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7 smart ways to spend your tax refund

Added February 26, 2020
Tax refund ahead street sign

According to Bankrate, U.S. taxpayers received an average tax refund of $2,869 in 2019. That’s a nice chunk of change to land in your lap. No matter how much it is, tax refunds can make us feel good.

While we’d all like to spend that extra cash on something fun, many people take a more practical route. We’ve found 7 smart ways to spend your tax refund that you may want to consider.

1.  Car insurance is one good option

Using your tax refund to pay for car insurance is more common than you might think. According to Pete Anhalt, president of Personal Lines at Dairyland®, tax season is often a busy time for insurance companies.

“We see a substantial increase in business during tax return season,” Anhalt said. “Some people use their tax refunds to purchase a new vehicle, which then needs to be insured.  Other people use their tax refunds to catch up on their bills.  Auto insurance is required in nearly every state.  Maybe you missed paying that bill during the holidays.  A tax refund helps you pay for the insurance coverage that keeps you driving legally.

Tax season is also a good time to look at possibly getting some extra coverage if you plan to be behind the wheel more than usual, such as a family road trip. Check with your provider to see what options you might have available.

Of course, there are other smart ways to spend your tax refund. Here are six more common uses suggested by the experts at TurboTax and NerdWallet:

2.  Pay off debt

Paying off credit card debt is the best investment you can make with your tax refund. Paying down credit card balances delivers a guaranteed return on your money equal to the interest rate you were paying your lender.

3.  Make home improvements

Spending some of that income tax refund around the house can lower future bills. Replacing old windows can improve the efficiency of your air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter. Save on the electric bill by replacing old appliances with ones that use less energy.

4.  Start an emergency fund

Think about having cash on hand to cover unexpected expenses like car breakdowns, unexpected home repairs, a cut in work hours, or sudden job loss. Ideally, you should have enough in your emergency fund savings account to cover three months of must-pay living expenses.

5.  Build a college fund

Put your refund in a college fund. Setting up a 529 plan can help your children afford a higher education in this time of rising costs and massive college student loan debt. You may even be able to pick up a deduction on your state income taxes.

6.  Add to your retirement account

Purchase or add to a Roth IRA or traditional IRA to prepare for the day when you’re no longer working. It can add up—a $2,000 investment in 2010 would be worth around $5,000 today.

7.  Invest in yourself

Consider using your tax refund check to pay for additional training, tuition, or a work-related conference. It’s an investment that can pay off with bigger paychecks and more job stability allowing you to meet your long-term financial goals.

While a tax refund may feel like a gift, remember it’s actually your hard-earned money—another smart reason why you should put it to good use.

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