We woke up this morning $2,500 and a few nickels and dimes richer. The amount was automatically credited to the checking account we use to pay Uncle Sam at tax-time. In case you haven’t heard, the president has signed into law a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package known as the CARES Act. The best thing about this is it’s tax free!
Coincidentally, the last time we got an unexpected windfall was also for $2,500 that got escheated by my state. But that was due to a stupid mistake on my part having “forgotten” to cash out a check. Once recovered, it went straight to our investment account.
Since this is “stimulus” money, we’re splurging on things that we love instead, to help stimulate the economy. Something that you can do if you’re already well-insulated from the economic effects of this pandemic like we do.
Otherwise, beefing-up your emergency fund, paying down your debt, and investing the remainder are the smarter use of your money.
That said, the following, in my opinion, are some of the best ways to spend your stimulus money.
Home gym equipment
Buying a piece of exercise equipment is one of the best investments you can make provided that you use it. Regular exercise has been proven to strengthen your immune system and stave off diseases like osteoporosis in old age.
Having your own equipment came especially handy now that gyms around the country are closed. We are the envy of our friends who wanted to stop by and use our equipment despite the social distancing efforts (of course, we had to say no).
The exercise equipment doesn’t have to be new, either. Most retailers stock used equipment, and there’s plenty of it for sale on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other online sites.
Energy-efficient home appliances
For people who don’t exercise regularly, investing in energy-efficient kitchen appliances like your refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher is a wiser splurge. Not only can they save you money in the form of lower electric bills, they can also save you time. Not to mention increase the resale value of your home.
Newer stove and microwave ovens, for example, have two-level cooking that allows you to cook two meals at the same time. Many newer appliances have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capability that lets you connect them to your smart devices. This way, you can control the temperature of your fridge and your oven using your mobile phone or voice.
Your laundry room is another place where you can save big. Energy Star certified appliances lets you use less energy and water. You can save about $35 a year and 2,000 gallons of water compared to a standard model, per year!!
A more comfortable mattress
Lack of sleep can lead to memory problems, poor concentration, mood swings, weight gain, a weakened immune system, and lower libido. Doesn’t sound like fun, does it? Buying a quality mattress is one way to address this.
One of my biggest money regrets is not spending an extra $200 on a better mattress when I had the chance. For the past 15 years, we’ve been putting up with a king sized mattress that is stiffer than a rock. Assuming we slept six hours per night, that’s 32,850 hours that we could have spent on a much more comfortable bed!
A high-end mattress atop an adjustable bed has separate controls that let you customize the firmness/ elevation of each side with a touch of a button. It may seem exorbitant at first, but this feature can be life changing for people who have back problems or medical condition like edema.
Spectacular piece of artwork
Some people believe investing in artwork is akin to investing in Beanie Babies. Not so if you invest in blue-chip artworks that can significantly appreciate.
Of course, $2,500 is a pittance to buy fine arts of that caliber. But we’re talking about splurging in a beautiful artwork that you can hang in your living room.
Many local galleries showcase works from talented artists in your area. The hospital where my wife works exhibit works from disabled artists across the country.
Not only will you be enjoying them as many of the masterpieces are just as good as the ones from renowned artists, you’ll also help these disabled artists make a living. Besides, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.
And many of these artworks will hold its value more than that car in your drive way that you bought new.
A better smart phone or computer
No device is more versatile than a computer. From managing your finances to editing videos or graphic design, a computer can help you plan, organize, and perform your task more efficiently.
Splurging on a newer, faster, smartphone, laptop or desktop computer can be wise decision considering the value that it can give you, especially in a post-coronavirus world where Zoom meetings are the norm.
And because they can become obsolete very quickly, you don’t have to buy them new, either. So I often buy refurbished models online without issues.
Trip to one of the nation’s national parks
If anyone celebrating because of the pandemic, it would be the wild animals in many of the nation’s national parks. From black bears in Yosemite to the alligators in the Everglades, wild animals have been partying in many spots usually filled with cars and people.
Now that the national parks are reopening soon across the country, it’s not a bad idea to plan a trip before travel restrictions are lifted. Not only are tickets cheaper due to reduced demand, it will still be less crowded and much safer considering the measures that have been placed to prevent the spread of the virus.
Besides, spending money on experiences makes us happier than buying stuffs. Happiness over material possessions quickly fades due to hedonic adaptation.
Donate to your favorite charity
Nothing is more noble than expressing your love to others through generosity. Giving to charity gives us a sense of purpose. It helps us participate in a cause we feel strongly about.
With the CARES Act, there’s no better time to donate because of new provisions allowing “above-the-line” deductions— you can reduce your adjusted gross income or AGI by the amount of your contribution up to $300.
Before this, charitable contributions are deductible only if you itemize. And there’s little incentive for that as 90% of taxpayers will simply take the standard deduction.
Readers: Are you getting any from your government? How are you planning to spend it? Please comment below.