Within the next few weeks, those who qualify for Congress’s stimulus-plan tax rebates will be getting checks: $600 for singles, $1,200 for marrieds, $300 per kid. Should you sock it away in a retirement account? Give it to charity? Or have some prepaid fun? Here, eighteen ways to blow (or invest) your gift from the government.
Put money on last quarter’s losers.
For a quick return, pick one sector (in this case, retail) that’s benefiting from market gyrations. Stocks in companies like Dollar Tree, Big Lots, and Yum! Brands got oversold earlier in the year, when the Fed was signaling fears of a major recession. Now many money managers have reassessed, and the stocks are gaining. As the Fed tries to encourage consumer spending, outlooks for retail companies could brighten, and the buzz around their stocks will peak— at which point you should sell.
Take your investment dollars abroad.
Not that they’re fortune-tellers, but many financial experts think that domestic mutual funds are not the safest place to invest in the midterm. Foreign economic growth rates, they say, are likely to beat ours over the next couple of years. Yale School of Management professor Matthew Spiegel advises reapportioning some dough into an international fund. Investing in index funds gives you the most cover, Spiegel says, but something “at least Europe-focused” can provide some upside.
Sock it away in a retirement account.
Let compound interest be your pal, says Charles Schwab adviser Richard Rosso. Up your 401(k) contribution by $50 a month ($600 annually). If you keep up these contributions, you can accumulate $23,000 over the next twenty years (assuming a conservative 6 percent annual return).
Buy two awesome seats for Kanye.
What better way to stimulate the economy than by supporting pop music’s leading exponent of materialism, Kanye West? On StubHub, $600 will get you a pair of seats in the 100 level of the Louis Vuitton Don’s May 13 concert at Madison Square Garden. If you want two seats on the floor, you’ll have to pair up with another rebate recipient—they’re going for $600 apiece (Stubhub.com; 866-788-2482).
Join a museum that throws good parties.
Add some highbrow to your dating life by signing up for a $600 dual membership to P.S. 1. The deal grants instant art-insider status; members get visits to artists’ studios, curator-guided walk-throughs, and access to VIP openings for every exhibition. Plus you can jump the long lines at the Saturday-night Warm Up parties, which start July 5, and get free entry to big-sister MoMA (22-25 Jackson Ave., at 46th Ave., Long Island City; 718-786-7375).
Commission a mural.
Hire Welybom Studios (917-439-3921) to festoon your bedroom with a three-foot-square mural of polka-dotted dogs. Or go with Decoradar (917-981-8804), which will create large silhouettes of you and your cat (or dog, or boyfriend). Or ask painter Peter Paquin (508-878-5165) to do one of his small, graffiti-style pieces, which he describes as “cartoony, fun, and kind of evil.”
Get fitted for a phony ponytail.
Some girls have silky ponytails. Others have weird hair appendages that frizz from Memorial Day to Labor Day. If you’re in the latter camp (or you just want to try out a new color), let Eva Scrivo make you an impeccable $600 medium-length ’tail. Starting in June, her salon will customize attachable highlighted ponytails that match your hair’s density and style (Eva Scrivo, 50 Bond St., nr. Bowery; 212-677-7315).
Spend the summer at a really nice pool.
In addition to letting you lap up the Printing House’s floor-to-ceiling views of the Hudson, a three-month gym membership ($625) starting in June grants you access to a gorgeous rooftop pool with an “endless swim” device that simulates open-water swimming. Your up-front payment includes a $300 joining fee, and you can extend your membership for the rest of the year for only $60 a month (421 Hudson St., nr. Leroy St.; 212-243-7600).
Teach your face muscles to unclench.
Less invasive than fillers like Botox and Restylane, acupuncture facials offer the double benefit of being relaxing and gently effective. A series of treatments, which adherents swear help lessen wrinkles and eye puffiness, can be pricey. But Sharon Yeung, a licensed acupuncturist, offers a six-session special for the nice round sum of $600 (Five Seasons Healing, 80 E. 11th St., nr. Broadway, Ste. 407; 917-538-5755).