If the sarcasm in my title escapes anyone, let me assure you, I am being sarcastic.
A number of stores have decided to encourage you to spend your economic stimulus checks there by giving incentives to cashing your check with them. For most of the stores offering incentives, they will give you an extra 10% for turning your check into a gift card for their store. So, for example, a $600 check turns into a $660 gift card.
If you are interested in which stores are participating and the details of what they are offering, Jonathan at My Money Blog did a great overview post earlier this week. Honestly, the idea of it, from a “bonus” standpoint, isn’t all that bad if one of the participating stores is somewhere you shop regularly. However, even though I am going to be spending our economic stimulus check on a new furnace, instead of paying down debt as I had planned, I hate the blatant consumerism being pushed by these store incentives. For some people, turning a $600 check into a $660 Kroger gift card is an excellent, even frugal idea. But the fact that these incentives are being offered is a temptation to many people who were planning on saving the stimulus check, or using it for other purposes, into spending it. Yes, I shop at Kroger. But coming up with $1800 more to go towards our furnace so I could turn my check into a Kroger gift card just doesn’t make sense for me, even if I’d get $180 for my trouble. And since I generally spend less than $20 a week at Kroger, it’d take me the next 2-3 years to spend that gift card anyhow.
Use the stimulus check for what makes the best sense for you. If a store gift card is the best idea for you, by all means, take advantage of a promotion. But don’t let a store promotion suck you into making a less than desirable decision. Just because it’s a good deal doesn’t mean it is a good deal for you. Especially with the early arrival of many people’s economic stimulus checks, this will only be the beginning of ways that businesses will try to lure you into patronizing them. Be smart – have a plan – and stick to it. You’ll be happy you did.
As will I, with my brand new furnace. Too bad no local furnace installers are offering to turn my check directly into a furnace.