HOUSTON - Next month, you'll likely collect your stimulus check from the government. With rent, utility, and credit card bills piling up for many families, you may wonder which bills to pay first.
We sat down with some financial coaches to help you prioritize your expenses.
But first, let's calculate how much money you might expect in your stimulus check. The CARES Act states that individuals who make under $75,000 a year (based on your adjusted gross income on your last tax return), or $150,000 for couples, will receive $1200 per person, plus $500 for each child.
The stimulus amount decreases by $5 for every $100 in additional income over $75,000 and $150,000. For example, if a single parent's income is $85,000 per year, with two children, they'd receive $1700. Individuals earning more than $99,000 and couples more than $198,000 will not receive a check.
Financial coaches say that once you get your stimulus check, set it aside to avoid the temptation of spending it. Then collect a clear picture of all your expenses over the next month.
"Set it aside, look and see when you need it, where you need it," said Sherrie Young, Executive Director of Coalition Credit.
Money coach Kelly Showalter says to start with the "four walls."
"Food is first. We don't know how long t his is going to take, how long it's going to last," said Showalter. "We've got to have a place to live, so we think about our home. We've got to pay our utilities. And we've got to have a car to get to work."
But before you send money off for home or car payments, contact your landlord, mortgage lender, or auto loan servicer. Young says if they'll give you a deferral without penalties, you may want to take advantage of it and pay other critical, pressing needs.
"Your mortgage company, if they're willing to take a pause, do a forbearance and contact them," said Young.
Next, keep your health, auto, and home insurance current. You don't want a policy canceled and then have an emergency.
Said Young, "Pay that insurance, your property, your health, take care of your family."
And finally, see if your credit card, student loan or other lenders will let you defer payments without penalties. If so, you may want to put any money leftover into an emergency fund.
"We look and see where we are with our current income level. We make the best possible choices on what to do with that money when it shows up," said Showalter.
If you are counting on deferred payment from any lender, you must contact them to arrange it. Don't just stop making payments or it could hurt your credit.