Updated: Apr 15, 2020
A Guide to Spending Your Coronavirus Stimulus Check
Congress is in the process of rolling out a $2 trillion economic stimulus package to offset the damage to the US economy dealt by the coronavirus pandemic. In light of these uncertain times, it would seem that the best thing to do might be to spend a little and save the rest, right? But for the stimulus to take effect and help the people who need it most, consumers actually need to spend it all, and spend it where it will do the most good.
If you are one of the fortunate recipients of a large check who is not personally in financial distress, count your blessings, then give careful consideration to how you choose to spend it. I don’t have a PhD in Economics (fun fact: I minored in International Business) so I'm not an expert but I do know that buying more goods manufactured in China (as most of our goods are) may help large retailers in the short term, but not the American economy in the long term. We need to be strategic about where we are investing our dollars, and it needs to start much closer to home.
Some of the hardest workers, small business owners, have been hit the hardest due to social distancing. As more and more of us stay home and limit our contact with the outside world, albeit for the safety of everyone else, we have turned to online ordering and having good delivered to our doors. To combat this, we need to find ways to shop local and provide small businesses with the cash flow they need so desperately; the challenge lies in the fact that stores, restaurants and venues are still closed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Two Words: Take out. For restaurants specifically, ordering food to-go for take out or delivery is the BEST way to keep their doors open and help their employees put food on their own tables. Actually, don’t wait for your stimulus check; do it now!
Pay it Forward: An easy solution is to buy gift cards, not from the big national chains that have pockets deep enough to survive, but for the places you know are hurting right now. Many small businesses may not be set up to sell gift cards online, but I guarantee someone will take your money over the phone and it will serve as a huge vote of confidence to local shops and restaurants that you want them to be around when this is all over.
Treat Yourself: And don’t forget about personal services. Book your next hair appointment, manicure or massage for a month from now (let's be optimistic) and ask if you can pay in advance. Buy season tickets to concert series or upcoming performance. As an added bonus, you’ll have something to look forward to until you finally get a chance to go on a shopping spree or dine at your favorite bistro.
Born in the USA
Before you go and spend your stimulus check on that new big-screen TV or designer handbag, do some due diligence. Where is this product being manufactured? Before the pandemic, many of us didn’t give a second thought to this. In our consumer-driven society, we like our cheap goods and only the most socially and environmentally conscious of us are willing to pay more for the sake of responsible sourcing. But we have an opportunity to course-correct and start investing in our local and national economies, where our friends and neighbors work.
Think Before You Click
Before you click “checkout” when buying your favorite brands, see if you can make a better choice. And before you place another Amazon Prime order, see if the product is available at a store near you. Here are a few examples to get your wheels spinning (I benefit in no way from any of these suggestions, my motives are purely patriotic).
Questioning My Loyalty
I love Lululemon as much as the next active mom for their quality and design, but their headquarters is Canada and their manufacturing was moved to Bangladesh a few years ago. A better alternative would be Beyond Yoga. Their products are every bit as stylish and durable, but their products are made in the USA. Also, according to their website they are "female founded and run because empowered women empower women.” Suffice it to say, my loyalties are changing.
We own a betta fish. The aquarium had been growing brown algae and I had cleaned the tank and all the decorations but it kept growing back so today I decided to throw everything in the tank away and start fresh. I went on Amazon to order a new filter and supplies but the delivery date was a month away. So I went to Petsmart.com instead and was able to order online and choose curbside delivery to pick up at my local store, a better choice. The best choice would have been to buy from my locally-owned pet store, where I'm sure there is an expert who could help me solve my algae problem, but that would have required getting out of my car so... I'll resolve to do better next time.
Brands Made in America
This is a short list for reference and is by no means all-inclusive. I’ve linked to the page where the company claims that their products (or specific products) are made in the U.S.
L.L. Bean (headquartered in Maine, with a section of their website devoted to products proudly made in the USA)
Hanky Panky lingerie
Loggerhead Apparel (10% of sales go to protect the endangered Loggerhead turtle)
New Balance shoes
Polarmax performance wear
For the Home
Kitchenaid (stand mixers only)
Benjamin Moore paints
Red Land Cotton linens and textiles ←(my sweet home, Alabama)
Crate & Barrel (not all products, but a section of the website lists products made in the USA)
Calphalon (Unison line only)
Room & Board furniture (90% of products manufactured in US by family-owned companies)
Nordic Ware kitchenware
American Eco Furniture (handcrafted, environmentally friendly)
Gear Up for Summer Fun
Go-Kot camping cots
L.L. Bean outdoor living
Wiggy’s sleeping bags
Green Toys - 100% recycled toys
Step2 kids toys and furniture (we have a play kitchen, an outdoor grill, a water table and a canopy wagon)
Beauty and Accessories
Merle Norman makeup
Beautycounter (majority of products are manufactured in the US and Italy)
Flea Bags (now made in both the United States and India, but are held to the same ethical standards and sustainability goals established by fleabags in 2009. Women owned).
Cars.com American-Made Index ← I found this article interesting because the brands that we think of as “Made in the USA” are not necessarily the ones that contribute the most to the US economy and jobs. The index uses a range of factors and ranks them from “most American” to “least American”.
Should you decide that it is the right time to buy a car and use your nice chunk of change for a down payment, you are not only supporting the economy, but allowing the salesperson to earn a commission.
Debt Free is the Way to Be, But...
I haven’t consulted Dave Ramsey on this, but while it would absolutely benefit you to pay off high-interest debt, that isn’t really the point. That money has already been spent and therefore would not go back into the economy, which is the intention. For that matter, neither would saving it. But as the saying goes, it’s your money...
A Time to Give
You may also consider that for your money to do the most good, you could give directly to those impacted by this pandemic.
“...we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” - Acts 20:35
Your gift could be given to someone you know personally, through your local church or by donating to a local charity. Eileen Heisman, CEO of National Philanthropic Trust, said there’s no one best charity to support. “Ask yourself, ‘What is most important to you? Where do you want your donation to have the most impact?’ Philanthropy is highly personal and there is no right answer.” See Charity Navigator's aggregated list of nonprofits responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
As for how much to give, many people choose to follow the 10/10/80 Method:
The 10/10/80 method teaches that people should give 10% of their income, save or invest another 10%, and spend the rest: 80%. It is often advertised as a universally-viable method of handling your finances. -Truthinfinancialplanning.com
As a former teacher and book blogger, I believe in the benefits of reading aloud so I'm so excited about what Jennifer Gardner and Amy Adams have created with Save with Stories, where celebrities and authors are reading children's books aloud to raise money for Save the Children and No Kid Hungry to feed children while schools are closed. Through these read-alouds, I've also enjoyed "previewing" some new books that I want to check out when the library reopens
How are you choosing to allocate your funds? What other ways can your stimulus money have an impact? What other brands are made in the USA? Leave a comment below.