Your Stimulus Money Is Coming—Here’s What You Should Do with It
The world has been brought to its knees by the coronavirus pandemic—in sickness, in fear, in prayer, and in economic strife.
My personal first and greatest concern is for the health of my family members and myself. We have a number of high risks between us, plus small children. We are operating in what I describe as an abundance of prayer and an abundance of caution. Our hearts and prayers go out to the people who are sick, their families, and the healthcare workers and other workers who are doing their best to take care of the world while we navigate this storm.
Our hearts are also with those who are out of work because the world is shut down. Not getting a paycheck is no small fear. Most tax-paying Americans will be receiving a stimulus check, some as early as this week. This won’t solve everything, but it will ideally provide some needed relief. Click on this calculator from the Washington Post to see what you may be eligible to receive.
Now, has anyone else seen Frozen II (and Frozen, for that matter) around 4,000 times or so? May I quote Olaf after Arendelle has just been struck by the four spirits and the entire kingdom has evacuated? Olaf and children from the village are found playing dress-up with ice crystals when he makes this funny but meaningful remark:
We’re calling this ‘controlling what you can when things feel out of control.’ —Olaf
Okay, so what can we control? Not much in the way of the virus. It and the world are in God’s hands. But we have a little control in the way we handle this money.
I’d like to break this down categorically because not everyone is in the same situation. But first, a note to everyone:
April 2020 is a great month to update your budget.
If you don’t have a budget, it’s the perfect time to start one. Last week I reviewed our existing budget and made some changes according to our current situation. My husband and I are both currently at home and are currently getting paid—a situation we are incredibly grateful for. Our childcare costs have been slashed, as we’re only paying a fraction to keep our youngest’s spot in preschool. Our eating out money is moot, and our fuel budget is looking great because we’re not going anywhere. My husband does a grocery pick up once or twice a week, depending on when we can find an open spot. I left my fuel category but made a mental note to dump most if it into savings—I kept enough money to fill up each vehicle if needed. I zeroed out my eating out budget and moved the money to groceries, as we have been spending extra groceries and household supplies. I took the extra childcare and increased my savings category.
How has your budget and situation changed? And what should you do with your stimulus money?
1. Are you currently unemployed?
I adhere to the Dave Ramsey method of money management. And by adhere, I mean, that’s what I believe is correct. (Admittedly, I have not always followed the plan exactly.) That said, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard him talk about the importance of first taking care of your own four walls:
If you are currently out of work because of the pandemic, our hearts and prayers are with you. And our best advice to you is this—be very, very wise and frugal with your stimulus check. Are you behind on rent or your mortgage? Get that caught up and try to set some aside for next month. Food and utility bills are also a priority. We’ll be providing some articles on filling, budget-friendly meals, but I’ll offer some suggestions here: peanut butter, bread, bananas, eggs, ground chicken, rice, oats, and frozen veggies. These items are relatively affordable, nourishing, and filling.
Budget what you need to live and save as much as you possibly can.
If you have lost your job but have a three-to-six-month emergency fund, pile that baby straight into your emergency fund.
2. Are you fearful of impending job loss?
It’s hard to say what will happen will happen with a recession looming. Jobs that seemed perfectly safe last month might be in jeopardy in six months. If you haven’t heard of the baby steps, now is a great time to get on the train.
The storm is here. Save. Save. Save. Pile. Pile. Pile.
Save as much money as you can. Be frugal. Be wise. If it makes sense for you to safely take on extra work, seriously consider taking on extra work. If you have a skill set that allows you to take on projects from home working remotely, by all means, see what else you can do. Or if you have kids at home full-time now and you’re married, see if one of you can take on extra work. Or take turns trying to get extra work.
3. Are you employed, debt-free, and in possession of six months worth of expenses in liquid assets? Or even better, completely debt-free, no mortgage or anything?
I’d love to ask Dave if people should still be piling even if in possession of six months of expenses. Note that I’m a risk-averse sort of gal. My tendency is to pile, and here’s why:
If, Lord-willing when, the storm passes, I can take some of the extra money and chunk it into college funds or Roth IRAs. Or make a purchase or do a project. But if I need it, it’s there. That said, you might not need to save all of your stimulus check. Here are a few ideas and some notes, but they basically break down to the three things anyone can ever do with money:
We’ve already talked about saving, and this would be my first recommendation. Here’s another thought regarding saving if you have children, consider putting the $500 attributed to minors into their college funds.
My second idea for those who are in relatively stable situations is to seriously consider giving a portion of their check. So many people are being devastated by the pandemic. How can you help?
- If you have a friend or family member you know is unable to work but would use the money wisely, consider a financial gift.
- Is your local church helping? Increase your tithe.
- Is there a way your local church, food pantry, or local government can safely distribute food to those in need? A monetary donation to a local restaurant coordinated with one of the aforementioned groups could help two groups at once.
- Find more ideas here.
And finally, spending. For those who are able, wise spending can help the economy. I’m so grateful for Amazon, Target, and Walmart who are either dropping stuff at my door or dropping it in the back of our van so my family and I can shelter in place. I’m also mindful of all the other companies we want to stay in business, and I think some responsible purchasing by people who can is just fine. Whether it’s a favorite big store or a local shop, can you spend online and get delivery? Can you stay safe, help someone out, and enrich your home or family in some way?
Plus, there are a lot of sales going on, folks. The weather is getting nicer. I’ve seen some deals on outdoor furniture. Would you like a few things to create a cozy spot for you and your family to eat meals or play games on the patio? A swing for the porch? Or is there a small project you can do together indoors? Another idea would be to plant a small garden together. Some home stores might be available for pick-up or delivery, and a veggie garden is incredibly practical right now. Whatever you spend it on, budget for it and make it meaningful.
If I may take this back to Frozen II, let’s quote our favorite little rock troll, Pabbie:
When one can see no future, all one can do is the next right thing. —Pabbie
We’re not sure what the future holds, but let’s all take it one step at a time. Please stay safe, take care of each other, and do the next right thing.