By Elisabeth Buchwald
Whether it’s $600, $1,200 or $1,400, Americans have been consistent in terms of how they’ve spent all three stimulus checks. But what’s changed is their allocation of saving versus spending, according to findings published Wednesday by the New York Federal Reserve.
In the first round of economic impact payments, households set aside 29% of their checks for consumption. In the second round, that fell to 26%, and in the most recent round fell to 25%.
That’s based on the New York Fed’s Survey of Consumer Expectations, a nationally representative, internet-based survey of about 1,300 U.S. households.
The survey also found that consumers, on average, are planning to stash away almost 42% of their third stimulus check, compared to last year when consumers saved 36% of their first stimulus check.
In January, households reported using or planning to use an average of 16% of the second-round stimulus funds for essential spending and 6% for non-essential spending.
In this latest round of stimulus checks, households reported they expect to spend 13% of it on average on essential items and 8% on non-essential items.
The survey findings reflect “high uncertainty about the duration and continued economic impact of the pandemic,” which includes “elevated uncertainty about future inflation,” economists at the New York Fed wrote in a post .
That said, consumer confidence, a measure of how consumers feel about the economy, hit a pandemic high last month as more Americans get vaccinated against coronavirus and businesses can reopen with fewer restrictions.
So far, the Internal Revenue Service has distributed 156 million stimulus checks, amounting to $372 billion, as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, as of Wednesday. That includes some 25 million payments that were delivered to Social Security and VA beneficiaries.
Of the households surveyed by the New York Fed in March, some 32% reported they had received a third-round payment, with the average payment amount being $3,162.