The economic downturn is prompting many American families to save their $1,200 federal tax rebate checks, rather than splurge on HDTVs, video games, and other consumer electronics.

In a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. households by Parks Associates, a Dallas, Tex.-based consulting firm, only 40 percent said they're planning to spend the rebate checks on consumer electronics. Forty-two percent said they expected to hang on to their checks, citing economic uncertainties.

The rebate checks, which were mailed out this week, are part of an economic stimulus plan signed into law by President Bush earlier this year. The plan is meant to kick start the sagging U.S. economy by encouraging consumer spending. Retailers expect the extra cash to boost sales by up to $42 billion.

A recent study by Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group found that most small- and midsize business owners are expecting "little to no benefit" from the stimulus plan.