Here are 50 smart things to do with your tax refund this year.
1. START AN EMERGENCY FUND
Approximately 28% of Americans don't have an emergency fund. If you fall into this group, take some or most or all of your tax refund and start an emergency savings account.
2. GET MARRIED
It can take years to save up for a wedding. Whether it's your own wedding or your child's wedding, a tax refund can cover some of the expenses.
3. TAKE A FEW CLASSES
If you're not happy with your job, use your refund check to take additional courses that can help further your career and result in a bigger paycheck.
4. OPEN AN IRA
For a comfortable retirement, don't rely solely on your 401(k) or Social Security. Use the money from your tax refund to start an individual retirement account.
5. MAKE AN EXTRA MORTGAGE PAYMENT
One extra principal payment a year can reduce your mortgage loan term by years — as much as eight years on a 30-year mortgage. Use a portion of your tax refund to make an extra principal payment and eliminate this debt sooner.
6. PAY OFF CREDIT CARD DEBT
If you're paying a high interest rate, it can take years to pay off your balance. But if you drop a lump sum on your cards after getting your tax refund, you can become debt-free faster.
7. PAY DOWN YOUR CAR LOAN
If you're close to paying off your vehicle loan, use your tax refund to wipe out the balance and free up cash each month. Or use some of your tax money to pay down your balance, which can reduce your auto loan term and eliminate negative equity.
8. TAKE A WEEKEND TRIP
Everyone deserves a break to recharge and relax their mind and body. Use some of your tax refund to enjoy a few days at a relaxing destination of your choice. (See also: Affordable Weekend Getaways)
9. START PREPARING FOR A FAMILY
If you and your partner are thinking about starting a family in the near future, this money can go towards your future nursery. Deposit the refund into a dedicated savings account, and only use these funds to purchase a crib, a dresser, a changing table, and other baby supplies.
10. FURNISH YOUR HOME
Furniture is expensive; and if you've recently moved into your first place or a new place, you might have a few empty rooms. Your tax refund can go toward buying a bedroom set, a living room set, a dining room set, or other furnishings for your home. Many retailers offer discounts around tax time — take advantage of them.
11. TAKE CARE OF MEDICAL NEEDS
Unfortunately, some people defer medical care because they can't afford the cost of certain appointments or procedures. Put your tax refund money to good use and make essential doctor appointments to protect your health.
12. SAVE FOR GIFTS
Set aside a percentage of your tax refund and prepare early for the holiday shopping season.
13. BUY NEW WINDOWS
If your old, drafty windows drive up your home's heating and air conditioning costs, use your cash to buy quality ones, which ultimately reduces your energy bills.
14. SAVE FOR A DOWN PAYMENT
A down payment and closing costs are two of the biggest obstacles to homeownership. If you receive a sizable tax refund each year, save this money, and you might have enough to purchase a place after a few years.
15. DONATE IT
Maybe you already have everything you want and need. Give back to your community or an organization and enjoy the happiness of giving.
16. SAVE UP TO PAY CASH FOR A CAR
If you're hoping to pay cash for your car, save your tax refund for a few years and avoid a car payment.
17. GET A WILL WRITTEN
Some people put off estate planning because of the cost. However, untimely deaths are a reality; and the sooner you prepare, the better.
18. BUY LIFE INSURANCE
If you have a family, a spouse, and debts, you can't afford to go without life insurance. Plus, the death benefit can cover the cost of your burial and funeral.
19. BOOST YOUR HOME'S VALUE
Put the cash toward updating your kitchen or bathroom, or installing new flooring. These increase your home's value, helping boost your profit when you're ready to sell.
20. START A BUSINESS
The money from your tax refund can provide startup capital to get a new venture off the ground. Use the money to purchase supplies, advertise, create a website, and purchase business cards. (See also: How to Start Your Dream Business)
21. BUILD YOUR EMERGENCY FOOD SUPPLY
Increase your supply of canned and other non-perishable foods. A stockpile comes in handy if you experience financial hardship and can't afford to grocery shop, or if you need to reduce your food budget.
22. BUY AN ENGAGEMENT RING
If you've held off proposing because you didn't have cash to buy a ring, now is your opportunity to pop the question and move forward with your life.
23. PURCHASE NEW APPLIANCES
Does your dishwasher, stove, refrigerator, or washing machine give you problems? Home appliances aren't cheap, but a tax refund can provide the funds you need to upgrade to a newer model. Tax time discounts will shave the cost and the energy efficiency of this year's models will show up in lower energy bills.
24. MAINTAIN YOUR CAR
Getting a car repaired is certainly cheaper than buying a new car. Your tax refund can go toward large automobile expenses, such as a new engine, transmission, and other costly repairs.
25. UPDATE YOUR WARDROBE
If you have a closet full of clothes that are in good condition, it doesn't make sense to blow your tax refund on new attire. But if your clothes are old and worn, and you desperately need a few new pieces, use your tax refund to get the items you need.
26. EXPLORE A HOBBY
Do you wish to learn an instrument or perhaps take up a hobby, such as drawing or dancing? Your tax refund can pay for lessons. (See also: Awesome Money-Making Hobbies)
27. REFINANCE YOUR HOUSE
A mortgage refinancing can lower your interest rate and monthly payment, but it also involves closing costs and fees. Use your tax refund to pay these mortgage-related fees.
28. PREPAY YOUR SUMMER VACATION
Get a jump start planning your summer or dream vacation. The earlier you book airfare, hotels, and ground transportation, the more you can save.
29. HELP YOUR FAMILY
If a relative needs financial assistance, give or lend some of your refund.
30. BUY A SAFE FOR YOUR HOME
Filing important papers in a cabinet or drawer is risky, as they can be stolen or damaged in a fire. Purchase a fire and waterproof safe for your home and protect your documents.
31. PAY OFF A 401(K) LOAN
Funds in your 401(k) can come in handy if you buy a house or experience economic hardship. Since you have to repay a 401(k) loan, use cash from your tax refund to replenish your retirement account sooner.
32. HELP YOUR KIDS START SAVING
Get your children into the habit of saving money at an early age. Open a savings account or a certificate of deposit for your child. (See also:How to Raise Financially Independent Kids)
33. VISIT A FAMILY MEMBER
Not everyone can live within close vicinity of their relatives. If your family lives in another part of the world or country, your tax refund can allow for more frequent visits.
34. HIRE A FINANCIAL PLANNER
If you don't know much about personal finance, working with a financial planner can get your money on track. These professionals can assist with various aspects of financing planning, from retirement planning to investment planning.
35. THROW A SURPRISE PARTY
Do something special for someone you love. For example, give your grandparents or parents a 50th wedding anniversary party, or throw your child a graduation party.
36. SAVE FOR DAYCARE EXPENSES
Once you receive your tax refund, deposit this money into a special account and only use it to pay your child's daycare expense over the next year.
37. IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE
If you don't have the best health insurance plan, use your tax refund to acquire better health insurance — perhaps a plan with a lower deductible and copay, or more coverage.
38. GO TO A SPA
There is nothing wrong with having a little fun with your tax refund. Spend the day at a spa getting a relaxing massage, manicure, or pedicure.
39. BUY A BIKE
If you're looking to add more activity to your life, and possibly reduce your transportation costs, buy a bike.
40. MAKE YOUR HOME MORE ENERGY-EFFICIENT
An energy-efficient home translates into big savings down the road. Your tax refund can go toward the purchase of solar panels, a new roof, a programmable thermostat, and LED light bulbs. (See also: Best Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs)
41. PREPARE FOR AN EMERGENCY
If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, the money you receive from the government can go towards a disaster kit. Purchase a generator for your house, and other supplies like a hand crank radio, a first aid kit, emergency blankets, extra chargers, multi-purpose tools, and flashlights. (See also: Items You Might've Forgotten in Your Emergency Kit)
42. HIRE A PERSONAL ASSISTANT
Between work, family, and life, there isn't always enough time in the day. If you're running on empty and you need help throughout the day, use your tax refund to hire a personal assistant.
43. UPGRADE YOUR CELLPHONE
An unreliable cellphone won't help you in an emergency, and it doesn't project a professional image if you run a business. Upgrade to a phone with features you need, such as calendars, email, etc.
44. PAY OTHER TAXES
If you receive a federal tax refund, use this money to pay any state taxes you might owe, or personal property taxes.
45. PREPAY A GYM MEMBERSHIP
The initial cost of joining a gym isn't always cheap. Not only is there the monthly fee, there's a startup fee or down payment. Get a membership with part of your tax refund and start a healthy routine. Use a bigger part of your refund to pay for an entire year — and ask for a prepay discount.
46. RENT AN APARTMENT
Are you ready to move out on your own? Use your tax refund to pay a security deposit.
47. GET ORGANIZED
If clutter dominates your home or office, work with a personal organizer to get your life in order.
48. ENJOY AN ELEGANT EVENING OUT
Some people never have the opportunity to enjoy a night out on the town. Grab your significant other or a best friend, and treat yourself to fine dining and maybe a bottle of champagne.
49. SAVE FOR YOUR KID'S COLLEGE EDUCATION
Whether your kids are young or teenagers, it's never too early or too late to start saving for their college education. Depending on how much you receive from the government, one refund check might pay for a semester of school.
50. START A GARDEN
Organic fruits and vegetables purchased at the grocery store can break your budget. Start a garden in your backyard and eat healthier for less.
What smart things do you plan to do with your income tax refund? Please share in comments.