Erin Greenawald is a freelance writer, editor, and content maker; this is how she spent the CARES Act stimulus check during the coronavirus pandemic. She wanted to save money while also stimulating her local economy through supporting restaurants and artists. She commissioned a pot from a local artist, donated to a couple of funds supporting freelancers, and invested the rest. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
When I first heard the American government was sending money directly to citizens to help them get through the COVID-19 crisis, I just assumed I wouldn't be getting any, considering I've been relatively lucky during this time and am still making my standard income. So when I found out it would be going to everyone earning below a certain income, including me, I was faced with the fortunate challenge of figuring out the best thing to do with some bonus cash. I was initially tempted to just squirrel it away. As a freelance writer, my work is never guaranteed, and the idea of having some extra padding to cover basic expenses for a month was tempting. But I knew that's what the emergency fund I've painstakingly saved up is for. Plus, I also knew that just saving the money was kind of beside the point of a check that was sent to all of us to help stimulate the economy by spending it. And I did want to find a way to support people who could really use that inflow of cash. So, when the $1,023.25 hit my bank account, I decided to divvy it up and do a little bit of everything, putting about a third back into my local economy, giving a third to folks who need it more than I do, and putting a third toward my future in case the floor does drop out from under me. Here's exactly what my spending looked like:NOW READ: NYU's virtual reality grad celebration was creepy and barren — I walked around in an angry-looking avatar and almost no one showed up Commissioned a piece from a local artist — $187.69
My stimulus check happened to arrive on my birthday, so I wanted to use some of it for something fun — but in a more intentional way than just going on a shopping spree. I decided to commission a piece of pottery from a local artist I've loved for years, Liz Kelly, and reached out to see if she could make me a statement planter for my newfound houseplant obsession. While an expense like this would normally feel too hefty for something so frivolous, the extra inflow of money made it possible. Plus, I was excited to use some of this cash to support the livelihood of another female small business owner in a creative field, while getting something to spruce up my home while I'm stuck in it forever. Spent at local restaurants — $153.39
With the rest of the money I'd set aside to spend on the local economy, I decided to get on the bandwagon of supporting my favorite local restaurants by buying gift cards. As my partner pointed out to me, even if my income does slow down eventually, I'm going to have to eat. These gift cards give local restaurants I love cash flow now to stay in business, and give me money I can use on a "luxury necessity" down the line. Donated to mutual aid funds — $341.08
Inspired by people who were pledging their entire stimulus check to others, I knew I wanted to donate some of mine. I targeted mutual aid funds so the money would be distributed straight into the hands of the people who need it most right now and might not have received a check (e.g., because they're undocumented) or who need much more support to cover their needs for the duration of this pandemic. There are so many worthy funds out there, it was tough to choose, but I ended up splitting my donations between the Freelancer's Relief Fund to support others in my industry and the Au Collective Fund, which a friend of mine helped start to support those who were already in the financial margins before this crisis (like QTBIPOC folks). Invested the rest in my future — $341.08
Yes, I said investing. Even though the markets are scary right now and I'm avoiding looking at my account balances, I'm trying to remember that I'm young and my money can stand to go through some ups and downs. I use Ellevest, a robo-investing platform that handles managing a diversified investment portfolio for me, so I just set up an extra deposit for this month. If I didn't have an adequate emergency fund, this probably would have gone there, but instead it's going toward my future to hopefully help me weather any other storms that may come.