Word on the federal stimulus checks — aka “stimmy” — is spreading much faster than, say, the CDC facemask recommendation. Seems like everybody’s getting their $1,200, and many others will be getting their $600 federal unemployment boost starting this week. So everybody’s gonna be pretty flush for the rest of the month. But unless you’re buying gas, which is as cheap today as it was before 9/11, $1,200 ain’t what it used to be. So we’ve got some suggestions as to what to do with your stimmy.
1. Pay rent/mortgage
If you’ve hit on rough times in the last four weeks like almost everybody else, you might be backed up on your rent or mortgage. The consequences of not paying a mortgage, even in a pandemic, are clear. Rent becomes a bit trickier, as evictions have been halted and I have seen some whisperings about rent strikes. While an argument can be made that a rent strike takes a ground-level economic catastrophe and pushes the problem upwards, we cannot advocate not paying rent, especially after everyone got some government cash. It’s smart to catch up on rent payments, and if you’re square, consider paying a month ahead. The moratorium on evictions will be one of the first to go, I predict.
2. Technology upgrade
Got a slow computer, an outdated phone or a television that’s not “smart” or maybe even stupid? It’s time to invest in the technology you use every day, and increasingly rely on. It’s not wasting money to boost your internet signal, especially if you’re working at home but even if you’re playing online video games. And if your phone or laptop doesn’t integrate with the prevalent tech — faster processing, higher-resolution screens, new operating systems — it’s practically useless. Then, consider donating your old phone or laptop to a kid who needs it.
3. Pay off debt
It’s smart to take a portion of windfall cash — not all of it! Goodness, no! — and knock out a recurring monthly charge. How many car payments have you got left? It might make sense to pay it off. Likewise, do the math if you’re paying off credit-card debt, a financed phone, a small loan or anything else you’ve got drawing on your account every month.
4. Car repair
If you’re working — or even if you’re not — now might be the time to finally pick up those new tires with an alignment, have your brake pads changed or get that check-engine light sorted out. True, bus lines are free in Greensboro and Winston-Salem right now. But if you rely on your car for work, shopping or short, nighttime drives to alleviate the insanity, make sure it’s in working condition.
Food is definitely the sort of thing for which these monies are intended. If you haven’t been to the grocery store in a while, reload the larder. Bonus points if you can score some flour, yeast or toilet paper. Or spend some on restaurant take-out at all the places you used to love to go. They could use your support.
6. Your art
Whether you’re working or not, you’ve still got more downtime on your hands that could best be spent nurturing your creative side. Art supplies like brushes and chalks, music gear like a fresh instrument or amp upgrade, kitchen equipment, sewing materials, design or editing software, spray paint, and leatherworking tools are all legitimate creative expenses. We all need to express ourselves, and now we’ve got the time necessary to get better. And it helps to keep from getting stir-crazy.
7. Someone else’s art
This includes books, fine art and crafts, locally brewed beer, music, on-screen media like TV shows and video games, screen-print T-shirts, livestream-performance tips and other pleasant diversions that bear a cost.
8. Subscribe to a newspaper
You need accurate information, and not every outlet is interested in giving it to you. I pay for three newspaper subscriptions to keep myself informed, and am considering adding another. Now more than ever, our lives depend on the dissemination of accurate information. And the people who gather it must be paid.
Most businesses, nonprofits and other entities are hurting from the economic wallop dealt by the coronavirus. There are far too many to list individually: charities, theaters and other arts organizations, funds for service-industry workers, funds for medical equipment, laptops for students, food for families, funds for undocumented workers who won’t get stimulus checks, shelter for homeless… there is a lot of need in our community. You might also consider donating to Triad City Beat, which you can do here.