How I Spent My Summer Stimulus 4/19/20

My Life by Richard Bleil

Regular readers know my life has been spiraling downward for quite some time. As a quick review, I gave up my tenured professorship for a wife that left me in less than two years, lost two amazing jobs for trying to do the right thing, have been un- or under-employed for several years, had my car repossessed because I couldn’t keep up my payments and have been living with friends. I’m homeless, jobless (well, I have a part-time temporary job) and pretty much bound to the apartment for far longer than I would have liked.

The even shorter review is to say that I have used my savings up a long time ago, and I’m living about thirty percent below poverty level. Yes, I’m depressed.

The hardest thing is not having any proverbial wheels. Back before the Zombie virus, uh, no, sorry, what’s it called? The Coronavirus, yeah, that’s it. A month or two prior I was approached about an emergency teaching gig. A small college had the chemistry professor suddenly quit about a month into term, and they desperately needed somebody to teach it. Unfortunately, while it was a reasonable commute, it was too far for ride share (I would have paid more for rides than they would have paid) and far off of the available public transportation. Because I didn’t have my own vehicle, they went to somebody else who I’m sure did a fine job, but I lost several thousand dollars which, frankly, would have helped me out quite a bit and opened up at least a possibility for a full time job.

Then isolation. The president immediately pumped money into the stock market to help industry, apparently not needing any support to do so. It caused the market to bounce back, a bit, for less than an hour. So, Congress got involved, and passed a second stimulus package (technically the third of this presidency with the tax breaks he gave early on) but wouldn’t do so without support for citizens as well.

And thus, the stimulus checks were born.

Now, there were a couple of things that were running through my mind. First, since my last income tax, I had lived in at least four different places, all temporary, in three states. So, when I heard they were “sending checks”, I’m not sure that the government even knows where the check should be sent. Then, they hadn’t mentioned direct deposit; it sounded as if just checks. Then, they started talking about smaller checks for people that were not making much money. My income has been in such flux of late that I really don’t even remember what my last tax return said. Even if I received the stimulus, would it be the full check, or the half check?

The good news that, yes, I did get the stimulus as a direct deposit, and, even more shocking, it was the full amount. But what to do with it?

Suddenly I had an extra $1,200 in my bank account, unexpectedly. How to spend it? I certainly didn’t want to spend it frivolously, and I have had money in my account before that I tried to “make last”. What I’ve come to realize is just hording it away is akin to a slow death. Yes, I could have stretched it out for probably five months or so, but in the end, I would still be stuck to finding jobs within walking distance or on the bus line. That means that administration job, teaching positions, even consulting work is largely off of the proverbial table. I need transportation. I need a vehicle.

What can you get for $1,200? Actually, less, since you have to worry about taxes, fees, blah blah blah. I wanted to go through a dealership because I wanted to avoid the possibility of somebody selling me a vehicle they shouldn’t be selling. I’ve seen stories of people selling vehicles to one person, getting them back because they keep a key only to sell it to somebody else. At least with a dealership you know they checked for this kind of thing. For the kind of money I had, though, it would be a proverbial junker, and I doubted I could find one I could pay in its entirety. If I COULD pay for it entirely, I could save money on interest, and go with just liability insurance saving more. But I figured I’d have to take out a small loan. My credit rating is hurting, but maybe one that is small enough would be approved.

If I had to get a loan, then I would go for something more useful than “whatever I can afford”. I decided it would still be a proverbial “junker”, but I would look for something that can carry cargo. Something to help me get what few possessions I have left to haul if I ever do find a new home.

What I found was the best of both worlds. For about a thousand dollars (including fees and blah blah), I found a 1997 Ford Explorer. Is it beautiful? No, but actually, it’s not bad. It starts right up, has probably one belt that needs to be tightened but it runs fine. With this, I’ve decided to start looking for jobs more in earnest since I’m no longer bound to this neighborhood. Not all of my friends thought this was a wise thing to do, with at least a couple recommending that I try to make the stimulus stretch out, but now I have the mobility to seek more opportunities. Let’s hope this vehicle helps me climb back out of this pit I find myself in.

And, yes, I’ve named the car “Corrine”.

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