With more than 70% of U.S. taxpayers expected to get a tax refund this year, that gives you some wiggle room on how to spend the money. Of course, many folks and entrepreneurs may already know what they plan to do with the cash. Perhaps it’s pay bills, launch a business, or take a trip. The list could go on and on.
But one good option, no what time of the year, is considering ways to save, invest, or use the money to reduce debt to enhance your financial position. The IRS has not determined what the average individual 2018 tax refund will be, but it says that amount has been around $2,800 to $3,000 in recent years.
Last year, about 112 million refunds were issued, ringing up an average refund of $2,895. This year, over 155 million tax returns are expected to be filed.
Even if you’re not sure what do with your refund, consider using a portion of it in a productive way.
“Most people think that a tax refund is free money, but there is no reason to go on vacations and come back home to debt,” says Jennifer Streaks, financial journalist, author, and lifestyle expert.
She offered some ideas and tips on what to do with $500:
Get caught up on utility bills
This year, we had a long, cold winter. If you still have a lingering heating, electric, or other utility bill or feel like you are playing catch-up in this area, pay off this bill now and start fresh.
Look into car maintenance/repair
Take your car in and have everything checked out (especially the tires). If there is anything that may cause problems down the road, have it fixed now. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to keeping your car on the road and safe.
Take care of any physical maintenance
Is it almost time for new glasses, contacts, or dental work? Go ahead and take care of it. Even if you have insurance, you may need a procedure (especially in the dental area) that is not covered by insurance.
Get professional financial advice
The services of a financial adviser used to be only for the wealthy set. But now you can make an appointment with an adviser to set up a plan for the future and get your current financial situation accessed, even if you aren’t ready or can’t afford to become a regular client. For leads, check out the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) at napfa.org.
Streaks says these planners are fee-only, meaning they don’t accept commissions and promise to act in their clients’ best interests at all times.
Set up travel plans
Waiting to the last minute to book a vacation could be very costly. But done right, you could make a great getaway for $500 or less. Start by visiting websites like hotwire.com, booking.com, and priceline.com that offer airfare and hotel packages. Those websites also offer discounts at inclusive resorts with weekend specials.
You can also consider the old tried and true option: Sock away the extra $500 in your emergency fund and be better prepared for a rainy day.