15 Things To Do With Your Economic Stimulus Check

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The government Stimulus checks started going out on April 28th. If you are expecting one you should start looking for it in May (here’s a post listing the dates).

So what are you going to do with the extra money? Here are a list of ideas for using your stimulus check:

  • Pay off credit cards – If you have any credit card debt the stimulus check will be a great way knock some of that out! Paying off the debt gives you an instant return in savings of whatever you would have paid in interest fees. Psychologically, you will help in getting the debt monkey off your back.
  • Contribute to a Roth IRA – You can take your money and put it into your Roth IRA. For 2008 the contribution limit is $5000.
  • Start an emergency fund – If you don’t already have some sort of emergency fund (three to six months expenses seems to be the conventional wisdom) then your stimulus check is a good way to start one. Even if you have one you can use the money to increase your fund. A great place to start one is with ING Direct (you can even get a $25 bonus by opening your account with $250).
  • Contribute to a 529 college savings plan – You can use the money to help save for your kid’s education by putting the money in a 529 plan. Not only do you help save for college but you might get a tax break as well depending on your home state’s plan.
  • Pre-pay your mortgage – Take the money and make additional payments to your mortgage. By making additional payments you will own your home faster and pay less in interest. Just make sure the payments go towards the loan principle and not next month’s payment (also check that your lender will accept pre-payments without fees or penalties).
  • Go on vacation – You may have been planning to do this anyway so here is a good way to fund the vacation. Go and do something that will be a great experience for the family that you will all remember.
  • Improve the house – If there’s something you’ve needed to improve on your home, such as a furnace, you can use your stimulus check to pay for it (or at least help). Other options could be new paint job, carpet, furniture, appliances, etc…
  • Car maintenance – Have you been putting off a car repair? Need new brakes? New tires? Your stimulus money can fund it. If your car is about to go kaput your stimulus check could help pay for a new car (or a good new used car).
  • Learn to invest – Do some research and take the money and start investing. Companies such as Sharebuilder and Zecco offer low-fee investing. You have to do your homework with this option but it might be just enough money to start investing but not so much that you will be crazy worrying if you lose it. If you invest through Sharebuilder you can buy partial shares of Berkshire Hathaway B class shares. I hear that Warren Buffett is pretty good at investing.
  • Pay off student loans – If you have high interest student loans then your stimulus check can be a great way to help pay your student loans off. Just like with credit cards paying off your high interest student loans give you the instant return in savings of what you would have paid in interest.
  • Have a nice evening out – Take your spouse out to a really great meal. Get babysitting and go to that great restaurant you wanted to try. Go see that new show that everyone’s talking about. Make an experience you will always remember.
  • Get physically fit – The stimulus check should be enough to pay for a year’s gym membership (or more than a year). Use the stimulus check as a catalyst to get in shape and make your life healthier. Not sure about a gym? Find a class such as yoga or martial arts to join. Not into that? Buy a new bike and go riding. Or get yourself some good running sneakers and running attire. Join your local running club and enter a few small races. You never know, you may one day run a marathon.
  • Go to school – Use your stimulus check to enroll in a college course or two. This can be toward a degree or just continuing education. Hey, you can take a personal finance course. Maybe learn a second language?
  • Do nothing – This is the easiest of them all. Put the money in your savings account and forget about it. You don’t have to spend it or find any particular purpose for it. It doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket. One day you might find a good use for it but for now it adds to your savings.

Personally, we’re closer to the Do Nothing suggestion. Our stimulus check will come via direct deposit right into our ING account. We have no specific plans for the money so it will be added into our savings. Our check may pay parts of many of the suggestions or for none of them. Either way it will earn interest until it finds a home somewhere else.

Do you have any other ideas for using the economic stimulus check?

photo by Argenberg
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Published or updated March 1, 2014.

Comments

  1. Great ideas! Thanks for the mention. :)

  2. Lots of great ideas here! Thanks for the link!

    Our credit card balance is low enough now that I think we’re going to pay off the credit card AND take a vacation! Yay!

  3. Good list of constructive ideas on ways to utilize economic stimulus check.

  4. Alicia says:

    Great list of ideas! Once you have your plan for using your tax rebate, you can head over to the eBillme Shopping Confessions Contest at http://www.shopandconfess.com. The current contest theme is tax rebate confessions and the company will be awarding $1000 and $500 to the best video or written confessions revealing how you plan to use, or save your rebate.

  5. We’re using our rebate to pay for my wife’s hospital bills. :( Otherwise we would have saved it.

    Oh well.

  6. @ Pete – I’m not a big fan of the stimulus checks but in your case I think it’s great. I hope your expenses aren’t too great and your wife recovers quickly.!

  7. two words: big brown (bet on him) at preakness

  8. Thanks for the thoughts. Personally, I’m also leaning toward the Do Nothing option.

  9. Good list, although I would personally prefer Roth or 529 or investing options over the do nothing option (which I assume implies a short term liquid account)

  10. @ Mike – There you go. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending it, you just don’t have to if you don’t want to.

    @ Arohan – Well the money won’t sit under a mattress. It will deposit into my ING account. My point here is that just cause we have money it doesn’t mean we have to do something with it. We’re going to go on with some extra money in our savings. If we have an expense then it will get paid. But we’re not looking for a way to see it spent. And just to let you know, we already have money going into our Roth and 529’s. If we find our savings pretty large toward the end of the year we’ll add to the accounts. Thanks for the comment!

  11. @ RC – How did you know?!? Haha

  12. I have a question, I just read on the internet that the stimulus checks are money that is gonna be owed on 2009 taxes! Is this true?!?!? I haven’t found a concrete answer so I’ve been trying to do a little research.

    • @ Frank – From what I recall this money did not have to be paid back directly. In the end we all pay it through cumulative taxes but there won’t be a particular tax expense to give this back.

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