Bitcoin? Food? Debt? How most Americans actually plan to spend their stimulus checks

March 12, 2021, 6:49 PM UTC

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While some people might fantasize about investing third-round stimulus checks into the stock market or Bitcoin to transform that $1,400 into much more, the majority of Americans have more immediate concerns in mind.

Data from the U. S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey shows that the majority of recipients plan to use the money on food and utilities, as household budgets remain tight during the pandemic. A study of stimulus payment use, taken between Feb. 17 and March 1, shows debt reduction and household expenses are the top priorities.

The study surveyed 110 million people who reported receiving checks in the previous seven days during the time period. Some 52% said they used it to largely pay off debt, 28% spent it, while 19% opted to save the money.

When asked how they used or plan to use the money, respondents were given a variety of categories and could select more than one.

More than half—nearly 58%—said the money had gone or would go to food (including groceries, restaurants, or takeout), while 44% cited utilities, including their cell phone and Internet bills. Household supplies came in third, at roughly 36%, just ahead of paying off debt.

Rent was fifth on people’s priority list, just nudging out vehicle payments and mortgages, which were sixth and seventh, respectively.

A little over 15% of the people who had received checks in this time period said they would consider spending them on investments (and saving). That works out to just under 17 million—but remember that people could choose more than one category.

Day-to-day items were the lowest priority for consumers. Clothing was on the agenda for only 10% of recipients. Just 6% said they were considering household items, including TVs, electronics, furniture, and appliances. And just 2.5% had plans to buy recreational goods, such as sports and fitness equipment, bicycles, toys, and games.

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