- I’m still making enough money to pay the bills, and I have a healthy emergency fund.
- After considering the privilege of being able to afford basic living costs and savings, I decided to donate my money.
- I’ll break up my stimulus check to offer support to specific communities in hopes of having a more direct impact.
This post was originally published in April 2020.
Coronavirus stimulus checks are already on their way, and many Americans are wondering what to do with theirs.
If you have an immediate and necessary expense you can’t afford, like rent or utilities, the answer is obvious: pay the bills. If you’re paying off credit card debt or don’t have any money saved in an emergency fund, the answer is still pretty easy: pay down your debt or stash it in a savings account.
But what if your bills are covered, your credit cards are paid off, and you have a healthy emergency fund? This is where I’m at, and while I first decided I would invest my stimulus check in the stock market while it’s down, I’ve since decided to donate it instead.
Why I decided not to save or invest my stimulus check
My first thought when I realized I’d be getting a stimulus check was that I should invest in the stock market.
While the market is volatile right now and could continue to drop, it’s still the case that stocks are currently priced far lower than usual.
This means that if you buy right now, odds are good that the value of your investment will increase significantly once the economy has recovered.
As long as you have a long time horizon on your investments — that is, you don’t need to access them for another five or 10 years — you’ve got time to ride out a recession.
I finally started saving for retirement last year, at age 30. I feel pretty behind when it comes to investing and saving for retirement, so I try to funnel any extra money I get toward retirement.
However, I realized that the decision I was faced with — whether to spend my stimulus check or invest it — was an extremely privileged one, especially given the current state of the world.
Unemployment has skyrocketed, and plenty of people are concerned about making ends meet right now. While I don’t have as much money saved for retirement as a lot of people my age, I still have enough income to pay my bills, and I have a year’s worth of expenses saved up in an emergency fund. I can afford to use my stimulus check to help others who are currently in a less fortunate position.
How I plan to use my stimulus check to support my community
Rather than donating to a massive organization, I decided that I would rather find ways to donate my stimulus check that directly impact smaller communities that I’m a part of. This includes not only the communities I live in, but other communities that are struggling right now: artists and creators, freelancers, and small business owners.
Donating to community relief funds
When it comes to supporting physical communities, a couple places I’ve lived have set up community relief funds that will go toward buying basic food and household items for families in need, so I’ll be donating a portion of my check to those.
Supporting members of mutual-aid networks
There are also mutual-aid networks popping up in communities all over the country, which are online groups of people who share resources, typically centered around a neighborhood or other type of community.
Anyone in the group can submit a request for support, and then those in the group who have the capacity to fulfill the request can do so. Not all of these requests are financial, but some are. I plan to spend a portion of my check fulfilling requests for support in these mutual-aid networks.
Supporting other freelancers and creators
As a freelancer and writer myself, I also want to send some support to creators and freelancers who are unable to work or out of work. I don’t want to hire them or attach any strings to this financial support, because I know that this can be a difficult time for some to create. Instead, I prefer to connect with creators and freelancers who are in need and send them some funds, no strings attached.
Supporting small businesses
Finally, I want to support small businesses. While I’ve been doing my best to order food and groceries from local businesses, I thought I could spend part of my stimulus check by offering to purchase things for friends and family who are unemployed and underemployed and then making those purchases from local businesses as well. This can include food and other material goods, as well as things to keep them entertained and motivated, like online courses, books, or tickets to virtual events.
I also want to focus on supporting Chinese-owned businesses when I can, as there have been reports that they’re suffering additional coronavirus-related losses due to xenophobia and racism. Whenever possible, I try to order from the Chinese-owned restaurants and supermarkets in my city’s Chinatown.
Hopefully, this will give you some ideas for how you can spend your stimulus check. If you’re in a place to do it, consider using some of your check to support your community.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.
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