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Stimulate this! Spending your Economic Stimulus tax rebate check, 10 great ideas

While there are lots of opinions pro and against the Economic Stimulus Package checks (hitting your bank account beginning May 2!), the fact is: they're coming no matter what you think. We all have heard the prevailing skepticism as to whether $300 - $3,000 a family will do anything to help the failing dollar or to create jobs; in the end, who knows? But we have some ideas about how we could spend together to create the change we want to happen. And we'd be remiss as a personal finance site if we didn't come up with some ways you can truly stimulate your own personal economy.

Let's start with a couple of Don'ts. Don't use your rebate check for conspicuous consumption -- TVs, DVD players, large bottles of Champagne, imported Kobe beef, a trip to Cancun. Don't use it to create a greater need for fossil fuels; not as a down payment for a new car (if your very survival depends on a car, at least get a used one), or to trade up to a bigger gas guzzler, or for a power mower, or to put a new hot tub in. Do this and you'll help stimulate us into the worst possible direction.

Here's a better idea. Do try to spend it locally on something that will benefit your financial future! I've been reading a lot of smart people's musings about this (and coming up with some of my own), and have identified some areas of absolute crisis in our economy. Our country's farmland is being stripped by the wrong-headed over-production of corn and soy (in complete ignorance of sustainable farming practices). Our limited fossil fuel resources are being frittered away unnecessarily so we can continue to cling to our isolated, wasteful car culture. Our healthcare expenditures are reaching a panic point, while we are eating ever-more-expensive, ever-more-damaging food. Life as we know it is not sustainable, and no one seems to have the willpower to reverse the societal tide.

Doing something radical with your Economic Stimulus Package check can be both fun and good for your own financial bottom line. You'll end up with more money left after your pay your bills, you'll be healthier, and you may just spur a tiny bit of social change. At the very least, it can't hurt you. Here are some ideas:

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