What Not to Do With Your Tax Refund

Posted by Kristen on April 8, 2013

With tax season readily underway, we have been covering a lot about the best part of filing taxes – the tax refund. Even though it was taken out of our paychecks through the year or possibly because of a credit for going to school or something else, it is always nice to get that refund back each year. We shared things parents could do with their refund and even some tips for college students to use their refunds wisely. But like with anything else in life, there is always the other side of the situation. And in this case, it is what not to do with your refund this year.


Knowing you are getting a tax refund and an unexpected amount of money back can easily make us do some rash things with this lump sum. But before you spend your refund, here are six things you should not do with your refund that you may be tempted to do.

What Not to Do With Your Tax Refund

  • Don’t count on it.
    First things first, the important thing you shouldn’t do with your refund is count on it. If you are waiting for your refund to arrive to pay rent or your bills, you can end up in trouble. There are tax refund delays again this year. In addition, there are many reasons why you might not get your refund at all this year. If you made a mistake in past years while filing taxes or a mistake this year, you can have it withheld. Mistakes include anything from filling out the wrong information, wrong calculations, or even missing a simple check mark like your filing status. You may also be going without your refund if you have defaulted on student loans or not paid child support. Not to mention there is always the possibility of a check lost in the mail or a mistake getting direct deposited.
  • Don’t think of it as free money.
    Getting a tax refund seems like a bonus or winning a tiny jackpot. But there are two things to keep in mind. First, that money is money you worked for and earned. It was money that was taken out of your paycheck every week or credited to you because you made a large purchase, like a house or attending college, or have children to provide for. So this money isn’t necessarily fun, free money. Second, this can be a chance to do something productive or cost effective with the money. A lot of times people want to use money they receive as a bonus or present immediately for impulse or luxuries. Opt for something more practical, spend your tax refund wisely and the rewards will pay off in the end.
  • Don’t spend money on expensive activities.
    Tax season is stressful, and you can easily be tempted to go out and do something fun to blow off some steam with your tax refund. But just because you want to do something fun, does not mean you have to spend your refund. There are plenty of free or cheap winter activities you can do so you can save your refund instead. Enjoying the outdoors, game nights, finding free admission to museums, and searching for free events are just a few things you can do for no cost. Get creative, and your wallet will thank you.
  • Don’t book an overpriced vacation.
    With a combination of winter blues and stress from taxes, I definitely can’t blame you for wanting to take a vacation or travel for Spring Break. But before you use your entire refund check to go on a pricey vacation, remember there are plenty of ways to save on a vacation. Finding free activities, keeping a budget, and searching for deals and coupons are just a few simple ways to save. Being flexible with where you stay, joining rewards programs, and staying somewhere with free breakfast are just a few simple ways to save on a hotel. If you want to possibly save even more of your refund and get creative, try camping, staying in a hostel, or couch surfing for alternatives to hotels that’ll save you money.
  • Don’t splurge on an expensive dinner.
    You get your refund check, look at your spouse, and say, “hey, let’s treat ourselves to a nice steak.” It’s not that you both don’t deserve it, but it is probably not the best thing to do with that money. You can still go out to a nice dinner without it costing you a whole week or even month’s food budget. You can find restaurant deals and coupons on Groupon, Living Social, and Restaurant.com. Split a few appetizers instead of a meal, or go out for breakfast or lunch instead. Although many people will tell you to skip the wine, beer, or other alcoholic drinks during dinner to save, I believe you can easily still enjoy these things without spending a ton more money. Obviously drinking water is free, but there are still
    ways to enjoy beer and wine on a budget
    . Try a sample before you purchase anything, drink local, and limit your drinks.
  • Don’t go on a shopping spree.
    Seeing a lump sum of money all at once gives many people a feeling of wanting to make a big purchase. Instead of heading to the mall or shopping online, check out your own closet first. It may sounds silly, but clean out your closet and take some time to go through it a little bit. Mix and match accessories and pieces you already have, and you might be surprised with how many “new” outfits you already have without spending a penny. If you really want to add to your wardrobe, buy something for the season we’re leaving. Since it is now approaching spring, winter coats, heavy sweaters, and boots are going to be a fraction of the cost. Sure, you’re going to have to wait to wear it, but you’ll be getting the item at up to 80 percent off the original price.

What are you doing with your refund this year? What are you definitely not doing with it?

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Comments to What Not to Do With Your Tax Refund

  1. Paying down our car – should have it paid off this year but the refund was a huie boost and gets the % of the payment that goes towards interest down.

    Katie Christianson

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