Now that the federal tax deadline has come and gone, many taxpayers are turning their attention to how to spend any refund coming their way. For savings-savvy consumers, this means getting creative with how to use your federal tax refund check.
The IRS says the average tax refund issued so far in 2015 tops $3,500. While it can be tempting to hit up the mall and blow through your money the second that big check arrives, smart spenders find ways to turn a refund into a “Me Fund” through thrifty money-management decisions that keep cash in their pocket.
To help you become a better saver and a more prudent spender, here are five suggestions on how to stretch your refund check, making your money go further and enhancing your quality of life:
Invest in yourself
In today’s economy, it’s wise to invest in your education, your career and your health because each will benefit you personally and professionally.
Consider using some of your tax refund check to take a continuing education class or attend a business networking event. Similarly, invest in your health by signing up for a gym, taking yoga classes, or getting the aid of a personal trainer.
A healthy body can boost creativity and productivity – and hopefully lower your long-term healthcare costs too.
Pay down some debt
A recent study from the American Psychological Association showed money is a top cause of stress for Americans. To help rid yourself of money worries, reduce debt with your tax refund.
Pay off a credit card bill, wipe out a lump sum on loans, or make an extra mortgage payment to help toward becoming debt free.
If you are going to spend on something you want, do it the smart way. Take advantage of seasonal promotions in order to keep much of your refund in your pocket.
For example, if you’re in the market for a new phone, go to Cricket Wireless to receive free or discounted phones, all after mail-in rebate, such as the Nokia Lumia 635. And, if you port your number to Cricket, you may also get a free month of service after completing two months on one of the provider’s Smart, Pro or Advanced plans.
Budget for larger purchases
If you’re thinking about spending your tax refund on a vacation or must-have electronics, be sure to first budget realistically. Remember, a vacation won’t just involve travel expenses and hotel accommodations. Be sure to factor in food, entertainment and miscellaneous costs such as tips, souvenirs and parking.
Before using your refund on a big-ticket purchase, you should also use helpful budgeting tools to monitor your monthly spending. Mint.com is a good online and mobile budgeting software tool that can help you track your spending.
Create a “Me Fund”
A final way to put your money to good use is to boost your savings. Create a “Me Fund” as a way to save more every month – whether from a tax refund check, through intelligent budgeting or through value-seeking (aka bargain hunting) – so you can spend more on the things that matter to you in the future.
Whatever your goal, you’ll reach it a lot sooner if you save exclusively for it.
From investing in yourself to paying down debt and being a smarter spender and saver, let tax refund season be your time to get ahead. After all, by using that tax refund check wisely, you’ll set yourself up for financial prosperity in 2015 and beyond.
Lynnette Khalfani Cox, The Money Coach, is a personal finance expert, television and radio personality, and the author of 12 books, including the New York Times bestseller “Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom.”