work as soon as possible.
11. Enhance your technology. With the kids attending school at home and your family watching streaming movies, you might want to use the stimulus funds to beef up your technological capabilities. Investing in faster internet, a better computer or a bigger TV will make living, working and learning at home a lot easier and more pleasant.
12. Give back to the less fortunate. Poverty and food insecurity has increased, with almost 20% of Americans now food insecure. If your families finances are in good shape, spend some of your COVID stimulus check on the less fortunate. Even donate to Feeding America or other non-profits.
13. Treat yourself and your family. Saving, investing or using your stimulus money smartly is a smart thing to do, but that does not mean you cannot splurge a little. Now only do this if you are in great shape with every other financial aspect of your life. Now that the found money is in your account, you can use it to treat your loved ones to a fancy takeout meal or use it for an online shopping spree.
14. Move to a more affordable home. The pandemic has caused millions of Americans to fall into financial hardship. Millions are living on the edge; facing evictions, hunger; foreclosure; unemployment and not to mention hundreds of thousands have died and/or have been very sick. Maybe use your $600 COVID stimulus check to move into a more affordable home, city, or apartment. If you do this, make sure your new home will be more “sustainable” over the long term.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sent family finances into a tailspin, leaving many people struggling to make ends meet. Sadly it has hit the lowest income workers the hardest, including those in the service industry. In recognizing these difficulties, the government has issued yet another round of $600 stimulus checks, so why not use the 10 ideas listed above to make the most of that newfound largesse?