Most Americans get a refund every year, with the average check weighing in at $2,895 last year. Even though it’s really money that they earned, many people are tempted to treat it like a windfall and splurge. If you can resist that temptation, here are some of the best ways to put your refund to good use:
Pay off debt. If you have debt, part of your refund could be used to reduce or eliminate it. Paying off high-interest credit card or auto loan debt means freeing up the money you had been paying in interest for other uses. And making extra payments on your mortgage can put more money in your pocket over the long haul.
Save for retirement. Saving for retirement allows the power of compound interest to work for you. Consider depositing some of your refund check into a traditional or Roth IRA. You can contribute a total of $5,500 every year, plus an extra $1,000 if you are at least 50 years old.
Save for a home. Home ownership can be a source of wealth and stability for many people. If you dream of owning a home, consider adding your refund to a down payment fund.
Invest in yourself. Sometimes the best investment isn’t financial, it’s personal. A course of study or conference that improves your skills or knowledge could be the best use of your money.
Give to charity. Giving your refund to a charity helps others and gives you a deduction for your next tax return.
Don’t give to scammers! Scammers are using a new tactic to separate people from their tax refunds. First, they file fraudulent refunds on behalf of their victims. Then, after a refund check arrives at the taxpayer’s address, they impersonate an IRS agent over the phone and demand to be sent the refund because it was sent in error. Remember, real IRS agents will never call over the phone and demand immediate payment for any reason.
If you use some of your refund for one of the ideas here, you can also feel good about setting a little aside for yourself to have some fun!