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The discussions among lawmakers continue as to what the next economic stimulus package should look like. Although how consumers will receive aid has yet to be determined, some lawmakers say that another round of stimulus checks can be a boon to Americans’ economic recovery.
If this does happen, and a large percentage of the U.S. is once again eligible to receive this benefit, here’s 50 great ideas for how to spend a second stimulus check.
- Pay your bills. An April 2020 survey by YouGov for Forbes Advisor revealed that 35% of Americans planned to use their stimulus checks from the first round to pay their bills. If the amount in the next check isn’t enough to cover your most pressing needs in the short-term, reach out to your landlord, mortgage company and/or utility companies to work out a possible pause or delay of your payments.
- Start an emergency fund. There’s never a bad day to build up a stash of savings. Aim for at least three to six months of living expenses in an emergency fund to help tide you over in case of any unexpected expenses.
- Pay down your mortgage principal. Every little bit you put toward the principal part of your loan can help reduce the amount of interest you pay over time and may even help you pay off your loan early.
- Save for retirement. No one ever says they wish they had less money in retirement. Because the stimulus money likely won’t be taxed, putting it in a Roth IRA makes it triple tax-free: you’ve never paid taxes on it, it grows tax-free and you can withdraw it tax-free.
- Purchase school supplies. School is right around the corner. Whether your kids are going back online, in-person or some combination of the two, you could use your stimulus money to invest in school supplies or a laptop. If you can time it with your state’s tax-free days, even better.
- Tune-up your vehicle. If your car has been mostly sitting in the garage, it might need a refresh at the mechanic to operate at its best. Know that routine maintenance is not covered under a car repair insurance policy.
- Remodel a room. Tired of looking at the same four walls? Use part of your stimulus check to pay for painting supplies, a new can of paint and some fresh artwork.
- Feed others. Consider giving all or a portion of your windfall to a local or state food bank, or other charities. A site like Charity Navigator is a great resource for checking out your charity of choice to make sure it’s legit.
- Do some home improvement. You’re spending a lot more time at home, maybe you should make it feel like more of a haven. Replace an aging appliance, handle that repair you’ve been putting off or invest in an upgrade that makes you feel better about nesting at home. Bonus: upgrades to your home can make it more valuable if you decide to sell.
- Invest in exercise equipment. Buy a kayak, some weights, or anything that you know you will enjoy—and will help increase your level of activity.
- Subscribe to a box service. A fun way to break up the boredom, there’s a subscription box for nearly every type of interest. Think coffee-of-the-month, puzzle subscriptions or a selection of new outfits at your doorstep.
- Rethink your outdoor space. Chances are you’re spending more time outdoors than ever before. If you haven’t already, make your outdoors an extension of your indoors. Clearance sales on outdoor furniture and accessories are upon us. For those in colder climates, an outdoor space heater or firepit can make being outside more appealing when the weather turns brisk.
- Add to a college savings fund. Use the money to start or shore up an existing college savings plan, like a 529 plan or if your state offers it, a prepaid tuition plan.
- Make wishes come true. The Make-A-Wish Foundation helps fulfill the dreams of terminally ill children. Here’s what the non-profit can do with a portion of your stimulus check: For $50, your money can purchase a photo book that will preserve happy memories from a child’s wish;for $200, you can buy a sparkly saddle blanket and all the necessary unicorn accessories; for $500, you can provide a limo so a wish family can have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- Snag a travel deal. Now could be a great time to get a rock-bottom price on a future bucket list trip or just plan your holiday travel. Many getaways are offering fully refundable terms too.
- Soothe your soul. Consider adding some items into your life that can help you find peace in these uncertain times. A mindfulness app like Calm or Headspace or a yoga video subscription can help you find balance in your day.
- Stage a concert. Spice up at-home entertainment with equipment that takes it to the next level. Try a karaoke set to sing along with your favorites, a microphone to record the results and your cell phone camera to record it, all TikTok-style.
- Add to your mortgage escrow. It might not be as much fun as planning a future trip or treating yourself but making practical money moves feel a lot better than coming up short at property tax time. Give your future self a break by setting aside your stimulus funds to bolster your escrow account.
- Shop local. Don’t just go online to Amazon. Put on your mask and patronize your neighborhood businesses. Most retailers can use all the customers they can get right now and will probably welcome your in-person appearance.
- Give your wallet a gift. Set yourself up for a future treat by paying a bill in advance, like your Spotify or Netflix account or even put a credit on your utility bill. It’ll be a nice surprise later when you don’t have a balance due for that month.
- Support your favorite restaurant. Dining establishments, cafes and bars are among the hardest hit businesses affected by the COVID-19 economic fallout. You can help your favorite spot by buying gift cards for future meals or contributing to the restaurant’s GoFundMe if they have one established to help their employees.
- Invest in your future self. Use a portion of your stimulus check to improve your professional skills. Try an online training or certification class to learn a new skill or master one you’ve been working on.
- Improve someone’s time at home. Do a good deed for someone close to your heart who should be sheltering at home as much as possible due to their age or another high-risk factor. Ease the sting on their wallet by treating them to a grocery delivery service subscription or a streaming entertainment platform to help pass the time.
- Plan a splurge. It’s OK to do something nice for yourself. A June 19 to 24, 2020 survey by market research group Opinium found that 62% of Americans say they will want to treat themselves when life is back to “normal”and almost half expect to want “a little luxury” in their lives after lockdown. If keeping your eyes on some future post-COVID-19 prize helps keep you sane, then it’s a valuable option.
- Invest it. Maybe now is the time to teach yourself how to buy stocks. Or you just want to hand it over to a financial advisor who can help you decide the best strategy for the money.
- Donate PPE to a local school. Teachers and students may not be able to afford or source enough protective equipment to keep them safe.
- Build a home theater. Be honest with yourself, if the only self-improvement you’ve been able to muster is finishing most of the shows on your Netflix watch list, that’s OK too. If this sounds like you, it’s likely you’ll get guaranteed returns on investing in an upgraded viewing space. A giant TV, a comfy reclining couch or surround sound speakers can all elevate your couch potato time into something more refined.
- Buy discounted gift cards for travel. Even if you don’t have any future travel on the horizon, you can still save money now by buying discounted gift cards for use in the future. For example, Marriott is currently offering 15% off their gift cards through July 24th, which effectively gives you a 15% discount off a future stay. You can also look for discounted gift cards on gift card resellers.
- Plant some flowers. Anyone willing to roll up their sleeves can probably tackle some major yard improvements. But those flowers aren’t going to plant themselves. You can improve your immediate surroundings by visiting a local home improvement store or garden center and use your stimulus funds to get the tools and the foliage you need to spruce up your outdoor aesthetic.
- Invest in an underserved community. There are several platforms, like Kiva.org and Kickstarter that help raise funds for various entrepreneurial efforts. There are dozens of campaigns that are seeking support, and many rely on these sites as their primary source of funding.
- Open a savings account for your child. It’s never too early to learn good financial habits, and teaching your child how a savings account works and about banks, in general, is a great life lesson.
- Support your local bookseller/record store/thrift shop. Spending a few dollars at a place that may not be set up for online sales and might rely solely on foot traffic can help support your community and keep that business alive. Consider buying a gift card if you don’t see anything that catches your eye.
- Support the arts. Some regional and national theater companies are offering streamed performances for a fee. Broadway Direct has a list of some of the biggest acts and WatchStage, a streaming service, offers an array of programming from well-known productions to original series. Or make a donation to the ActorsFund, which supports out-of-work entertainers sidelined by the pandemic.
- Pay your estimated taxes. If you’re self-employed, send it to Uncle Sam toward your 2020 estimated taxes, which are so easy to underestimate or accidentally skip. It’s simple to pay your estimated taxes online.
- Plan a date night. You can wait for a time when dining out doesn’t feel like a gamble or you can bring the feast to your house. Treat it like a special occasion, take out the china and order an upscale feast you’d never cook for yourself. Bonus points if you take yourself to a movie on the couch afterward.
- Gift your hairstylist. You may not see them as much as you used to so consider purchasing a gift card from your hairstylist and then tuck it away, without redeeming, as a gift to them for the disruption in their business.
- Gift your facialist/nail technician/trainer, etc. If you’re someone who has a regular rotation of people that help you look and feel your best, know that your generosity and acknowledgment that business hasn’t been the same is sure to be appreciated.
- Tip extra. Since most restaurants are relying heavily on takeout and pick-up orders, it’s likely the waitstaff has seen a significant drop in tips, since people are accustomed to tipping for dining-in services only. The next time you order food to eat at home, make sure you tip if you haven’t been doing so already. And if you have, consider tipping a few dollars extra. A little kindness on your part can go a long way.
- Create thank-you packages. Buy stationery and write thank-you notes with inspirational messages to distribute to hospital workers who may be feeling overwhelmed by the pandemic.
- Gift your local first responders. You can call your local hospital, firehouse or police station and ask if you can deliver or have a meal sent to the staff.
- Meet with a financial planner. Use the money for the fee portion of meeting with a fiduciary financial planner, who will charge you flat fees for their services and aren’t allowed to collect commissions from products they sell you.
- Pay your insurance premiums. It might not be the most exciting use of your money, but some of your biggest insurance policies, like life, home and auto may offer you a significant discount if you pay it upfront.
- Buy a bike. Biking is one of the hottest trends in fitness right now, likely because it’s good for both cooped up families to take a leisurely spin together or anyone who misses the motivation of group classes at their gym. Sales of both indoor stationary and outdoor bikes skyrocketed 75% in the month of April. Jump on the trend and get pedaling.
- Sign up for a cooking class. We’ve all been spending more time in the kitchen than usual. Improve on your chef skills and sign up for online cooking classes to make your made-at-home meals even more appealing.
- Spruce up your workspace. With more people working from home than ever before it’s time to invest in your workplace workspace and make sure your computer is in tip-top shape and that you have a comfortable place to sit and take Zoom calls. Buy a new laptop, spring for a standing desk, whatever it takes to make you feel like you can be at your most productive.
- Stock up on your favorite libation. Whether it’s fine wine or a 24-pack of White Claw, it never hurts to have your favorite 5 o’clock drink on hand. Some of the best wines will appreciate in value over time. But if you’re the type who enjoys driveway or backyard social distancing with friends and family, treat everyone to drinks for the night.
- Sponsor or adopt a pet. Maybe you’re not ready to make a #CovidCommittment to a furry friend. You can still support the efforts of volunteers who rely on donations to care for lost and rescued animals until they find a forever home. The adoption fee for a new cat or dog is typically a few hundred dollars. Pay it forward and cover that fee for a stranger.
- Get an ice cream truck. Want to create massive amounts of goodwill and community bonding with your neighbors? Treat everyone to a visit from an ice cream truck and you’ll be the hero of the block. Just make sure everyone stays six feet apart.
- Donate to your school’s alumni fund. With many colleges and universities likely to see steep declines in enrollment due to a reduction in both international students and on-campus matriculation, it’s also likely that some scholarship or endowment funds could be affected. Help keep your beloved alma mater afloat with a donation.
- Help vulnerable populations. You can support refugees, people with disabilities, children and older people with donations to groups that provide direct assistance to those affected by COVID-19. Humanity and Inclusion is one such group, along with Doctors Without Borders, the American Red Cross and many more.
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First Published: Jul 27, 2020, 9:36am