Tax season is upon us. As millions of Americans finalize their tax documents ahead of the April 17th tax filing deadline, many of us begin to dream about receiving a big refund check.
But not everyone will get a refund after filing their taxes.
In fact, some will owe money.
If you do end up receiving a check from the IRS and/or your state, taking the family on a summer trip to Disneyland, or a shopping spree at Bloomingdale’s may sound tempting but is that really the best way to use that money?
What to Do With Tax Refund Money?
Below are four smart money tips to make your tax return work for you:
Pay Off Debt
Using tax refunds to pay off debt is an idea many money experts agree is a good use of your money.
Credit cards and other loans accumulate interest charges. So, sending in extra payments can not only decrease the time it will take you to pay off your debt, but it can also decrease the amount you’ll pay in finance charges.
If your refund won’t cover the entire debt you owe, consider applying your refund to the credit card with the lowest remaining balance. You’ll be one step closer to paying off that account!
Save For A Rainy Day
If you don’t have credit card debt or student loans to pay off, consider opening a savings account and setting aside your tax refund for a rainy day.
Having an emergency fund allows you to worry less about the possibility of falling into debt due to an unexpected event such as a job loss or medical emergency.
Financial experts recommend saving between three and nine months’ of expenses in your emergency fund. Even if you are strict with your budget, not having an emergency fund could land you in credit card debt in the future.
Save For College
With the cost of higher education forever on the rise and student loan debt breaking records throughout the U.S., saving for future college expenses is more important than ever.
If you start when your children are young and set aside your tax refund for 18 years, you could end up setting aside thousands of dollars for your children(s) college funds.
Bonus: When setting up long-term savings accounts, interest works in your favor!
Save For Retirement
How many tax refunds will you receive before you retire?
Consider setting aside all of your tax refunds in a savings account that you won’t touch until you’re ready to retire. This savings account is in no way a substitute for more traditional methods of saving, like contributing to a 401K, for example. But, setting tax refund dollars aside will add up over the years and can end up being a substantial amount when it’s time for you to retire.
Things to consider:
- Regardless of how much you think you’re going to receive for your tax refund, don’t calculate that money into your budget until you have it. Counting on money that you don’t have is dangerous.
- Be sure you understand how the tax system works and realize you’re not guaranteed a refund. In fact, every year people have to pay the IRS when they thought they were getting a return. If you realize you’re one of those people, start saving for it well in advance or check your deductions with your company’s HR department.