With the stress of filing your taxes (hopefully) behind you, it’s time to stop and take a breath. Congrats! The stress is over! Now you can sit back and relax while you wait for the one good thing about tax season — the refund. There are plenty of ways to put that cash to good use — but here are some you might not have considered.
- Get out of debt: You shouldn’t consider this “free money” if you have credit card debt or any kind of loan to pay off. Use the extra dough to take a chunk out of the debt hanging over your head; put it all toward that, and say a prayer of thanksgiving for the extra help.
- Make an appointment with a financial planner. This is the gift that keeps on giving. Financial planners aren’t just for your dad anymore. Seeing a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) can help you figure out money strategies that will only help you save, spend and earn smarter in the future.
- Hire an accountant. Technology has made it easier to file your taxes on your own. But sometimes that can be kind of risky, and you can never be sure if you maximized your available refunds. To make it easier next year, hire an accountant who will file your taxes for you.
- Invest. Put your money into an IRA, or make additional contributions to your work retirement plan. Intimidated by the idea of investing? Take the first step with an app like Acorns, which rounds up the spare change on your credit and debit card purchases and invests the money for you.
- Save it for a rainy day. You don’t have to spend the money right away! Put your refund in an emergency fund for when you need it the most. You can hold on to the money knowing one day you’ll put it to good use.
- Educate yourself. Spend a few bucks to expand your mind. Enroll in that online course you’ve been meaning to take. Short on time? Buy a newspaper subscription (go old school and read the printed paper every day) or pick up a good new book. Carving out some time to read can introduce you to new ways of thinking.
- Travel. Plan a weekend away with friends, go on a road trip or put the money towards a “dream” trip fund. Get creative! Have you always wanted to go on a pilgrimage like The Camino de Santiago? Start planning your trip now.
- Freshen up your home. Everyone has home repairs they’ve been putting off forever. Freshen up the paint in a few rooms of your house or apartment. Take care of any home reorganizing or redecorating you’ve been meaning to get to. Time to put all those tips from HGTV to work!
- Grow (and/or eat) your vegetables. Use your refund to start a garden in your yard. Plant seeds now and enjoy the harvest this summer and fall. Or, use your refund to sign up for a share in your local CSA. The farmer will appreciate your support — and you will appreciate all of the fresh fruits and vegetables!
- Get a tune-up. Your physical health is something that’s often neglected in the shuffle of a hectic life. Use your refund to take care of any healthcare-related expenses you’ve been putting off (dental needs, check-ups, etc.). Or treat yourself to a massage to relieve some tax-induced stress.
- Get active. Buy a new pair of sneakers and commit to more physical activity, whether it’s walking the long way to work, joining a kickball team, taking a dance class or doing another activity that gets your heart pumping.
- Pay it forward. Make a donation to the charity of your choice, or check out Charity Navigator if you’re unsure where you’d like to give. Giving is not only a generous move, but a financially smart one — when you help out a cause, you reduce next year’s tax bill.
Remember your loved ones. Treat a few friends/your parents/your siblings to coffee dates/flowers/a movie and tell them how much you appreciate them.