Most Americans Say They Will Not Spend Their Stimulus Checks

The majority of Americans plan to save their stimulus checks or use them to pay off debt, says a new survey.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll found that 41% of respondents plan to use their rebates to pay off bills, and 32% will put the money in savings. Just 21% of those polled intend to spend the money, while 3% said they will donate the extra money to charity.

This could cause some problems:

Jared Bernstein, an Economic Policy Institute senior economist, notes that taxpayers have in the past spent half to two-thirds of their rebate checks. However, he points out that the current economic conditions are unique.

“We’ve never done this in a period when American households are so deeply indebted,” he said. “While [saving the rebate] is a valiant thing to do, what you want them to do is spend it.”

What will you do with your stimulus payment? Have you already spent it?

Rebate checks won’t get spent [CNNMoney] (Thanks, Matthew!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. nutrigm says:

    I will spend it… on mortgage/energy bills!

  2. Smart people will pay off high APR debt instead of getting taxed on it buying stuff locally. Debt is also more productive than putting it in savings since the crappy interest in those is dwarfed by the 9.9% and UP rates your cards and store credit might have.

  3. Buran says:

    I’ve seen a ton of news stories about how people in the US have a ton of debt and how this is bad and we should be paying off our debt. Now … it’s bad to pay off our debts?

    They should just say “No matter what you do with your money we won’t be happy and we’ll write stories telling you not to do it.”

  4. MPHinPgh says:

    I’ll end up spending mine on a few home repairs that I’ve been putting off and replacing a broken dishwasher. Not exactly what you’d call discretionary spending, but it will prevent me from having to use any credit. I’ll probably use the CC to by the dishwasher though, just to get the protections, but it will be paid off the next day.

  5. These people obviously hate America. Don’t they know the g’ovt is only giving them money so they can waste it on materialistic frivolities to save our economy? C’mon people… don’t save… spend, spend, spend!!!


  6. NeoNess says:

    Does this really surprise anyone? A majority of people I know will be saving their checks – myself included.

    I don’t spend my tax income checks, why should this be any different?

  7. e-gadgetjunkie says:

    I’m paying off my credit card. That’s it. The rest goes in the bank.

  8. nothing says:

    Mine is going towards the purchase of a beater so I can sell my financed car and use that money to pay of credit cards.

  9. ElizabethD says:

    Pay off some credit card debt. Only rich people can afford to spend in this economy.

  10. @e-gadgetjunkie: smart move!

  11. johnva says:

    Even if people pay off debt, wouldn’t that potentially increase consumer spending by freeing up more credit and money that would have gone to interest payments? Why does everyone have this idea that it’s not going to work to stimulate the economy if it isn’t spent immediately?

  12. Lewis says:

    For this to have been a true economic stimulus, instead of checks, the government should have sent out gift cards redeemable only for goods or services. Maybe partner with someone who does gift cards for a living… one of those private/public sector partnerships everyone seems to be so fond of these days.

  13. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I’m buying lottery tickets!

    Just kidding.

  14. y2julio says:

    I’m doing my patriotic duties and getting a Sony PS3. :)

  15. ratnerstar says:

    My plan is to stimulate the Kentucky economy by buying 600 dollars worth of bourbon!

  16. mdkiff says:

    It seems that, on a microeconomic scalel, the best thing to do is to save or pay off debt, but that the government wants everyone to do what it considers the best thing on a macroeconomic scale – spend the money. People tend to do what’s best for them, and it’s hard to blame them for saving/paying off debt, which is exactly what I would do if I qualified for a check.

  17. DrGirlfriend says:

    It’s going into our savings for a down payment on a house, which we hopefully will be looking to buy later this year. Of course, assuming house prices come down. Sellers where I live apparently haven’t gotten the memo yet that they paid too much for their houses.

    The thing is, I know a lot of people *say* they are saving it or using to pay off debt, and I don’t doubt that people who read this site will probably do that, but I think a lot of people in general will end up spending it after all.

  18. No_Pants says:

    Stimulating local economy here, will pay a contractor for a new driveway.

  19. Starfury says:

    I’m probably getting $1800, married, 2 kids, and didn’t make over the 175k cutoff.

    How will I spend it?

    1. $1500 will go to pay property taxes. So it’s going from the US Govt to the CA govt.

    2. The $300 that’s left: put it in the bank. We don’t have any debt other than our mortgage and a car loan to the in-laws (0% interest) so it’ll do better there earning .00005% interest than being spent.

    Actually it’ll go into our ING savings acct so it’ll get a few % interest.

  20. tamoko says:

    @LewisNYC: Interesting idea.. government gift cards. lol.

    I’m throwing mine at a credit card. It just feels like the right thing to do.

  21. MakGeek says:

    I’m going to Disney World! (not kidding), planned and paid for though months before this was announced.

  22. TPS Reporter says:

    Mines going in savings. Only have 1 credit card and only have a couple of hundred on the balance, and I am still in my 0% for 6 months so I’m not paying any interest. Thought about buying a bunch of useless crap, but we already have a bunch of useless crap. Might buy some summer clothes for my son.

  23. tamoko says:

    @DrGirlfriend: Your probably right.. the spending itch will get the best of most people.

  24. backbroken says:

    @LewisNYC: I pretty much consider cash as a gift card to Exxon and BP.

  25. caranguejo says:

    Savings account.

  26. ColdNorth says:

    While this may not be good news for “W”, I tend to believe the reports that most of these rebate checks will go toward personal balance sheet repair rather than the local mall.

    Perhaps people have finally realized that credit cards and HELOCs eventually must be paid down? What’s the next step in this progression? Maybe people will begin expecting their legislators to do the same with their tax dollars?

    Nothing more than a pipe dream, you say? Perhaps, but it is such a pretty thought nevertheless…

  27. ecwis says:

    I wasn’t aware that one could pay off bills without spending money. This would be a great innovation.

    Otherwise, the majority (76%) of Americans is spending their money.

  28. MattO says:

    probably will end up buying something with mine – only debt is a mortgage, and an extra 1200 between the wife and i wont even put a SCRATCH in that…

  29. ChuckECheese says:

    Survey data is notorious for being skewed because people give the socially acceptable response. CNN should have included as a response, “I plan to spend my money on bankruptcy attorneys and Red Lobster.”

  30. snowmentality says:

    I’m putting mine in the savings account where I’m trying to scrape together $3k to start a Roth IRA. I need to buy a few things that I’ve been putting off, but I’ll need to have bought them before the check comes. So it’ll get plopped into savings.

    My boyfriend is paying off his credit card.

  31. Balisong says:

    I’d like to thank the gov’t for paying off the remainder of my medical bills :)

  32. Juliekins says:

    My and my husband’s Roth IRAs are getting a boost.

  33. gruffydd says:

    Remodeling a bathroom ….

  34. backbroken says:

    If you are going to use it to pay down high interest debt or pay taxes, well those were debts you were going to pay anyway, right? So the net result is that your checking account is eventually going to be fatter by the amount of your rebate.

    Unless you are suddenly going to start carrying more dough in your checking account, I’m gonna go ahead and guess that you will be spending that surplus over time anyway. The only folks who will not be spending the rebate are those who put it right into their savings or use it to pay down principle on an outstanding loan.

    Just because you don’t spend it right away on a big ticket item doesn’t mean you aren’t pumping it back into the economy.

    Of course, with sinking interest rates, an uncertain stock market, inflation and the deteriorating dollar, I would argue that the smartest thing a debt free person could do with their rebate is to spend it immediately. But I doubt you will hear anyone advocate that on this forum.

  35. lonewolf333 says:

    I’m only getting $300 because no woman wants to marry me :(
    I might just use it to buy a PS3.

  36. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    Well, gee… The current administration has been harking on how we should spend spend spend the past seven years, and look where that got us.

    Not that I personally heeded their advice over the term of this administration, as I had a bad feeling about the economy way back in 2001 and have been hunkering down since. I’m by no means sitting pretty, but I’m certainly in better shape than I was back then.

    My rebate check? Gonna tick away at that debt a little more.

    The REAL tragedy here is the fact that those who will spend will send this right back to China under the guise that they’re stimulating the US economy, when in fact that they’re only helping dig the hole much deeper…

  37. crabbyman6 says:

    Right into a “high interest”(stupid lowering interest rates) savings account for a house down payment.

  38. forgottenpassword says:

    I have absolutely NO debt & will be sticking mine into savings.

  39. drjayphd says:

    Savings account, to go towards the Finally, About Fucking Time You Move Out house fund. ;)

  40. morganlh85 says:

    See here’s where they went wrong with the stimulus plan. They are giving higher amounts to people the more kids they have, etc.

    What they should have done is give more money to YOUNGER people. If you’re middle aged with kids you are more likely to use this stimulus check to pay debts, not just blow it at the store.

    Young people, on the other hand, are MUCH more likely to spend their cash outright on goods, which is the point of the stimulus plan. It’s the high school and college kids working at the mall who should get the big checks!

  41. Traveshamockery says:

    Paying off debt (let’s say debt at an average of 12%) with this check is the safe effect as making 12% on that money – those with non-mortgage debt (AKA me) should throw this stimulus check directly at that debt.

  42. lonewolf333 says:

    @morganlh85: Agree 100%

  43. Illusio26 says:

    No Credit Card debt to pay off. I will probably buy an iphone and put the rest into savings.

  44. Illusio26 says:

    @morganlh85: I agree as well.

  45. lincolnparadox says:

    I’m converting my check into Euros and waiting 3 months.


  46. yourbffjill says:

    @ElizabethD: Rich people don’t get stimulus checks.

    Cleary the govt got this all backwards. If they wanted this money back in the economy, they should have just given all the rich people checks instead.

  47. TWSS says:

    @ChuckECheese: Exactly. Self-reporting is notoriously skewed. I suspect most of the checks will end up back in the retail economy, regardless of what people say now.

  48. AD8BC says:

    Giving tax money back to Americans: Good.
    Giving tax money back to Americans without cutting an equal amount of bloated government spending: Bad.

    Since we are debt free but the house, the stimulus money is going into the new roof and air conditioner fund for the two big-ticket items that will be coming up this Spring.

  49. AD8BC says:

    That being said, if you do have debt, by all means, apply that money toward it. You’ll thank yourself later.

  50. esd2020 says:

    My check almost covers my tax burden. So I already spent it.

  51. TPK says:

    Sounds like Huckabee’s idea to use this same amount of money to widen Interstate 95 from end to end may have been a better idea after all… might take a little longer, but the cash would definitely stay in the US and provide jobs to local construction folks up and down the entire East Coast.

  52. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    The REAL tragedy here is the fact that those who will spend will send this right back to China under the guise that they’re stimulating the US economy, when in fact that they’re only helping dig the hole much deeper

    @TheSpatulaOfLove: Not if I spend it* on a trip to an American tourist attraction! Aquariums, museums, and zoos FTW!
    *not spending all of it

  53. mikepark says:

    I keep saying that I will use my check to pay off debt, but I just know that it will be spent on a new camera lens.

  54. losiek says:

    Yeah, right, not spending ;-) I can see it: “but I really, really need that new SUV/phone/other-expendable-item, it matches my purse perfectly! just this once”

  55. crapple says:

    I’m spending mine! I’m replacing my 3 year old iMac so I can play Call of Duty 4 when it comes out in May.

    Don’t tsk tsk me…my debt is paid off and I want to have some fun. I’m selling my old one as well, so I’ll have a few hundred leftover when all is said and done, and that’ll go into the vacation fund.

  56. oldtaku says:

    I believe (most of) the people who say they’ll use this to pay off debts, but I don’t believe the people who say they’ll save it.

  57. Ghede says:

    Hell. We have the technology, why didn’t they send out stimulus gift-cards?

  58. legotech says:

    My parents are turning theirs around and making a donation to the Democratic National Committee. Me? My car insurance is due and the $300 I’m getting will just about cover it.

  59. synergy says:

    Mine’s going straight into the savings account where it will sit until I need it to pay tuition from graduate school. I hope. Application deadline is April 1!

  60. smitty1123 says:

    @ChuckECheese: They got around that by not even bothering to publish how the poll was conducted and how many people they actually surveyed and if those people were even getting a check.

  61. Zombilina says:

    I’m treating this as found money, and my rule is that all found money goes straight into my Roth IRA. My goal is to put in the maximum amount every year, and this’ll help me get there.

    The boyfriend will be making a dent in his credit card debt.

  62. labrinth says:

    I heard not to cash my stimulus check at all since it isn’t so much extra spending money, but it is a credit towards next years tax return. So basically if you cash it you may find yourself owing more in taxes next year. Anyone hear the same thing?

  63. EvilConservative says:

    Since the government is borrowing the money to hand out, it is only just that it be used to pay off personal debt, thereby converting personal debt to public debt. At least doing so will minimize damage to our overall economic standing.

    I’m happy to say I won’t be getting any such hand-out. Happy because I don’t have to feel guilty about taking it.

  64. rustyni says:

    Mine went directly to the 500.00 i owed to capital one, and the rest went towards the mortgage.

  65. sljgold says:

    I’ll be spending a portion of it, then socking the rest towards debt and savings. I threw the vast majority of my last major unexpected bonus towards credit card debt only a few months ago; depending on how much is left over, I’ll be very tempted to spent at least a bit of it, rather than do the same thing twice in a season.

  66. stre says:

    bah, i don’t believe it. what percentage of people vow to lose weight or save money at new years and give up 3 days later. when these people were pointedly asked, of course reason kicked in and told them to save it, but i’m betting that a good portion of them will see something shiny and decide that the stimulus check would be better spent stimulating the economy than their retirement fund. me? i’m a 24 year old engineer, so i could afford to put a little extra money away every month a while back so i can go ahead and stimulate away without sacrificing retirement savings. it’s the best of both worlds!

  67. johnva says:

    @morganlh85: Government almost never can resist a chance to pander to people with kids. Remember, political pandering is one of the main reasons we’re getting this check.

  68. MsClear says:

    I have about $500 in credit card debt that I’ll be getting rid of. Beyond that, my hubby and I will have enough left to pay for one of my graduate school courses. Not sure if that stimulates anything or not.

    I didn’t think the rebate was a good idea, but I’m hardly going to turn it down.

  69. kingdom2000 says:

    Duh. I predicted this when I first heard about the idiotic stimulus check. Everyone I know plans on using the money to pay off debt which does nothing to help the economy, but necessary for each person to try and get ahead of an ever growing debt considering the massive amount of control that corporations now have over government.

    What is amazing is that laymen predicted this but that the “professionals” in the Bush admin and business arenas didn’t.

    If Bush truly truly wanted to help the economy, he would have created a law that punish companies (via taxes) for the mornoic pay and bonuses they give to their top management and CEOs and reward them with tax credits when instead that money is given back to their employees in the form of raises and bonuses.

    Seriousily, what do you think would do more for the economy, a $20 million bonus to the CEO for a job poorly done or giving that same $20 million to thousands of employees for their hard work?

    Of course such an idea would never occur to Bush or congress when their reason to exist is to further enrich the already rich.

  70. Shadowman615 says:

    Since I pay off my credit card balance in full every month anyway, I’m gonna go ahead and foolishly spend our rebate on some stereo equipment to complement the TV we bought last month.

  71. mk says:

    Hed should read: Most Americans have already spent their stimulus check.

  72. nichomiz says:

    To those who say that they are saving it, never underestimate the power of an impulse buy.

  73. johnva says:

    @kingdom2000: Like I said earlier, paying off debt DOES help stimulate the economy if it frees up future income for spending that would have gone to interest payments.

    Also, do you really think the Administration didn’t know this is how it would go? A large part of the reason they are doing this (and a large part of the reason Democrats went along with it) is political. It’s an election year, and both sides hope to profit from this.

  74. gmss0205 says:

    If the government really wanted to make a difference they would be giving out $10,000 instead of $1,000. As a nation we are so far in debt anyway, what difference would it really make? The national debt is beyond being out of control. If everyone had $10,000 to spend, you would then see people going on vacations, buying cars, etc.. $1,000 won’t make a dent for most people.

  75. nightshadowon says:

    My $1200.00 (being married) is going directly back to the US Treasury to pay taxes (I will file first with a payment schedule, just in case you are wondering). Wish I could have just checked a box on my taxes and used it directly instead of the time and money wasted to mail me a check, deposit said check and write a check back.

    How much money do you think the Feds used to mail those stupid “you may be getting money” notices?

  76. econobiker says:

    @melking1972: Yeah, paying off $300 in high interest credit card money is like saving money in the future since we have already spent the money from 2001 through 2007 on home loans, new cars, etc.

  77. blb says:

    over a beer or 5, my friends and i have jokingly discussed spending them on illegal drugs in Mexico, thinking it would probably benefit their economy more than ours. after sobering up, i decided the check will go towards taxes.

  78. TechnoDestructo says:

    So this should still make it a tiny bit easier for banks to give new loans then, right?

    Or is it going under the mattress?

  79. Hellblazer says:

    I am going to buy 100 cups of coffee.

  80. trujunglist says:


  81. glorpy says:

    Isn’t the major fear on Wall Street a lack of liquidity in banks? Paying down loans and credit cards puts cash directly in the hands of the banks. Likewise with buying common shares in these firms or depositing into savings accounts. Both seem like a really good thing to me in that they help stabilize the stock market which seems highly reactionary and overly sensitive.

    Regardless, I know my $600 will pay down credit card debt. It’s not unmanageable, but it’s still too high for comfort.

  82. Buran says:

    @nightshadowon: About $42 million. Or was it 43?

  83. BStu says:

    @nightshadowon: $41.8 million is how much money the Feds used to mail those stupid “you may be getting money” notices.

  84. tdogg241 says:

    I was originally thinking of saving it or using it to pay rent, but screw that. I’ll probably pick up a 360 and Rock Band.

  85. Leiterfluid says:

    @Hellblazer: I love a good Futurama reference.

  86. smoothtom says:

    I’m going to throw it into the pot called my bank account … and, out of that pot, I am going to take a bunch of money so that I can write out a big check to the IRS for the freelance design work I’ve been doing this year. Freelance work is unusual for me, but I picked up a bunch of projects from one client, so I’ll be on the hook for $1800 or so in taxes. Mentally, I’ve allocated the $600 “economic stimulus” payment to that.

  87. SkiAliG says:

    i don’t have any credit card debt, so i’ll be spending it on shoes and clothes as a reward!

  88. ironchef says:

    that money is probably on its way to the middle east courtesy of the high fuel prices.

  89. shades_of_blue says:

    use it to buy gas for my car…. :(

  90. JustaConsumer says:

    Donate the money to Obama. That will fix the economy long-term.

  91. timmus says:

    Stimulus checks sound like something that should be spent on vibrators and butt plugs. I mean come on, “stimulus” checks? They should just call the things rebates or bonuses.

  92. QuiteSpunky says:

    I’m taking my money and stashing it far out of reach of the U.S. Economy. Then I’m retiring in Mexico. By the time they work out what went wrong, I’ll be sitting on a beach, earning twenty percent.

  93. howie_in_az says:

    I will be using my miniscule check to purchase an iPod adapter for my car, thusly helping the economy.

    Of course, I will be buying less blank CDs, thusly damaging the economy I previously helped.

  94. yetiwisdom says:

    I’m buying stock in Bear Stearns!

  95. McWatt says:

    I will be spending mine on booze and beer.

  96. sickofthis says:

    Because my office is losing its group health coverage, I’m being forced into an individual plan, complete with a $500 deductible that will start again even though I’ve paid one (under the group plan) already. So my stimulus check is going into the Deductible Stash.

  97. katoninetales says:

    I’m planning to get a tattoo with part of mine and put the rest on debt.

  98. STrRedWolf says:

    Vacation fund. Nuff said.

  99. Blackneto says:

    I’m not sure when these things are supposed to show up.
    But during the next few months I should have our only CC paid off.
    But I also have to get the Head gasket replaced on my car.
    So it depends.
    if any CC debt is left it will go to that then the car. then to my ING account.

  100. dirk1965 says:

    The stimulus check is for lower income families and may include veterans or retirees, so I dont know what most of you are getting your hopes up for.

  101. Kurtz says:

    Because of the timing I’ll probably end up spending mine in Ireland. I won’t tell Henry Paulson if you don’t.

  102. boandmichele says:

    @Hellblazer: yes!!!

  103. steveliv says:

    the only debt we have is a soon to be mortgage and a Balance Transfer from a credit card the wife had before we were married (0% for 18 months). it is due to be paid off in a few months. I foresee the stimulus check stimulating interest in my savings account :P

  104. steveliv says:

    @dirk1965: you have been misinformed. Anyone who files a tax return this year, has a valid social security number, and between $3,000 and $87,000 in income will get a check. being married, single, having kids determines the amount.

  105. redhand32 says:

    My economic stimulus check is going for cases of OTC laxitives because that’s where the real stimulus packages are, in our colons, and they can’t get out unless we help them.

  106. ephdel says:

    i’m using mine to buy some more gold investments.

  107. I plan on saving mine so that I can move to Seattle, WA in one year!

  108. Spooty says:

    *IF* I get one, I’ll probably throw it away. Or maybe frame it.
    Look at it this way – GWB and Congress would like nothing more than that I spend it in order to supposedly stimulate the economy, so this is a big finger to them. Plus it’s money out of thin air, increasing the national debt, so it’s also the right thing to do, monetary-wise.