I Spent My Stimulus Check on a Garden: Why I Don’t Regret It

Gigi Alexander planned to walk around Japan and teach abroad, but then a global pandemic struck and a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis ended her career.

To alleviate the financial strain Alexander and millions of Americans felt during the pandemic, the U.S. government issued more than 476 million stimulus checks over three installments totaling $814 billion.

Many individuals and families used the stimulus money to fill income gaps, stock their pantries, pay off debt and stay afloat during the global health and financial crisis.

Alexander made a different choice.

GOBankingRates spoke with Alexander about why she doesn’t regret spending her stimulus check on growing a garden.

Also look at what happened to the person who spent stimulus money on a gaming system.

‘Frivolous’ expenditure

For years, Alexander was praised as a travel writer, publisher and teacher.

Before the pandemic, students from all over the world traveled to her classes in Mexico and Uganda. Then Alexander found herself competing to sell in the increasingly crowded field of online classes sold during and after the pandemic while dealing with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis.

“At that moment I knew I couldn’t fly anymore,” Alexander said. “COVID made it impossible to be a travel writer, and the pain of the MS hurt me every time.”

With few options left, Alexander decided to build a garden and spend $5,000.

“The garden was an incredible thing to do and honestly incredibly frivolous because I didn’t even have the money to pay my rent,” she said. “For me it was just an incredible experience to build something like that, because it was like creating a living work of art.”

Investing in family

Making smart money moves is crucial, especially during financially turbulent times. However, money management is also a mindset, says Olivia Dreizen Howell, a certified life and success coach.

“As we manage our finances, we have to leave room for spending on mental health care and self-care or we may burn out,” Howell said.

Howell explained that it was also important to save and spend money on experiences that improve the quality of life for yourself and others.

That’s what Heather Thornsley and her family did during the pandemic when her husband lost his job. Thornsley used the stimulus money to rent an apartment in Lake Tahoe.

“Every day my daughter and husband skied right out our door,” Thornsley said. “I met them at the bottom of the slopes for drinks at sunset and then we went to the apartment for dinner and watching movies. We loved our home in Oakland, but we needed a different view.”

Thornsley said her family’s decision to go to Tahoe felt extravagant to them, their friends and their family.

“But it was totally worth it,” she says. “Working while watching it snow was a necessary change in mental health care.”

Saving lives

Creating and maintaining the garden saved her life, Alexander said.

“It helped me cope with having multiple sclerosis, which was one of the most isolating things that ever happened to me,” Alexander said. “I chose something that I thought would save me, and it did.”

Alexander began saving other lives by using her home as an animal shelter. However, she started having problems with her neighbors because people kept leaving dogs on her doorstep, and she only had nine days to move.

“I lost everything,” she said. “I had to dismantle the entire garden and of course everything died. That was one of the most painful things I have ever experienced.”

Alexander said she plans to plant a new garden at the animal shelter where she lives. But this time, Alexander said she would use seeds because she can’t afford to buy plants.

“It (creating the garden) was a really good thing to do,” Alexander said. “It saved my soul.”

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