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10 Smart Things You Can Do With Your Tax Refund

10 Smart Things You Can Do With Your Tax Refund

It’s that time of the year again and you’ve been pretty diligent with your taxes, so you find yourself with an extra $2000 on your hands and you start wondering what to spend it all on. People often get confused when they get a relatively large sum of money and end up spending a good chunk of it without really knowing where the money went.  Well, spending your tax refund might be pretty easy, but it if you want to use this money wisely I suggest you take a look at some of options listed below.

Figure standing on money

    1. Pay off school loans

    Student loans can affect your life plans and even your partner’s plans for that matter. These loans can never be discharged, even in bankruptcy, and if you delay paying, your tax refunds can be seized, wages garnished and credit ruined.  Of all the debt you may have to pay, student loans should take top priority.  For young married couples, the problem can be doubled if both have student loans. Even if you are currently single you’ll want to pay off your student loans as quickly as possible, so you can move on with your life and worry about more important things.

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    2. Enhance your child’s college fund

    It’s never too early to start thinking about the future and when it comes to giving your child the best education you can afford, it’s good to start planning well in advance. A thousand dollars can be a nice starting point and help you get the ball rolling, so to speak. Check out your state’s 529 plans.

    3. Put it in your savings account

    Putting money into a savings account allows you to have peace of mind. When faced with potential problems and emergencies you will feel a lot less stressed out if you know that there are a couple of thousand dollars sitting on your account. Major home or car repairs, injuries, or an infestation in your home can come at the worst of times ,and having that little extra money saved for rainy days will reduce your stress immensely.

    4. Focus on big ticket buys

    Instead of frittering your tax refund away on a bunch of insignificant things that will be gone or unwanted in a short time, you can focus on investing in some big items that will last,  like a new fridge, a big screen TV, a new car or even a gaming console for your kid (or yourself). These purchases are good investments since you use them every day and they will last a long time.

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    5. Take a bite out of your credit card debt

    When it comes to debt, an extra $1000-$2000 can really help you move forward and start that debt-destroying tactic you’ve been trying to implement for a while. You’ve probably already discovered that paying just the minimum every month doesn’t reduce your debt by much, if any. Paying off a smaller debt first and then moving on to the next one until everything is paid off is a sound tactic, but with this sudden boost to your funds, you can focus on high-interest debt first and take a huge chunk out of it, saving yourself hundreds or even thousands of dollars of interest in the long term.

    6. Get a better cell phone

    Technology is getting better by the day, it seems,  and staying stuck with an old phone and a mediocre plan is far from ideal. If you use your phone a lot, and most people do, a tax refund can be a great opportunity for you to upgrade to a brand new cell phone and get a cell phone plan that fits your needs. If this means that you can get rid of a land-line phone, or keeps you from needing a laptop, it can save you money in the long run.

    7. Do some house maintenanc

    There are always a lot of things that need fixing around the house, things that we usually put off because we don’t have the time and money to deal with them. A tax refund is the perfect incentive to get some of the work done. You can repaint the house, fix the plumbing, buy some new furniture, get a couple of new lamps for the living room, get a new carpet, remodel your bathroom, improve security with a sturdy front door and new windows, invest in some landscaping, buy more energy-efficient appliances, etc. Your house is probably your largest investment, and taking care of it pays off.

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    8. Invest in acquiring new skills

    Having a range of useful skills doesn’t just look good on your resume – it can help improve the quality of your life or even help you earn a bit of money on the side. If you’ve always wanted to play an instrument or sing you can join a class or go to a vocal coach. Maybe you want to invest in a defensive driving course that will greatly improve your driving skills and lower your car insurance costs.  You could take a cooking course or buy a decent camera and start learning about photography. These skills can increase your enjoyment of life, and might also increase your income.

    9. Invest in your health

    Let’s face it, most of us need to take a good hard look at ourselves and make a few changes when it comes to our health. With some extra money on your hands you can afford to,join a gym, consult with a nutritionist,  and hire a personal trainer.  Maybe you’d like to combine acquiring new skills and healthy exercise by joining a dance or martial arts class. Investing in your health also means fixing your teeth, getting a checkup at the doctor’s office and stocking up on some supplements like D3 and fish oil.

    10. Allow yourself some luxury

    Sometimes you just have to give in to urges and pamper yourself a little, especially when you have a good opportunity to do so. You can use your tax refund to go on a little romantic trip with your partner, wine and dine at some higher-class restaurants for a while, take the kids to Disneyland or anything else that allows you to live life to the fullest and recharge your batteries. This way you are investing in your mental health and strengthening the bond between you and your loved ones. The important thing is to use only a portion of your tax refund on indulgence and dedicate the rest to things that will improve your life long-term.  Finding this balance is the key to enjoying your windfall.

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    People are often tempted to go wild and start spending their tax refund willy-nilly, losing hundreds of dollars on insignificant items bought on impulse. Try to fight this temptation and look into some of the smart options listed above that will help you put that extra money to good use.

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    Ivan Dimitrijevic

    Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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    Last Updated on January 2, 2019

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

    Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

    Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

    Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

    This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

    Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

    What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

    Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

    When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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    How It Leads to Financial Improvement

    It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

    Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

    Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

    It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

    Types of Personal Finance Software

    When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

    Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

    For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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    Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

    When to Use Personal Finance Software

    So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

    Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

    1. You Have Multiple Accounts

    There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

    If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

    Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

    2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

    Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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    There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

    With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

    3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

    Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

    Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

    Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

    4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

    Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

    You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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    How to Get Started

    From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

    Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

    It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

    When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

    Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

    Final Thoughts

    Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

    In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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