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To Spend or To Give: Should You Stimulate the Economy or Give to Charity with That Tax Rebate?
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To Spend or To Give: Should You Stimulate the Economy or Give to Charity with That Tax Rebate?

Tax rebates are trickling into American mailboxes. Some of us will be getting a pretty sweet chunk of change back, and with the economy going down the tubes, there are plenty of places we can think of to use that money. But if you don’t absolutely need it to pay rent, put food on the table, or pay off some debt, some people think you should give your rebate (or at least, part of it) to charity. A number of churches have started funds where people can donate their tax rebate money to charities that haven’t been doing so well due to the crappy economy.

"It's an unbelievable amount of cash that people of faith or people of conscience could choose to say, 'You know, we could get along without this. We could put this money to use,' " said Ken Sehested, co-pastor at the Circle of Mercy church in Asheville, N.C. His congregation of about 50 adults, which is affiliated with the United Church of Christ and Alliance of Baptists, voted to give at least 10 percent of their checks to charities. He and his wife plan to give their entire $1,200 check to the church's partner congregation in Cuba.

You may already have a favorite charity where you’d like to designate your money, but if you’re looking for some suggestions, Low Impact Living has some tips for spending your money in eco-smart ways that will save you money later on, and also happen to be good for the planet. Or how about helping communities in need all over the world—including Darfur, India, and Colombia—by donating to the American Jewish World Service, which funds hundreds of grassroots organizations working to promote health, education, economic development, disaster relief, and social and political change in the developing world.

And here’s our favorite idea for your rebate check: Use it to make a micro-loan to empower an entrepeneur in the developing world to lift him or herself out of poverty. And since you’re only loaning the money, you can even get it back to spend on a night out on the town in a few months, or reinvest in another venture, or donate it. Check out to choose the micro-loan you’ll support.

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