Many American citizens, approximately nine of every 10 households, could be getting up to $1,200 as part of the stimulus package President Donald Trump recently signed into legislation.
The move was made to help people cover rent or mortgage payments and monthly expenses like food and gas. However, if you’re still employed or have a relatively consistent stream of income coming in, you have more options for utilizing these funds than you might think.
Conventional wisdom would encourage you to use the check for those purposes as well as paying off loans or any type of credit card debt. While eliminating debt is important to do in the long term and a vital cornerstone of self-sufficiency, this stimulus check is not going to be a regular occurrence.
The CARES Act only approves this one check , however, there have been talks of another recovery bill as lockdowns continue and social distancing measures limit business activity. Marco Rubio mentioned its potential necessity earlier this week:
“The appetite is there. I think everyone I’ve talked to recognizes we’re going to have to go back and do more, and probably more than once.”
Regardless of future stimulus packages, we can’t get used to government handouts to cover our recurring expenses because our institutions will eventually cripple under the enormity of the COVID-19 crisis.
Others might recommend that you buy cheap stocks, but again, there is an element of risk associated with this maneuver. If you aren’t already knowledgeable about investing or if you don’t have a dedicated financial advisor, finding stocks to buy in this tumultuous environment might not be the best way to spend your stimulus check. Also, you likely won’t see the return on stock market investment for at least a decade.
So why not use this stimulus check to prepare and advance yourself in the short term? You can participate in recovery efforts by stimulating the economy while also engaging in an activity that gets you closer to a self-sufficient lifestyle.
Here are a few ways you can use your stimulus check to become more self-sufficient right now:
1. Stock up on non-perishable food items and first aid supplies.
If you haven’t been purchasing food in bulk or getting additional first aid supplies, this would be the time. Dedicate a portion of your stimulus check to shopping online or having your family’s dedicated shopper stop by the store for one, large haul on the following items:
With supply chain disruptions causing interruptions for consumers, it may be harder to acquire nutritious staples like beans. Research bulk food sites like bulkfoods.com, where you can find 5 pounds of kidney beans for a little over $80.
For more first aid supplies, check out this comprehensive list with suggestions from the Mayo Clinic. It will also be more difficult to obtain products like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer during these times, but you can still limit unnecessary travel by ordering other essential first aid supplies from online vendors that remain in operation, even if at limited capacity.
2. Get garden inputs.
You could also take greater self-sufficiency strides and allocate some of your $1,200 check towards starting a garden and immediately setting it up for success.
The great thing about gardening is most of what you need is provided through natural means. The sun does most of the work for you, however, you will want to ensure you can plant seeds or seedlings in good soil.
To get good soil, you’ll need to add elements like compost and manure and peat moss. If you don’t mind lower production levels and want to avoid pesticides, you won’t need much more than that. Potting soil may be useful, especially if you’re starting seeds versus planting seedlings.
3. Order a water purifier.
Water purifier bottles are sufficient for the casual hiker, but in a dire situation, you’ll need capacity to purify several gallons of water.
Community Lifestraw is a consumer brand that developed in the late 1990s after Denmark-based company, Vestergaard, helped The Carter Center, a non-profit founded by Jimmy Carter, create a system for preventing Guinea worm disease.
Their products were initially intended for massive humanitarian relief projects, but since 2008, they’ve offered water purifiers strictly for in-home use. While their Lifestraw Family model will suffice for common household filtration, the Lifestraw Community model makes more sense for the individual and family that has or hopes to have a rainwater collection system.
One review from a user in Lebanon, Pennsylvania explained why the Community model is a better option for those who want more control over their water sources:
“We have an unconventional use for this product. Due to the hardness of the water in our area, we collect rainwater in order to minimize the "dust" put out by the minerals in the water. We use this in our ultrasonic humidifiers. But it should really be purified first. We'd used the LifeStraw Family for years, but it just took too much time to filter. Went to this "big boy" here. It is really worth the cost.”
Lifestraw is great for removing viruses and other bacteria from your water, but Kangen Water offers more than a purified beverage. Using innovative water technology, Enagic products specialize in alkaline water ionization. Some argue that the higher concentration of hydrogen in this type of water delivers myriad health benefits from improved digestion and metabolism to increased energy and decreased aging.
Although those benefits are hotly debated, the health risks are low of consuming alkaline watters, so it’s primarily a matter of preference.
Whatever purification system you choose, the ability to use any water source in a pinch is crucial to developing more self-sufficiency into your lifestyle. So, find a system that works best for you and meets your water consumption needs.
4. Start an emergency savings account.
Most experts, including financial advisor Dave Ramsey, suggest that Americans set aside a $1,000 emergency fund. In reality, if you want to cover a worst case scenario unexpected expense, $1,000 is likely not going to cut it.
According to a Bankrate survey of 1,000 Americans, the average blindside expense comes out to 2.5X the recommended $1,000 emergency fund at $3,500.
While it’s better to have some savings than no savings at all, I would suggest anyone striving for a more self-sufficient lifestyle to work towards building an emergency savings fund of at least $5,000.
Instead of putting those expenses on a credit card that compounds an exorbitant amount of interest over time, compound your savings account by putting a little bit of your funds into it each month. You would rather gain money than owe it at the end of the day, wouldn’t you?
5. Take a course or get a certification.
Right now is quite possibly the best time to invest in your personal and professional growth. Some of us are out of a job and desperately need to pivot so we don’t have to rely on spotty government checks, complicated loan processes, and high interest credit cards that rack up debt and could severely limit our future plans.
In the spirit of creating value for customers, several online learning platforms are extending killer discounts so people can learn a new skill during this period of economic decline and social distancing. You could learn to code for less than $24, brush up on your digital design and editing techniques for $20, or become certified in using Salesforce’s tools or implementing Six Sigma project management, and so much more.
Mashable put together a huge list of options with online courses in a variety of industries, teaching several different types of skills. Whether you’re out of work or have more free time than usual because you’re working from home, investing in your education could be a short-term action that results in long-term benefits. Consider using your stimulus check to make yourself more marketable so you can find a job after this is all over that supports your self-sufficient lifestyle goals.
6. Build a website to promote your skills.
If you don’t have a website already, now is the time to create one. Even if you aren’t in a digital field, I recommend carving your own space in the online universe so you can showcase your unique skills to potential employers.
Getting a new job or finding clients for a side gig is so much more about the story you convey about yourself than the services that you offer.
Here are the core pieces of information I would recommend including on a website with the purpose of selling your skills and/or services:
You may think that building a website is extremely expensive, when in fact, it can be very economical. With the plethora of affordable website builders available today, there really is no excuse for not having a website of your own.
Weebly offers an entry level plan at $6 per month, while Wordpress’s starter plan costs $8 per month. Both have free themes that you can base your website’s design around. In addition, you can typically purchase a domain for around $12 from sites like GoDaddy.
All in all, you’re looking at a yearly cost of about $84 to $108. So, what are you waiting for? Take a step towards financial freedom with your stimulus check and build a website that tells your story.
Generally, accepting government money wouldn’t be a sign of self-sufficiency. If you’ve filed taxes in recent years, you’ll likely get the check deposited to your checking account on file with the IRS or mailed to your home anyway.
Ultimately, you have the choice to take funds from the government or leave them. But if you do choose to take them, consider taking this one-time bonus and leveraging it for yours and your family’s self-sufficiency.