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The decision to grant adult Americans a $1,200 stimulus check in wake of the pandemic and subsequent closures across the nation has provided some unique insight into the ways Americans spend their money. For many adults, this stimulus check provided a necessary buffer following unprecedented circumstances that resulted in their unemployment, and while many individuals used this money to make essential purchases or pay bills, others decided to use their stimulus checks in different ways.


It seems that nearly 75% of the recipients used the stimulus money for expenses or to reduce their debts. Unsurprisingly, a large number of families prioritized obtaining essential items such as groceries. Many of these individuals also used their stimulus checks to pay bills, make car and mortgage payments, or work toward paying off debt. A smaller portion of the population reported that they planned to use their stimulus checks to contribute to savings funds or investments.


A major concern surrounding the stimulus program was that families would save their money instead of spending it; because the stimulus checks were issued in an effort to help stimulate the economy and to provide a buffer during these challenging times when unemployment soared.  There were reasonable worries that this endeavor would falter due to discretionary actions on the part of the recipients. However, it seems that these fears were not realized. A vast majority of the Americans who received these stimulus checks decided to put the money toward necessities like groceries or mortgage payments, providing them with stability while also keeping the funds in circulation.


The necessity-driven spending behavior described above was common for recipients of the stimulus check, but another unique aspect that was observed was that of relief spending. Rather than solely using the stimulus funds to provide for essential expenses, some Americans also used this money to make extraneous purchases, namely in areas like electronics and clothing. The practice of relief spending likely reflects on the desire for entertainment during quarantine as well as a longing for a sense of normalcy. Upon receiving the stimulus checks, it appears that many individuals took to shopping as a form of relief, indulgence, and excitement.


From this behavior, individuals may realize that non-essential purchases can be productive when they are made after accounting for essential expenses. Not only do these kinds of purchases provide some relief, especially during an unprecedented period such as this, but they also aid in stimulating different areas of the economy that may remain untouched when focusing on essential expenses.


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