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How financial experts say you should spend your stimulus check

Financial experts say you need to prioritize your expenses, putting absolute needs first.

TAMPA, Fla. — The IRS has started distributing stimulus checks as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act. 

 If you have your check, it's important to plan how you're going to spend it.

The president of Harwood Financial in Tampa, Robert Harwood, says $1,200 doesn't go very far when you have a lot of bills to pay, but it can help make ends meet. 

His first piece of advice is not to spend it all at once, if possible. 

"We're probably going to be in this, unfortunately, another 35, 40 or even 60 days so if we use it all now it won't be available next month. They're not going to issue another check, this is a one-time event," said Harwood. 

He says you should try and budget out $300 to $400 at a time to spend over the next few months, so you're making continuous payments to your lenders, rent and utilities.

Harwood says you should prioritize your expenses, putting needs first. 

"We need food on the table and electricity needs to stay on," said Harwood. He says you should work with your lenders to see if they're providing COVID-19 relief options, in some cases mortgages and student loans are in forbearance, meaning you may not have to make those payments. 

"Maybe this is where you call your electric company and say 'what programs do you have for me because I can't pay that bill right now?' to see what they can do," said Harwood. 

"We all want to pay our bills and make our payments on time, but we just have to survive this crisis," said Harwood.

 He says that creating a little bit of debt during this time is understandable, but you have to be cautious.

 "Take on debt for the right reasons, for your needs. Don't create debt for just things you want right now."

 Harwood says many people will be in the same situation, so creating a small amount of debt during a time of unprecedented unemployment will happen to a lot of people. To avoid it spiraling out of control, he says you should make it your first priority to correct when the economy and job market begins to bounce back.

We have more tips on how to manage your finances during COVID-19.

Some people have been reporting problems receiving their checks and problems with the IRS tracking tool.

RELATED: IRS stimulus check status tracker is now online | Here's what you need to know

RELATED: Frustration looms as the Federal Government Payroll Protection Program funds runs dry

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