Tax season is upon us, and if you’re getting a tax refund, we want to help you spend it wisely. While it may be tempting to spend it right away, there are benefits to using it in other ways. You might put it in a savings account or use it to pay off credit card debt. The best way to use your tax refund depends on your financial goals and your budget. ACCC has a few ideas to get you started!
Bulk Up Your Emergency Fund
If you don’t yet have three to six months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund, use your tax refund to add to it. Dealing with the financial effects of COVID for the last year has taught us the importance of preparing for emergencies. We can’t control when emergencies happen, but having enough money saved for emergency situations helps to take away some of that stress. If you lose your job, have a health emergency, or need unexpected car or home repairs, it’s helpful to have that money readily available.
Pay Down Debt
Paying down debt, such as credit card debt or student loans, is a smart way to use your tax refund. It may be a good idea to start with the highest interest debt. By paying down the debt with the highest interest, you save the most money in the long run. This method of debt repayment is called the Debt Avalanche Method. If paying off debt is something you’ve been struggling with for a while, it may be time to get help. A nonprofit credit counseling agency, like ACCC, can help you come up with the best strategy for getting rid of your debt!
Add Your Tax Refund to Your Retirement Account
Even if retirement is decades away, it’s still important that you start saving money for it now. Ideally, if your company has a 401(k) as part of your benefits, money from your paycheck automatically gets taken out and put into your 401(k). However, not all companies have this, and if yours doesn’t, you need to be saving for retirement on your own. You can do this with a Roth or Traditional IRA. Keep in mind, there are limits to how much you can contribute. For 2021, the IRA contribution limit is $6,000.
Start Saving for a Future Goal
Do you want to buy a house someday? Or maybe a new car? Use your tax refund to start a savings account towards a future goal. This should be a separate account from your emergency fund. Your emergency fund really should be for emergencies only. You wouldn’t want to spend your emergency fund on a new car, only to get into an accident later and not have any money left to cover medical bills. If you want to stay disciplined in your savings and not be tempted to spend the money for your future goal, use a certificate of deposit (CD). A CD has a fixed interest rate, often higher than a regular savings account, and you put your money in it for a specified period of time. If you take it out before that period of time is up, you have to pay penalty fees. This is why it can help you stay disciplined in your longer term savings goals.