Stimulus Checks Are on Their Way—Tips for Stretching Your Dollars

Lowering your bills leaves more money in your pocket
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After months of debate and delays, stimulus checks have finally been sent out. A new survey released by doxo, a web and mobile bill-pay service, shows that 59% of Americans plan to spend their stimulus money on household bills such as utilities, cable/internet, rent, mortgage and mobile phone service.

And although 90% of Americans believe that the stimulus checks will help their financial health in 2021, 41% feel it will take more than a year for their financial health to return to pre-pandemic levels.

“It is very encouraging to see that nearly all U.S. consumers believe that the government’s latest round of stimulus checks will help them improve their own financial health in the coming year,” said Jim Kreyenhagen, VP of Marketing and Consumer Services at doxo.

“However, with more than half of Americans planning to use the money to pay household bills like utilities, cable/internet, rent and mortgage, it is also discouraging to see that—according to doxo’s data—unfortunately, the $600 checks won’t get them very far.”

Doxo found that the average mortgage is $1,268 and the average rent is $1,023, making the amount a stimulus check will cover about 2 weeks. These are the types of expenses that are pretty much set in stone unless you refinance your mortgage or negotiate a lower rent.

But there are expenses where we have some control over. The average person pays $290 in utilities, $88 for their mobile phone service, and $110 for their cable\internet. Each of these expenses would have several months of coverage with the stimulus amount. But, why not take the time to see how you can lower those expenses to stretch your dollars?

One way to make our money last is to find what expenses in our monthly budget are flexible. Things like grocery shopping and personal care items are very flexible. You can do things like sign up for loyalty discount programs, plan to shop for only what is on sale, and use coupons to significantly lower these costs.

Then there are expenses such as your cell phone bill and your cable/internet bill that also can be flexible. To test these expenses out, I called my cell phone carrier to see if I could lower my monthly rate. I have had the same carrier for 20 years. I was able to lower my monthly bill by $90! I did the same for our cable\internet bill. I called and since we are planning on staying with the same provider, I re-upped our service contract for 24 months. This saved us $45 a month.

Just by doing those two things, I now have an additional $1,620 a year. For utilities, check with your local provider to find out ways to save money. For example, your gas and electric bill can be lowered by doing simple things like lowering your thermostat by just a couple of degrees. Or, use a space heater instead of heating the entire home.

Some providers offer care programs which offer financial assistance. Even if you lower your expenses by $20 here and $10 there, it adds up to money in your bank account instead of your providers, and it can make any stimulus money last longer.

Jeanette Pavini is an Emmy Award winning journalist specializing in consumer news and protection. She is the author of “The Joy of $aving: Money Lessons I Learned From My Italian-American Father & 20 Years as a Consumer Reporter.” Jeanette is a regular contributor to TheStreet. Her work includes reporting for CBS, MarketWatch, WSJ Sunday, and USA Today. Jeanette has contributed to “The Today Show” and a variety of other media outlets. You can follow her moneysaving tips on Facebook: Jeanette Pavini: The Joy of $aving Community. Find links to her social media and her book at, JeanettePavini.com.