COVID-19

How are people spending their $600 checks?

Marielle Segarra Jan 13, 2021
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A woman pays for a to-go order at a New York restaurant. Some people are splurging a bit and others are putting the relief payment into necessities. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
COVID-19

How are people spending their $600 checks?

Marielle Segarra Jan 13, 2021
Heard on:
A woman pays for a to-go order at a New York restaurant. Some people are splurging a bit and others are putting the relief payment into necessities. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
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It’s been a couple of weeks since the federal government started sending out relief checks of $600. We talked to some people about how they’re spending — or not spending — the money. 

When Austin Flannery in Greenville, South Carolina, got his $600 check, he decided to splurge.

First, $70 on a barbecue dinner with his girlfriend.

Then on some clothes, like a $50 pair of pants.

Then, at a local store, he saw a painting of a French actor from the 1800s — he bought that too. 

“And then I went home and I was like, ‘Man, he needs to be tattooed on me,’” Flannery said. “He looks so elegant. So I got a tattoo of him.”

Another $400.

When Flannery got the first government check in the spring, he used it to pay off medical bills. But he had just lost his job at an insurance company.

Since then, he’s gotten a new job. 

“Luckily enough, I’m in a financial place right now where I could afford to have a little bit of fun,” he said. “So I did.”

One reason the government is sending out checks is so people like Flannery will spend money. Another is economic relief. 

I heard from people who used the money to pay for necessities like rent and heating oil.

In San Diego, Katherine Olenski and her husband got $1,200.

“Some of that went towards just bills, just trying to survive,” she said.

Specifically gas and electric bills. The couple saved the rest. Olenski is a hairstylist, and her salon is currently shut down. 

“Honestly, who knows what 2021 is gonna look like for work for me?” she said. “And we always just want to be more prepared than less.”

A lot of people are using the money to set themselves up financially. 

Hector M. Rico in Chicago is hoping to buy a house soon, so he’s paying off debt to build credit and potentially get a better interest rate on a mortgage.

Rico is also using some of the money to buy raffle prizes for his students. He teaches physical education at a public school. 

“I like to give out little pedometers. I get them at, like, Target sometimes for 30, 20 bucks,” he said. “Or jump-ropes [from] the dollar store.”

One thing I heard over and over: A lot of people are giving a portion of their check away to neighbors, family members and charities like food banks. 

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