Many citizens the world over are receiving stimulus checks, basic income, or other direct payments from their government. If you are, you may wonder what to do with it. The answer is going to depend on your circumstances, but here are some tips.
Cover Your Necessities
The main reason we are even getting these stimulus checks is to try to tide us over during this crisis. The most important thing to do is to make sure that you and your family have what you need in order to survive. If you are losing any income during this time, you should make sure that you can put food on the table. Focus on things like food, medication, and other things that you and your family need in order to get by and maintain your health and safety.
Pay Your Bills
If you know your necessities will be covered, you could use this money to pay your bills. However, it’s a good idea to try to keep as much cash on hand right now so that you don’t risk going into debt trying to cover necessities. A good step is to call your landlord, creditors, and other providers to ask about what coronavirus offerings they have. Many landlords, mortgage lenders, utility providers, and credit card companies are working with their customers to ease the financial burden. Make sure that you let them know that you have been personally impacted by COVID-19 when you call.
Once you’ve found out if you can delay paying your bills or forego penalties, identify which bills you must pay right now. Consider which things you really can’t live without right now, like your internet and cell phone. Prioritize bills based on necessity and whether or not the provider will let you delay or reduce payments.
Pad Your Savings
If you don’t have an emergency fund, or if you have one but it’s small, you should use as much of this money as possible to help fund your savings. If COVID-19 doesn’t show everyone why an emergency fund is so important, I don’t know what will. My husband and I are putting a large majority of our stimulus money into our emergency fund, because this crisis has made us feel less stable and secure than we felt even just a couple of months ago. Plus, my husband got laid off from his last job four months ago, so we don’t want to take any chances. Having cash on hand in case your income gets cut off or reduced is a good way to keep yourself afloat and avoid going into debt.
Pay Down Debt
If you have a consistent income right now, you know that your necessities will be covered, AND you have some cash in savings, using the stimulus money to pay down some debt might be a good idea. It’s not very often that an influx of cash will be coming in, so this could be an opportunity to get your debt balances down or paid off. That way, you won’t have to worry as much about those payments moving forward. Only do this if you know that you have every other important thing covered.
Invest In Your Community
If you still have your job and feel confident that you can cover your expenses and other priorities, consider investing in your community. Many of us are not in the position to do this, so don’t feel guilty if you need to keep the whole stimulus check for yourself. But if you are lucky enough to have your needs covered, you can give back to your community by buying from local businesses (restaurants, book stores, artists, small grocery stores), and donating to local organizations (food pantries, soup kitchens, nonprofits helping those in need).
As always, put your own oxygen mask on first, literally and metaphorically. Take care of your needs first. Pay for your necessities, pay your bills, build up your savings, and pay off debt. Once you’ve been able to do that, then you can give to others.
In 2018, Maggie received the Woman Empowerment Entrepreneur Award from the DC Women’s Business Center, and was a finalist for the Entrepreneurship for Good award from the Women’s Information Network. In 2019, Maggie received the Excellence in Finance award at the Perfect Entrepreneur Awards.Maggie Germano is a feminist and financial coach for women. She helps women improve their relationship with money so they can take control of their financial future. She does this through one-on-one financial coaching, workshops, writing on her blog and Forbes column, and speaking engagements. She also founded Money Circle, which is a safe space for women to talk about money without feeling judged, and has recently become a podcast of the same name. Passionate about helping women earn more and closing the wage gap, Maggie was also trained as a salary negotiation facilitator by AAUW.