COVID-19 has been wreaking utter havoc on the U.S. economy since cases started spreading in March. Now, millions of Americans are unemployed, and a large number of small businesses are shut down, perhaps permanently.

Thankfully, President Trump approved a $2 trillion stimulus package that includes, among other provisions, a one-time $1,200 payment for qualifying adults whose income falls below a certain threshold. And while those payments aren't set to hit recipients' bank accounts for a number of weeks, Americans are already making plans to put that money to good use. Here's what they intend to do with that windfall, according to a new survey by Crediful.

Woman putting her arms around a pile of hundred-dollar bills


1. Buy essentials

A good 46.8% of stimulus recipients say they'll use that money to buy groceries, and 46.4% say they'll spend it on bills and utilities. Furthermore, 16.3% say they'll use the cash for toiletries and hygiene products, while 13.3% say they'll buy health or medical supplies.

2. Pay for housing

Housing is the typical American's greatest monthly expense, so it's not surprising to see that 28.4% of people intent to use their stimulus funds to cover their rent or mortgage. That said, mortgage lenders are cutting borrowers a lot of slack these days by letting more loans go into forbearance, and landlords are giving tenants extra time to pay. If you're truly cash-strapped, it pays to see what options are available to you, especially if you need the money to buy immediate necessities like food and household supplies.

3. Add to savings

For 42.3%, a stimulus check is a great opportunity to pad their savings. And that's a good thing -- the more money you have on hand for emergencies, the better, so if you don't need the cash for immediate bills, it pays to stick it in the bank.

4. Cover credit card debt

Unfortunately, credit card debt doesn't necessarily get put on pause when a global health crisis arises, which explains why 26.8% of people say they'll use their stimulus money to keep up with that obligation. That said, some credit card companies, like mortgage lenders, are offering more flexibility, so if money is very tight, it pays to see what leniency you qualify for.

5. Invest

Those who are good on emergency savings and don't need their stimulus money to pay immediate bills have a prime opportunity to invest, especially since the stock market is down and great investments can be snatched up at a discount. In fact, 10.7% of Americans plan to invest their stimulus payment in the hopes of growing it into a larger sum.

6. Pay student loans

Federal student loans are automatically eligible for forbearance through late September, so if you're in a desperate financial spot, you can save your stimulus payment for near-term bills and put your debt payments on hold. But if you can afford to keep making those payments, you have an opportunity to knock out your loans faster. That's because right now, your payments will go completely toward the principal portion of your loans, since interest is being waved. A good 9.4% of Americans say they'll use their stimulus money for student debt, but that could indicate that some may not be aware of the aforementioned relief. That said, automatic forbearance applies to federal loans only; private student loans aren't part of that package.

7. Buy clothing

Interestingly enough, 7.9% of Americans plan to buy clothing with their stimulus cash. Given that most people are stuck at home, it's surprising to see that so many would want to make that investment. On the other hand, it's a sign of hope that we'll soon enough get to stop self-isolating and start seeing people again. If you can afford to spend your stimulus money on clothing, do so, since you could probably use the pick-me-up -- but only if you're really on top of your bills and are solid on the emergency savings front. And of course, don't spend the entire $1,200 on clothing. If you really don't need to put it in the bank or cover bills, it pays to invest at least some it.

How will you spend your stimulus money?

Clearly, there are a lot of ways to put your stimulus payment to good use. Think carefully about your near-term needs as you decide where to put that money, keeping in mind that a recession may be on the horizon and your job may not be as secure as you think. It's tempting to use that money to indulge, especially if you have a way to cover your bills for the time being. But if you have any question at all about your job security, or you think you could use a little more money in the bank, pad your emergency fund. It's never a bad idea.