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Assuming you’re like most taxpayers, you’ll be getting a refund in the neighborhood of $2000 soon. And tempting as it may be to spend it all at once, you’ll be better off taking time to think about where you want your money to go.  Using your refund wisely can set you up for a brighter financial future.  Here are some smart ways to put the money to good use.

Create a rainy-day fund

Life may look good now, but there’s always the chance that something can go south and you’ll need to be prepared.  Experts recommend having three to six months of expenses in a rainy-day fund.  This can prevent you from going into debt during a financial emergency.  Use a portion of your refund to get started and make paycheck contributions throughout the year to reach your goal.

Pay off credit card debt

The average American has about 4 credit cards and doesn’t always use them responsibly. If this sounds anything like you, it’s easy to accumulate too much debt.  If you only make a minimum payment, have at least one card that’s near the limit, and make late payments or don’t know your total debt; then chances are you’re in over your head.  Stop swiping your card and use your refund to tackle your debt.  One way to repay your debt is to use the snowball method.  Start by creating a list of your debts from the smallest to largest balances (the interest rate doesn’t matter).  Next, make the minimum payments on all your debts except the smallest one.  Put all you can towards the smallest bill until it’s paid off.  Repeat the process until all your debt has been eliminated.

Invest in an IRA

Are you on track to retire comfortably?  Rule of thumb is that by your 30s you should have at least your annual salary saved, 3 times your salary by your 40s and 6 times your salary by your 50s.  If you’re behind, use your tax refund to catch up by putting it in a traditional or Roth IRA.  For 2022, the IRA contribution limit is $6,000 ($7,000 if you’re age 50 or older).  The sooner you start saving for retirement, the more time your money has to grow. 

Donate to your favorite charity

Anytime you do an act of kindness, your body releases endorphins, which makes you feel good.  So donate a portion of your tax refund to your favorite charity and help others in need.  You can give money or property to your local church, nonprofit schools and hospitals, War veterans groups or other well-known charities.  If you itemize, you can deduct your charitable contributions on your tax return the following year.

Buy life insurance

If there are people in your life who rely on you financially or you think your family would have a hard time covering your funeral expenses, you need to get life insurance.  According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral with viewing and burial was $7,848 in 2021.  Meanwhile a funeral with cremation was $6,971.  Most people don’t have that kind of money lying around.  So, get coverage and give your family  peace of mind. 

You can either purchase a term or whole life policy depending on your budget and needs.  Term policies are the more affordable option but it’s only good for a limited time, usually 10 to 30 years.  Whole life policies cover you for life as long as you pay your premiums and some build cash value which you can borrow against.  Most advisors suggest getting a policy that’s worth 10 to 15 times your annual income.

Save it for an upcoming expense

Instead of spending your refund now, save it for an upcoming expense.  If you’re a working parent, you already know you’re going to need someone to watch your kids during the summer break.  According to Care.com, the average cost of day camp in the U.S. is $76 per day and $172 per day for sleep away camp.  Although your refund may not cover the entire expense, it can help minimize the cost when summer rolls around.  It’s also worth noting that sending your kid to day camp can help you qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit when you file in 2023.

Improve your home

There are several cheap home improvement projects that can add value to your home.  For under $1,000 you can update your lighting, replace the kitchen countertops, hire professional cleaners, enhance your curb appeal or paint your walls.  According to Zillow, painting your bathroom light blue can increase your home’s selling price by $5,000.  So, grab a paint brush and get to work.