Stimulating thoughts about that $600

Squeezed May 15, 2008

Now that tax season is over, now comes the fun part. Getting that economic stimulus payment. Or is it really fun at all? 

Unfortunately, it appears that retailers may not see the benefit of the $600 checks, as many people are opting either to pay off debt or put it into savings. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But it points to a weakness of giving out tax rebates. Usually it’s done with the intent to stimulate spending, but once that check is cut, it really is up to that person on what to spend it on, or whether to spend it at all.  That so many people are choosing not to spend it speaks volumes.

One place that’s interesting reading (via Lifehacker) is How I Spent My Stimulus, where people tell their stories of how they spent their $600 or equivalent.  From the category count, people used their money for travel the most, followed by paying down credit card debt, electronics, home improvement, and savings and investment.

Of course, the thing that I find interesting for those that choose travel is that a lot of them used the money for foreign trips, thus stimulating another country’s economy.

Some of the stories:

  • “I had big plans for my stimulus, which included taking a trip that would put the first stamp in my passport. However, I got laid off the day after I received my payment and then my puppy got violently ill. My stimulus didn’t even cover her ER visit. Thanks for helping my puppy get better.”
  • “Put $1000 towards paying off a week long hospitalization for pulmonary embolism than happend 5 years ago. $4000 left to go!”
  • “I bought a make controller kit. I want to build a device to open the window to let the cat in our out, saving me approx. 20 hours a week of window opening.”

As for me?  I pay my credit card off each month, always at the last possible moment for maximum float, and I’ve been able to put a good amount of my everyday money in savings and still live comfortably. So, rightly or wrongly, I treat my tax refunds like mad money. Part of this year’s federal tax refund funded a new DSLR.

And my current plans for my stimulus check, due around the 4th of July, is to use it to for a trip. Over the past couple of years I’ve been taking trips to Oregon in late August in order to participate in the Hood to Coast Relay. Normally I take one week, and the big expense is the airfare. I stay with a team member, usually in private housing, and we usually have use of a car, so it’s pretty inexpensive.  This year I decided to stay an extra week through Labor Day, take out a hotel room, rent a car, and see the Oregon countryside.

I probably would have done it anyway, stimulus or no. But it feels good not to have to go into debt to do it.

How do you plan to use your stimulus check?

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