What to do with stimulus money that isn't direly needed right now?
April 15, 2020 8:19 AM   Subscribe

How should we save, invest, spend, or donate? Current family salaries and savings appear stable enough that we can weather a lot of short-term uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. We certainly welcome the bump to secure our position - but also want to help our neighbors and community in thoughtful and effective ways. What ideas--or factors in deciding--do you have?
posted by GPF to Work & Money (18 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Some small things I've done recently:

* Do you have any friends who are artists, and do they have online stores? Maybe buy something from them. I have a photographer friend who gives photo classes and leads photo tours, and he's taking a beating from all of them cancelling; I've splurged on a few of this photos to help out.

* Do you have a friend who's struggling to keep up with expensive pet care? Or did they suffer from a porch thief? Offer to buy a bag of whatever expensive prescription food their pet needs. I have a Facebook buddy who's struggling, and had his cat's expensive kidney care food get stolen by a porch pirate - I've ordered another bag for him to replace it.

These are small things, but they are making an impact (especially the cat food above, the prescription food can get pricey).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:34 AM on April 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

My place of employment is matching donations 2:1, and then another private source is specifically matching food bank donations 1:1. Knowing those both would help turn any $100 to $400 of food, tipped me into a donation. So basically, maximizing the ROI was pretty key in my decision bright and early this morning. (Also knowing the food banks prefer cash over cans, but that's just a bonus.)
posted by librarianamy at 8:36 AM on April 15, 2020 [5 favorites]

We are in a similar position. For the moment, we are holding onto the stimulus money in case the short term uncertainty turns into long term uncertainty, and donating our time to the local food bank.
posted by mammoth at 8:37 AM on April 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

We are donating all or most of ours, for similar reasons. (I may regret it later if/when our situation changes, but for the moment we have enough stability to do this.)

We'll be giving the largest chunk to an organization that runs a foodbank, since those have had huge increases in demand and decreases in in-kind donations. To me, that is the most important part, helping keep people fed since as a country we can't manage to provide an adequate safety net, and the most effective way I can see to do that is by supporting groups that are already providing that service efficiently.

Then we are giving smaller amounts to another organization whose mission we support (where again, they are facing decreases in donations and increases in demands for services), and a couple of direct gifts to people we are close to who are suddenly in quite dire straits. A small gift won't change their situation, but it will buy groceries for a week.

Whatever you choose, I am sure it will be appreciated, the need is truly enormous right now.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:39 AM on April 15, 2020

I'm planning to split it thus: 300 or 400 to small artists and local businesses (either directly buying goods or buying gift cards), and the rest split probably 100-200 each to mutual aid funds, food banks, homelessness orgs and similar groups. Oooh, and I should set 100 or so aside to tip drag queens/kings etc. who have been killing it on my instagram feed.
posted by kalimac at 8:54 AM on April 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Do you have any friends or family who are expecting? Perhaps get a nicer gift off their registry than you ordinarily would have, or gift cards to Target/Amazon, since new babies are very expensive and other people may be in the position where they can't spend what they normally would, leaving new parents struggling.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:57 AM on April 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

When the restrictions are lifted, plan to use the money to hire someone to do improvements to your house, etc. Helping to put people back to work would be a very worthwhile use of the money.
posted by yclipse at 10:06 AM on April 15, 2020 [6 favorites]

Look for local organizations if you can -- your contributions may make a big difference in your community. Some candidates to consider for donations:
- Food banks - they supply your local food pantries, and they're facing a huge surge in demand.
- Bail relief funds - more on why this may be lifesaving (SLNYT). You may be able to find one in your area.
- Organizations that support the homeless, who are particularly vulnerable right now
- Domestic violence advocacy organizations and/or women's shelters - domestic violence has surged under SAH orders.
- Local businesses, arts organizations, and nonprofits that are fundraising for their lives right now.
- Virtual tip jars for unemployed service workers in your community
- Neighbors, friends, and family in need.
- Mutual aid funds.

You can also consider putting some of your purchasing power to work:
- Buying from local food producers, including CSAs and restaurants.
- Buying from other local businesses and artists that are struggling right now.

Thanks for thinking generously -- I know that can be hard to do in an uncertain time. I'm sure you'll find some good ways to help.
posted by ourobouros at 10:19 AM on April 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have just kept my ear to the ground on community pages, neighborhood mutual aid etc. and given money directly to people who need it. One of those is one of my friends, who is a waitress, and lives paycheck to paycheck, as she is supporting her elderly father as well. Our friend group has gone in and covered her rent and bought her grocery store gift cards.
posted by gaspode at 10:46 AM on April 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

(Sadly, because I live in Queens, this has meant donating several times to cover funeral costs)
posted by gaspode at 10:50 AM on April 15, 2020

We are lucky to be financially stable and I am planning to give most/all of mine to the National Network of Abortion Funds. I am assuming the need will be greater than usual due to increased domestic violence and reproductive coercion during a pandemic combined with loss of income for women who need abortions.

There is also the spiteful part of me that gets great delight in handing over a check DT himself insists on signing to an organization that is taking direct action to ensure reproductive justice.
posted by stellaluna at 10:52 AM on April 15, 2020 [10 favorites]

Really just came in to say this are all great ideas, as long as you truly think you are financially positioned to do it.

If you are in anyway unsure, one other option is keep the money as a backstop for yourself, but maybe let a small number of close family/friends know if they are struggling you have a few dollars you are squirreling away as a "rainy day fund for myself and close family/friends" till this ends - they may not need it now, but simply the knowledge it's there in a pinch if their circumstances change in the next few weeks/months may be very comforting for them (also some people may be too embarrassed at first to take money - so giving them some time/space to think about it before they take you up is also in a way part of the gift).

And if no one takes you up on the offer over the next couple of months, you get to do one of the many great things others have listed above. Or you could use a small piece of it to put on an awesome neighborhood "Covexit" party on the other side of this once people are allowed to be within six feet of each other.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 11:10 AM on April 15, 2020

Vox has a good article about this.
posted by hijol at 11:25 AM on April 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am going to increase my ongoing monthly contributions to Jose Andres' World Central Kitchen, the ACLU, and my local NPR and PBS stations. Plus one-time gifts to our local food bank, crisis assistance organization, and domestic-violence shelter.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:43 PM on April 15, 2020

You could donate it to modestneeds.org, where people who do need the money right now and are low income / low on cash can apply for funds, and they are doing a matching program.
posted by erattacorrige at 3:27 PM on April 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I will be donating mine to a couple of local immigrant rights' groups, since undocumented people are not considered eligible for the stimulus checks. In MA, my list includes Movimiento Cosecha, the Mass UndocuFund and the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network.
posted by sleepingwithcats at 3:43 PM on April 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you have several months worth of savings, then food banks are probably the highest impact place to donate. A lot of paycheck-to-paycheck people are running out of food right now.

After that, domestic violence programs, because need for those has spiked.

It's worth considering keeping it around as a source of informal help. I was planning to donate to a food bank, but my extra supplies have gone to people from my church / neighborhood / social circle who couldn't get formal help quickly enough.
posted by Ahniya at 8:31 PM on April 15, 2020

leveler.info (made for mobile) where you can send small donations directly to folks via venmo or paypal
posted by book 'em dano at 1:23 PM on April 16, 2020

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