With the deadline to file your taxes upon us (it's April 18, just so you know), you're probably ready for this whole financial headache to be over. You're also likely wondering what are some smart things to do with your tax refund. After doing your taxes, in addition to all of the not-fun adult responsibilities you take on throughout the year, it's nice to know that Uncle Same provides a nice, little monetary relief once a year. Think of it: for at least a little while, you can actually consider vacations, investments, or just not eating ramen again for dinner.
It can be a bit overwhelming if you have a sudden influx of funds and you're not quite sure where or how much you should be spending of your tax refund. According to a survey published in Bloomberg, here is how other people are spending their tax refunds this year: a whopping 5o percent are putting it straight into savings, 35 percent are paying down loans and debt, a little over 11 percent are treating themselves to a vacation, and just under 10 percent are splurging on big purchases like TVs and cars. Yet if you're looking for the smartest things to do with your tax refund this year that will hopefully grant you a better, more secure financial future, then check out these top ideas.
1. Move It Immediately
If you're like most Americans, you probably have it set up that your tax refund will automatically be deposited directly into your checking account. Though that isn't necessarily a bad thing to do, having all those funds so easily accessible could push your temptation to spend over the edge.
According to Ray Martin, a long-time financial counselor and consultant for CBS News, "Before you do anything else, move the money out of your checking account and into another account where it's harder to dip into, such as a savings account, brokerage account, mutual fund, or retirement account." That way, you'll still have your money in a safer location than a shoe box, but it won't be as easy for you to blow it all.
2. Put A Dent In Your Debt
While it may not be realistic or even possible to pay off all of your debt (I'm looking at you, massive student loans), you can still put a decent sized dent in things. But how much should you actually allocate for things like credit card bills or loans?
Tiffany Aliche, a personal financial educator, told USA Today, "Use 50% of a refund to put a dent in payments. Paying off a credit card in full does the most for your credit . . . credit scores often jump fast when someone clears away debt."
3. Add A Little Cushion
It's never too late or too early to get a head start on an emergency savings fund. The whole reason you call it an "emergency" account is because you can rarely anticipate those situations. Additionally, you might not have the necessary money to take care of those emergencies, which is why having a buffer in place is a smart move.
Robert Semrad, a senior partner at a bankruptcy law firm, told Bank Rate, "The rule of thumb is to have about three to six months' worth of net pay set aside in your emergency fund . . . your tax refund could give your savings account the boost it needs."
4. Make Repairs
Something's always breaking down or on the verge of collapse either in my home or with my car. There also never seems to be enough money to cover or prevent repairs. So while you might not feel the same instant gratification as you would with buying yourself a fun treat, it will pay off in the long run.
Brian Porter, professor of management at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, told US News, "A high-efficiency furnace, cost-effective appliances or new windows that aren't as drafty will make the home more enjoyable and save money on utility bills." You can also consider that this as adding value to your home's worth, too.
5. Be Cautious
It's no surprise that retailers treat tax refund season like Christmas. Major stores, car dealerships, and online retailers are all hoping you will be dropping your dough with them. Often they roll out commercials promising incredible deals, too.
But these offers may be too good to true. John Lal, CEO and founder of BeFrugal.com, noted in US News, "Beware of a few easy traps you can fall into around tax season. Stick with your plan and do your research on any major purchases to make sure you really are getting the best deal."
6. Take A Second Look
Speaking of things that are too good to be true, having a giant tax refund amount may not necessarily be a great thing. I know, I know, who would ever balk at "free" money? Except it isn't exactly free.
Martha Ferrari, vice president of Halberstadt Financial Consultants Inc., told Turbo Tax, "It may mean you’re having too much withheld from your paychecks during the year . . . they need to adjust their withholdings and put that money aside into savings."
7. Plan For Your Kids' Future
Whether you have already started setting aside savings for your children or not, there's no better time than tax return season to get a jump start on an account for their future.
According to ConsumerReports.org, "Start or contribute to a 529 college savings plan. The money grows tax-free and untaxed if it's used toward qualifying higher-education expenses . . . your contribution also may qualify you for a state income-tax break for 2015."