Words to the Wise: Tips to consider before spending your tax refund

Tips to consider before spending your tax refund

Do you spend weeks each spring eagerly anticipating your income tax refund? When the money finally comes in, is it gone tomorrow? You’re not alone. Many consumers view tax refunds as unplanned bonuses, but it makes more sense to plan for that new chunk of change so it doesn’t go to waste.

Making smart decisions with your money is a great way to reward yourself for all the hard work you did to earn it. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of unplanned or extra cash, but you’ll be glad you saved some of it for a rainy day when the time comes to use it.

Whether or not you are in need of debt relief, a tax refund provides the opportunity to improve your financial situation. The BBB recommends the following tips to tax refund recipients:

Pay down your debt. Refund checks usually arrive when many consumers are still struggling with holiday bills. Use your refund for some much needed debt relief and pay off your credit card. If you have an outstanding balance on more than one credit card, you can either try to pay off the lowest balance card first (good for motivation) or direct the funds toward the card carrying the highest interest rate (wiser from financial perspective). Or apply your refund toward other debts like a car loan or a home equity loan.

Consider your financial goals. Are you trying to save for a down payment on a house or car? Do you hope to contribute to your child’s college tuition one day? Consider applying your tax refund toward these goals. If you don’t yet have a set of short-term and long-term financial goals, put one together. You’ll be more conscientious about how you spend your tax refund, or any other extra money that comes your way.

Save it for a rainy day. Why not give yourself an even bigger return on your tax refund by putting the money into a savings account, CD or retirement fund? Your tax refund will continue to grow if you put it into savings or invest the money. Plus, it’s always helpful to have a savings account to draw from when a major car repair bill, medical emergency or other unexpected expense comes along. That way, you don’t have to borrow money and add to your debt-load.

Keep things in perspective. Working your way out of debt can seem like a daunting task. Perhaps you assume a small tax refund check won’t make enough of a dent in your debt. Think again. Every little bit helps. Paying down debt takes time, but steadily increasing your monthly payments does have an impact. Just stay focused on the end goal.

If debt is a continuing problem, consider a credit counselor. The BBB has information on more than 2,000 credit and debt counseling firms, including hundreds of accredited businesses. BBB Business Reviews are available for free at

Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc.