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Where Did the Rebate Checks Go?

I went to the Outer Banks for a family reunion over the weekend, and I decided to take the family to Cedar Fair's (NYSE: FUN  ) Kings Dominion en route. I wasn't sure how much we would be able to do, arriving at 4 p.m. during the peak month of July.

My concerns were unfounded. Between an overcast sky and the fact that the park's most popular coaster -- the erupting Volcano -- was closed, we were able to walk onto every coaster. Really. If we wanted to sit in the front, our wait might be extended to a whole three minutes. It was a good thing, too, since we were done with everything we wanted to do by the time a hellacious thunderstorm moved in three hours later.

"There is no way that this park is turning a profit today," my son said, as we had an entire coaster train on the stand-up Shockwave coaster to ourselves. Unless the park was brimming with summer camp groups earlier in the day, he was probably right.

Coupled with the ample elbow room I found at a few amusement parks in Southern California two weeks ago, I'm starting to doubt my theory that regional amusement parks will come out as big winners from  the economic stimulus checks that began going out in May.

That's bad news for my portfolio, as someone invested in both Cedar Fair and the financially wobbly Six Flags (NYSE: SIX  ) . It also leads me to wonder where the rebate checks are actually being spent.

They're obviously not being cashed by budding entrepreneurs. This week's glum forecast from Office Depot (NYSE: ODP  ) indicates that money isn't being spent by sole proprietors to get their home offices going. Yesterday's disappointing quarterly report from Sealy (NYSE: ZZ  ) , and the mattress maker's reference to trends worsening in June, means that we're not choosing to invest in a better night's sleep, either.

Can it be? Are we actually doing the sensible thing and using those rebate checks to pay down debt or launch investing strategies? Probably not.

If you want to know where the money is going, follow the comps. This morning found BJ's Wholesale Club (NYSE: BJ  ) posting a head-turning 16.5% improvement in same-store sales for the month of June. Over at master discounter Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , comps rose a healthy 5.8% once you back out the buoyant fuel sales.

Most of the specialty retailers and conventional department store chains aren't even coming close. Hip retailer Aeropostale (NYSE: ARO  ) may be bucking the mall malaise with the 12% spike in June comps it's reporting this morning, but it seems that discounters are making the most of those economic stimulus checks.

Spending less on stuff we may actually need? Maybe we're doing the sensible thing after all.

What did you do with your stimulus check, if you got one? Let us know by using the comment box below.

Further Foolishness with no minimum height requirement:

Cedar Fair is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Wal-Mart Stores is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of thrill rides, apparently. He owns shares in Six Flags and units in Cedar Fair. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (21) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 12:38 PM, jmt587 wrote:

    European vacation! Do you think my using the $600 dollars to buy less than 400 Euros and then spending those Euros in Italy and Spain was what the government had in mind when it sent the stimulus checks?

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 12:56 PM, edsmarduk wrote:

    used it to bolster my emergency fund. $600 isn't a lot, but it did help.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 1:07 PM, Acorn17 wrote:

    Invested 1/2 and used 1/2 to pay health insurance premiums

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 1:15 PM, TCJudy wrote:

    Believe it or not - I bought 100 shares of Cedar Fair and plan to treat my kids to a day at Michigan Adventure. It sounds like the park may have short lines which will be both a good thing and a bad thing.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 2:09 PM, meade78 wrote:

    I used mine to help my Apple stock stay up there and bought the new MacBook I have been wanting for awhile now.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 2:32 PM, Appletree83 wrote:

    Since our college-aged son is currently out-of-work, we will be using our $1200 check to make his student loan payments for the next 3 months.

    Maybe by then, he'll have found a job and can make his own loan payments. Hope springs eternal!

    What's aggravating is that even though my husband & I fully support our son while he's in college, we were not given the extra $300 tax rebate for him (as our dependent) because he's over age 17. Where's the sense in the IRS having a cut-off age like that? Kids only cost more as they get older!

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 2:47 PM, EllieS33 wrote:

    I used it to pay for my child's summer camp. Without it, I would have put it on a credit card. So, in fact, I saved the interest fees I would have paid on the card.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 3:55 PM, EWY2008 wrote:

    Surprised this has not popped by now but it is likely you have already put your surplus into your gas tank. If you drive a gas guzzler (less than 30 mpg) then you definitely have.

    It is a shame but that is where most people spent their $600 without even thinking about it.

    The Federal government borrowed money from China, to give to us, so we can send it overseas to unstable regions.

    A ridiculous chain of events.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 4:08 PM, WigginsD wrote:

    What check? Would be great if I had the $1100+, but yet more evidence of the gubment's brilliant money handling ways. Foolishly we owed, and while they seem quite capable of picking that up in a timely fashion, clearly the opposite isn't the case. Though I do hope to find some bargains whenever the check arrives, seems they will be better than anything I could've bought in May...

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 5:29 PM, darroj wrote:

    put it towards college loan... fully paid off after 6 months of interest accrual :)

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 6:31 PM, eskelly2 wrote:

    We still haven't received ours! It's supposed to arrive this week, and it's going straight into savings. We're just starting out, and we'd rather plan for our future than waste it on something we don't need.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 6:49 PM, hydrogenslush wrote:

    Paid down $1200 in credit card debt.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 7:08 PM, kshatteen wrote:

    I guess I am one of those sensible folks you speak of in the article. My husband and I purchased a very nice chest freezer from Sears and filled it with food since inflation, stagflation, scorchflation what ever you want to call this, is causing food prices to go up every time we go to the store...

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 9:26 PM, noramouse wrote:

    I bought cheeze doodles with mine.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 10:13 PM, luscious25 wrote:

    i paid off a credit card and blew the rest at a macys one day sale.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2008, at 10:36 PM, SultanofStock wrote:

    Just a question. Is it possible that my family will not get a stimulus check if we make a certain amount of money? Is it possible to make too much money to receive a stimulus check? I'm not going to disclose exactly how much, but for the purpose of this question say we make 250,000. I would appreciate it if someone would tell me. Thanks.

  • Report this Comment On July 11, 2008, at 8:43 AM, drmarques43230 wrote:

    I used my rebate check to re-landscape the front of my house. It had 25 year old overgrown bushes likely dating back to the original homeowner. Saved a lot of money by doing all the labor myself.

  • Report this Comment On July 11, 2008, at 9:46 AM, greyscale4 wrote:

    Yep, you can make too much money for a stimulus check. I believe the cut off is $75,000 a year for an individual. I'm not sure about couples. It's a bummer because the middle class are hurting just like everyone else!

  • Report this Comment On July 11, 2008, at 12:36 PM, Appletree83 wrote:

    Greyscale4 is correct: It's $75,000 per individual, but $150,000 for a couple filing jointly.

    There's excellent info on the stimulus checks at

  • Report this Comment On July 11, 2008, at 12:39 PM, Appletree83 wrote:

    I am so sorry! I meant to write

    (Why do I always type in "org"? My apologies.)

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2008, at 10:07 AM, hemloc wrote:

    I don't carry debt, so I used the money in savings and investments. I have a wife and 2 children, so my check was 1800. But I'm not a spender, I'm an investor and saver.

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