Gas Draining Rebate Checks

Few consumers plan to splurge on cars, furniture or electronics, retailers say.

With gas and food prices rising, more Americans say they're planning to use their federal tax rebate checks for daily necessities, rather than splurging on new cars, furniture or consumer electronics, the National Retail Federation reported this week.

Based on a nationwide survey, about 17.2 million consumers are expected to spend part of their rebate checks on gas, compared to an estimated 12 million consumers in February, the Washington-based trade group said. More people are also expected to use their checks for groceries, the survey found.

By contrast, only 2.4 million are expected to use their checks to buy a new car, down from 3.2 million earlier this year, the group said.

"The rising cost of groceries and gasoline means that discretionary spending is taking a backseat to necessities," said NRF President Tracy Mullin in a statement.

She said the rebate checks, which were mailed out this month, could not have come at a better time, with many Americans struggling with rising prices and lower home values.

The checks are part of a $156 billion economic stimulus plan enacted by President Bush in February. The plan provides tax rebates of $600 for individuals and $1,200 for married couples. It is expected to inject more than $40 billion into the U.S. economy.

Last updated: May 16, 2008

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