If you overpaid on your taxes and are now getting a refund, you’re probably having a mini-celebration. But you’re also probably wondering what’s the smartest way to spend or use that money. Here are 10 ways to maximize your tax returns by using it to better the rest of your finances.
- Pay off high interest credit cards. Higher interest rates means more money coming out of your pocket. If you have an interest rate of 20%, paying off that debt will seem like a 20% return on your tax refund.
- Start a mini-emergency fund. Whether or not if you have a lot of debt or no debt, I consider a mini-emergency fund a necessity. Open a savings account and stash away $500 – $1,000 to cover any unexpected expenses.
- Catch up on overdue bills. If you had a big energy bill or unexpected car repair that came up, now is a great time to catch up on overdue bills. It will give you some peace of mind and allow you to start your monthly budget with a clean slate.
- Fund/Open an IRA. Saving for the can unfortunately be one of the last things we think about. We seem to have way too many other pressing expenses and bills that get in the way. Use your tax refund to invest in your retirement now by opening or funding an IRA (Individual Retirement Account).
- Start a small side business. There are tons of ways to start a business with less than $1,000. Use part of your tax refund as seed money to create a side business or turn a hobby into part-time income.
- Put money into your kids’ college fund. Saving for your kids’ education can also be first to take a backseat, much like saving for retirement. But nothing could be more important than investing in your child’s future.
- Pay extra on your mortgage. Put some extra money down on your mortgage loan. You will be increasing the equity in your home and paying less interest. If you ever choose to move or sell, putting money down on your mortgage now will give you a lot more room for negotiating.
- Take a personal finance or tax class. I took an income tax class a few years ago and it was one of the best things I could have done for my personal finances. It helped me understand all the tax jargon, like credits, deductions and exemptions. Now, I save myself money by accurately filing my own taxes every year.
- Donate to a charity. It feels great to give to a charity or worthwhile organization and it can have positive effects on your finances too. You can write it off as a tax-deduction next year when you file your taxes again. So while you’re blessing someone else, you’re getting something back as well. Win-win.
- Start a “green” home improvement project. Make your home more energy efficient by starting a “green” home improvement project. Replace your old gas guzzling water heater to save on electricity or insulate your whole house to save on heating and cooling costs. The amount you save in the long run will offset the initial costs, and you’ll be doing something good for the environment.
What do you plan on doing with your tax returns this year? Will you be spending it or saving it? Is there anything else you’d suggest doing with this money? Start a discussion about it below!
Carrie Smith is a PerkStreet Customer Columnist who has worked as a freelance Certified Bookkeeper for nine years and as a Tax Specialist for four. She specializes in small business and oil and gas accounting. She has written several finance and accounting articles at Hubpages.com, and also writes regularly on her own blog CarefulCents. Follow her on Twitter @applecsmith.