There is nothing like the feeling of seeing extra money hit your bank account. You put in the work on your taxes, filed timely and you are ready to reap in your rewards. It is so tempting to go on that shopping spree you desperately need or purchase that handbag everyone is carrying.
Of course these are all great options and embody the “treat yourself” mantra, but what if you used your refund to treat your future self? I get it, this money is burning a hole in your pocket and you need to spend it like right now. But there are many ways to take this extra cash and do something for yourself that months (maybe years) from now, you will be extra thankful for and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Let’s look at some great options for using your tax refund for your future self and #gains for your financial stability.
PAY DOWN YOUR EXISTING DEBT
There is nothing worse than carrying around credit card debt with high interest rates. No matter how hard you work the balance just continues to grow and you are treading water.
Using your tax refund to pay down your credit card debt is a smart financial move for your future self. You can reduce your interest charges by lowering your balance and begin a healthier habit of charging only what you can pay in full each month.
Think of it like this: You treated yourself all year to things your refund could have paid for, but now it’s time to pay up.
Other debts you can apply your refund to include your car and student loans. Maybe you have a couple of student loans and your refund can be used to pay one loan off in full, therefore reducing your monthly payment or allowing yourself to pay more towards the highest amount. Just make sure you don’t receive any early payment penalties.
FUNDING THE EMERGENCY FUND
In an ideal world, you have a savings account with 3-6 months of expenses just in case your car breaks down, you lose your job or a medical emergency arises. Our generation has been severely lacking in this as the responsibility usually falls to our parents while in college or charging up the credit cards as mentioned above. You get this feeling of failure to prepare when these things happen, so it’s time to be proactive and get ahead.
The standard goal is to have at least $1,000 in an emergency fund, but anything is better than nothing. Even if it’s only a couple hundred to start, you are at a better place than you would be if there was zero. You’ll thank yourself later when you find yourself in a pinch.
INVEST LIKE A BOSS
There are numerous ways to invest your money that don’t require much work on your end. You could be lucky and have an employer that provides you with a 401K plan for retirement, but why not consider opening an individual retirement account to add on top of that?
These are a great option for those who make less than $180,000 and you are able to contribute up to $5,500 a year with after tax dollars. It follows the same principles as a 401K in that you can’t withdraw until you are retired and at least 65, but the key point here is tax free. So whatever money you invest will grow over time and when it comes time for withdrawal, all your earnings will flow to you with no tax obligation. Talk about #gains.
You could also look to invest with apps like Acorns or get your start in the stock market. You do you, girlfriend.
You have watched way too much Joanna Gaines and really just want to upgrade your space to look like it’s straight out of Magnolia Farms. Maybe you are still rocking your parent’s couch from college days or need new dishes to brighten up your kitchen. Whatever it may be, spending your tax refund on home improvements is a great way to treat yourself now and later.
Big purchases like a couch or dining room table usually require you to take out a no-interest loan to pay off monthly. Use this opportunity to purchase that piece you have been eyeing with no financing obligation, plus it allows you to have new furniture for years to come.
Create a budget by dividing your tax refund into each area of your home/loft/apartment and adding pieces to each area within that budgeted amount. This way you can feel like you did a complete makeover without spending all your money in one area of your living space.
If you are a homeowner, consider upgrading an appliance in your kitchen, purchasing a new washer and dryer or fix that A/C system before summer rolls around. Your refund is a great way to finance home improvements without having to rely on credit cards or loans, so use this opportunity to add future value to your home.
BE A BETTER YOU
Invest in yourself! Take a marketing class you have been interested in since graduating but timing was never right. Join a spin studio you loved after your trial period but shied away when you saw the membership fees. Book a trip for later in the year you have always dreamed of taking.
Take this money and do something for you that is greater than any material purchase. The newness will wear off and you will have wished you had invested in something greater.
You could boost your career mobility with new skills acquired in that marketing class you took. You could be healthier and happier from spinning twice a week. You could have memories that last a lifetime and see the world before life gets too busy.
Whatever you choose for your tax refund, invest in yourself in a way that makes you feel good about the present and the future. You won’t regret it.
Your Favorite CPA,
Alexis N. Ramirez