When I received my first significant tax refund, I remember the first thing I did: buy cowboy boots. After spending on such foolishness, I realized the importance of using my tax refund wisely.
With Tax Day almost here, most of you have likely already filed returns and are ready to spend your refunds. Before you use any of that money on something you want (a nice vacation, a down payment for a car) or definitely don’t need (cowboy boots), make sure you do the following three things.
1. Pay Yourself First
“Pay yourself first” means that before you spend money on anything (including necessities, like bills), you set aside at least 10% for savings. Due to financial constraints, not everyone may always have this luxury. But if you can put anything—even just a dollar—in your savings account before spending, you’ll get into the habit of paying yourself first.
I pay myself first, and I also automatically transfer money from my checking to my savings every 15th of the month just as an extra dosage. If you’re not already doing this, receiving a one-time, lump-sum payment, like a tax refund, can help you start without affecting your day-to-day budget.
2. Pay Off Debt
Nothing feels as good as paying off debt. When I paid off my $10,000 credit card debt, I felt like I unloaded a massive rock from my back. Now, when I pay off my credit card each month, I feel like new—and you can use your refund to feel like this too.
Paying interest on debt takes away from your earnings, which you don’t want to happen. So, after you pay yourself first, put some or all your remaining refund toward any high-interest debt you have—whether that’s your credit card, student loans, car payment, or anything else.
3. Start A Retirement Account
A few days ago, I earned a whopping $0.01 from interest on my savings account. So even though I’m happy to have a savings account, I know it’s not going to be enough by itself to help me save for retirement.
Other accounts exist for this purpose, such as Traditional and Roth IRAs (individual retirement accounts). These can allow you to earn more interest, while also offering tax benefits. Talk with a financial advisor or your banker to see what options are available and make the most sense for you