So what are you going to do with your tax refund? Take a nice vacation? Buy an iPhone X? Before you decide to spend it on something just for fun, check out these uses that will pay you back with even more money in your pocket.
1. Put it in your emergency fund.
Sooner or later, your car will break down, your pet will get sick or some other unexpected expense will blindside you. Having an emergency fund in your bank means you won't have to borrow money to pay the mechanic or vet. So, that tax refund will save you all the interest you would have paid on the loan. Plus, it will save you from extra stress in an already stressful situation.
2. Pay off bank and credit card debt.
Do you even know how much interest you're paying every month on your car loan, credit card balances or mortgage? Most people are shocked when they find out. Getting those debts paid down ahead of schedule can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the life of the loan — all thanks to your tax refund. (Just make sure there's no prepayment penalty in your loan contract.)
3. Start an IRA.
Yes, even if you have a 401K at work, you can also get your own individual retirement account (IRA) from any bank. When the time comes that you're too old to work, this extra source of income may significantly improve your quality of life. Even better, all the money you put into it is tax deductible, so you will pay less tax next year.
Or, you can choose a Roth IRA which works the opposite way: you pay tax when you put the money in, then it's tax free when you take it out again after you retire. If tax rates continue to go up in the years ahead, that would result in even more savings.
4. Make home improvements.
You'll not only increase your comfort level while living in your home, you'll also increase its value when you sell. Even small things like repainting the walls, adding storage shelves in the garage or installing new faucets can make a difference. For immediate money savings, replace an old, energy-hogging appliance such as your refrigerator or washer/dryer with one that will lower your utility bills.
5. Increase your earning power.
Invest in education or training to learn new skills that can boost you towards your career goals. Or maybe you'd like to have a home-based business as a sideline to bring in some extra cash. Your tax refund can be the seed money you need to get started.
You can still give yourself a treat when your tax refund arrives. But if you put most of that money back to work for you, it can bring you many more treats down the road.