Dos and don’ts of getting, spending stimulus checks

NOW: Dos and don’ts of getting, spending stimulus checks

WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- The stimulus packages the Senate and the White House agreed to early Wednesday morning includes stimulus checks to most Americans; up to $1200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples.

With non-essential businesses shutdown and unemployment numbers are soaring, many are unable to pay their bills. Those stimulus checks could help, but CBS 58 Investigates found some dos and don’ts when it comes to getting that money and using it.

“You want to first prioritize the most critical bills,” said Shawn Quella, a financial advisor.

Quella says that means paying for housing first, then transportation bills like car payments and insurance, then move to credit cards and other federal debt. And he says hold off racking up more debt.

“I would strongly recommend, before spending money on your or putting those bills on your credit card, reach out to your bank,” Quella said.

Quella says in addition to checks, the stimulus bill will help banks provide loans.

“In this circumstance the stimulus is strictly there to provide liquidity to the banks to provide help for the people,” Quella said. “So there will be measures there that will allow that to definitely have lower interest and that kind of thing than a credit card would.”

But with the stimulus bill also comes some risks, like scammers, trying to manipulate vulnerable people, telling them to click a link to get their stimulus check.

“What they want is your name, your address, your social security number, your bank information, supposedly so they can put money in but they’ll just take money out,” said Jim Temmer with the Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin.

There are also scams targeting the elderly and the sick.

“They’re saying there are government grants out there to pay bills for sick people, for old people, but you just have to pay a certain fee, a handling fee, a fee to set up your account,” Temmer said.

Temmer says if you have doubts, call the BBB or another trusted agency.

Meanwhile Quella says if this crisis caught you off guard, when it’s over, start an emergency fund and try to have three to six months of expenses saved up.

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