The COVID-19 crisis has been battering the U.S. economy for about a month now, closing down countless small businesses and driving millions of Americans into unemployment. Thankfully, there's a silver lining -- a $2 trillion economic stimulus package that was signed into law in late March.
Beginning in April, eligible Americans whose income falls below a certain threshold will receive $1,200 apiece, and that money could serve as a lifeline for those who are struggling to pay their mortgages or put food on the table. That lump sum can also be used to help workers pad their emergency savings so that if things get worse, they'll have options.
If you're out of a job right now, you'd be wise to either bank your stimulus payment or use it to cover near-term essentials. But if your income hasn't taken a hit due to COVID-19, you have a healthy savings account, and you're in a reasonably solid place financially, you might consider using that money to make your home a more comfortable, attractive place to live. Here are a few improvements your stimulus check can pay for.
1. Upgraded appliances
If your home's appliances are on their way out or don't work all that efficiently, your stimulus check may suffice for replacing one or two. A new dishwasher, for example, costs $400 to $700 on average. Meanwhile, you might score a washer and dryer for under $1,200, and updating yours could make the process of doing laundry far less painful.
2. Better curb appeal
Your home's exterior is the first thing people are apt to notice about it. If yours could use some sprucing up, why not invest your stimulus check in new plants, shrubs, or features that give your lawn and backyard a clean, inviting look? You can also use that money to replace parts of a worn fence or swap out your existing front door with a nicer one.
3. New window treatments
If your blinds and shades have seen better days, your stimulus check could be your ticket to replacing them. You can update your windows for under $100 a pop, which means you have the opportunity to redo several high-profile rooms in your home, like your living and dining rooms.
4. New bathroom fixtures
We all spend time in our bathrooms, so if you're sitting on $1,200, you can use that money to upgrade yours. Replace older toilets with low-flow models -- they tend to look more modern and can save you money on your water bills, too. You may also want to replace rusted faucets with newer ones, upgrade to a spa showerhead, and consider installing new lighting if you're unhappy with your current setup.
5. A comprehensive paint job
Paint is a relatively cheap investment, and if you're able to do the work yourself, you could easily give your interior a facelift with your stimulus check. Add some color to your kitchen or update your bedroom walls for a fresh new look. Given that most people are stuck at home for the foreseeable future, it's a great time to undertake this sort of project -- especially if you don't need to dip into your savings to cover it.
Let's be clear: If you're hurting in any way financially, you shouldn't consider spending your stimulus money on home improvements. But if you don't need that money to boost your savings or pay for essentials like food and medications, you might as well have some fun with it and do some improvements you'll be proud to show off once the crisis is over.