41 Things to Do With Your Tax Refund

By Pam O’Brien · September 12, 2023 · 13 minute read

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41 Things to Do With Your Tax Refund

If you got a tax refund this year, you may be tempted to spend it all on something fun. And, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

But before you get too impulsive, you may also want to think about how that refund might be able to help you get to the next level in life. In fact, smart use of your tax refund check may draw you closer to reaching financial security.

So what should you do with the refund you received? Read on for a mix of smart, practical, and also fun, ways to spend your tax refund.

How Should I Spend my Tax Refund?

With the average taxpayer getting a refund of roughly $3,000 for each of the past several years, you may have a nice lump sum of money to play with. Here are a whopping 41 “how should I use my tax refund?” ideas to consider for both your long-term and short-term financial goals.

💡 Quick Tip: If you’re opening a brokerage account for the first time, consider starting with an amount of money you’re prepared to lose. Investing always includes the risk of loss, and until you’ve gained some experience, it’s probably wise to start small.

1. Unloading Your High-Interest Debt

If you have credit card or other high-interest debt, a tax refund can be a great way to reduce your balance, or even wipe it out completely.

Doing this will help you stop throwing money away on interest charges each month. And, if you manage to wipe out that debt completely, you’ll have one less financial responsibility to deal with monthly.

2. Starting an Emergency Fund

How are you fixed for life’s unexpected emergencies? If you were to lose your job, would you have about three-to-six months of living expenses at the ready? How about a car or home repair? Would you be able to cover that? Taking that tax refund and stashing it away in an emergency fund may save you in a pinch. Your future self may thank you.

3. Saving for Your Kid’s College Education

If you have kids, using your tax refund to start a 529 college savings plan could be a great first step toward dealing with the rising cost of college education. Money in these funds grows tax-free.

Additionally some states and 529 savings plans enable you to deduct your contributions from your state income taxes, so these contributions could save you tax dollars in the future.

4. Improving Yourself

When you get your tax refund, you could use it to make yourself more marketable to future employers. That could mean investing in additional or new career training, attending conferences, joining professional organizations, earning an MBA, or pursuing networking events.

This could all work toward creating a new you, and possibly a bigger paycheck with bigger tax refunds in the future.

5. Planning for Retirement

Does your company offer to match your retirement savings in your 401(k)? If so, you could take advantage of this “free money” by investing your tax refund in your retirement plan. Doing this could potentially increase your contribution level to maximize the benefit your employer offers.

If you don’t have a 401(k), you could use your tax refund to open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or add to an existing one, keeping in mind that there are annual limits to how much you can put into a retirement account each year.

6. Becoming a Homeowner

You could also use your tax refund to help fund a down payment on a new home. Offering a larger down payment will reduce your mortgage, which means you’ll pay less in interest. That could translate into lower monthly payments and paying less for the home overall.

7. Making Much-Needed Repairs

Already own a house? You might consider using your refund to make repairs and/or upgrades that could make your home more functional and also more re-sellable.

8. Starting an Investment Plan

If you’ve been putting off any serious investing until you have some available cash, now might be your chance. Of course, it’s important to do your research before making any investments, but this could be the time to start financially planning for the future.

💡 Quick Tip: How to manage potential risk factors in a self-directed investment account? Doing your research and employing strategies like dollar-cost averaging and diversification may help mitigate financial risk when trading stocks.

9. Paying Monthly Fees Up Front

Do you have subscriptions to streaming services? How about a gym membership? If possible, you could pay the annual fee in one fell swoop, which is often cheaper than paying month-to-month. It will also mean one or two less bills to pay each month.

10. Gifting a Loved One

The IRS sets a limit on the gifts you are able to give to family members and others without having to pay a gift tax. That limit is $18,000 for 2024 and $17,000 for 2023 per recipient.

This means that you can give the person up to that much without triggering taxes.

11. Going on Vacation

If you’re thinking about what to do with a tax refund that might also be fun, consider taking a trip with some of the money. Then, you won’t get stuck paying for your vacation on a credit card like you might have in the past — and potentially paying even more due to interest charges.

12. Buying Things That Will Save You Money

If only you had a smart thermostat in your home, you could save on your electricity, A/C, and heating every month. Or, if you got a good oven, you would cook more and wouldn’t eat out as much. If you purchased a set of weights, you could cancel your expensive gym membership. You may want to think about ways you can spend your tax refund that will end up saving you money on an everyday basis, and then make those investments.

13. Making Appointments You’ve Been Putting Off

When thinking about what to do with your tax refund, you might consider spending it on services that you may have been delaying but could improve your life. For instance, if you’ve had some back pain and need to get it checked out, you could use the money to see your doctor or chiropractor. Using your tax refund to take care of your health is generally always a good idea.

14. Funding Your Business Idea

Have you always wanted to start a small business? Then now may be the time. When you’re thinking about what to do with a tax refund, you might want to put it toward getting your business up and running. You may even be able to avoid taking out a loan to start your venture.

15. Donating It

If there’s an organization you believe in and want to support, you might consider donating your tax refund to that group. You’ll not only be doing good, but you may also be able to deduct your donation on your taxes next year for a win-win.

16. Making Extra Mortgage Payments

If you’re contemplating what to do with your tax return, you could always make extra payments towards your mortgage (just be sure it goes toward the principal, not interest). Reducing your principal can help you save significant money in interest over the long haul.

17. Purchasing Life Insurance

Signing up for a term life policy when you have the resources to do so can be a smart idea, especially if you are married and/or have children. That way, you will know that your loved ones are protected should anything happen to you.

18. Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney

This is another way you can plan for the future. If you have a spouse or young children, an estate planning attorney can help you devise an estate plan that protects them in the event that you pass away. This could include designating guardians and setting up a trust for your children.

19. Purchasing Renter’s Insurance

While your landlord is protected if something happens to their property, you are not. If you’re thinking about what to do with your tax refund that could save you money in the long run, you might consider buying a renter’s insurance policy.

This kind of policy will typically cover the cost of your belongings should anything happen, and also help protect you if someone gets injured in your home, since they can make a claim with the insurance company instead of coming after you.

20. Paying for a Subscription-Canceling Service

A subscription-canceling service can help you figure out which subscriptions you can cancel, and may even be able to negotiate with your service providers to lower your monthly bills. The fee for this service might ultimately save you money — not to mention all that time you would have spent on hold trying to do this yourself.

21. Taking a Class

Education can improve your life in so many ways. You could take a class in a subject that interests you, or to learn a new hobby, like photography or watercolor painting. If you look for courses at your local community college or adult ed program, you may be able to save significantly on tuition.

22. Hiring a Financial Advisor

If you don’t know what to do with money when it comes to saving, investing, and becoming financially stable, you may want to use your tax refund to hire a financial advisor. To find an advisor, you can ask family and friends for recommendations. You can also consult industry associations, such as the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors and the Financial Planning Association.

23. Signing Up for a Meal Subscription Service

Do you eat out all the time? Then it might make sense to put your tax refund towards a meal service that sends you ingredients and simple recipes each week. While it’s typically not as cheap as going to the grocery store, these services can make cooking at home easy and convenient. Eventually, after you learn some good recipes, you can likely cancel and switch to completely DIY meals instead.

24. Saving for Holiday Gifts

During the holidays, are you always short on cash to buy gifts for your family and friends? Even if you get your tax refund early, you might want to put some of it aside in an interest-bearing account until your favorite stores and websites are running sales. For example, you can save big by waiting for Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, or Cyber Monday.

25. Investing in Your Health

When it comes to what to do with a tax refund, you might want to use it to improve your health and wellness. You could sign up for a gym, hire a nutritionist, purchase exercise equipment, or get a personal trainer. You may end up saving much more in the long run on your healthcare bills.

26. Investing in Your Children’s Needs

If your children need new clothes or school supplies, or you think they could benefit from summer camp or after-school lessons, then you may want to put your tax refund towards those costs.

27. Investing in Your Pets

Does your dog need a teeth cleaning? Have you been putting off getting your cat an MRI because it’s too expensive? Then you could finally take care of some of their needs with your tax return. You could also purchase pet insurance, which could save you money on your vet bills.

28. Purchasing a Car

Is your car always breaking down? Does it guzzle gas? Do you normally use Ubers? Then purchasing a new or used car with your tax refund could save you money over time. If you currently rely on public transportation, owning a car can also open you up to new job opportunities that may have been inaccessible before.

29. Paying Off Your Car Loan

If you’re wondering what to do with a tax refund, you could always make advance payments on your car loan. If you’re paying high interest every month, paying the loan off early could save you significant money. And, if you pay it off in full, you won’t have to worry about that annoying monthly payment anymore.

30. Investing in a Second Income Stream

You can take your tax refund and start making money with it by investing in a new income stream. For example, you could start drop shipping with Amazon, which involves buying items at a discount from a wholesaler then selling them at a profit. Or, you could fix up your spare bedroom and start renting it out on Airbnb.

31. Investing in REITs

If you want to start investing in real estate but don’t have the funds to buy a property, you could invest in real estate investment trusts (REITs) instead. REITs are companies that own, operate, and finance real estate that produces an income. If you put your money into the right REIT, you may see healthy returns. Just remember that no investment is risk-free. Research the pros and cons of REITs before you decide to go this route.

32. Investing in Crowdfunded Real Estate

Another way to get into real estate with your tax refund is to consider investing in crowdfunded real estate. On crowdfunded real estate platforms, you can generally invest for less and potentially reap the benefits of buying into the real estate market. However, there is also the possibility you could lose money, so weigh the benefits and drawbacks carefully. If you decide to go ahead, just be sure to thoroughly investigate any platform before investing on it.

33. Funding a Startup

While investing in startups can definitely be very risky, the rewards could potentially be high. When you’re looking into what to do with a tax refund, you might want to check out services that let you invest in small businesses. Again, make sure you do due diligence and check out the service fully before you sign up with it.

34. Saving for Next Year’s Tax Payment

If you do freelance work or you’re an independent contractor, you may have to make estimated payments every quarter. You could get a head start on your taxes by saving your refund and then using it to make those estimated payments on time.

35. Hiring an Accountant

If you believe you could have gotten a higher tax refund this year, then you may want to put aside your refund so you can use it to hire a good accountant to help you file next year’s tax return. The additional tax savings could far exceed the accountant’s fee.

36. Moving to a Better Rental

In the past, it may have been hard to move to a better rental because you didn’t have the funds necessary — like the first and last month’s rent and security deposit — to make it happen. Now that you have your refund, you might be able to make it a reality. You’ll want to make sure, however, that the rent works with your budget.

37. Getting Dental Insurance

You may have been delaying going to the dentist because it’s too expensive. Or, you might need dental work done, but can’t afford it. If so, you may want to put your tax refund towards purchasing dental insurance for the year. Then, you can take care of your teeth.

38. Buying New Clothes

The right clothes can make a big difference in your day. You not only have to wear the right clothes in a professional setting, but being comfortable in what you’re wearing can give you more confidence as well. It can be a good idea to look for deals, however, so you don’t spend your entire tax refund on a fancy pair of shoes or designer coat.

39. Purchasing Stocks

While investing in the stock market can be risky, if you buy shares in a company with a solid track record that pays dividends, you may end up making money on dividends as the company grows. You can always talk with your financial advisor about how to carefully invest in stocks.

40. Investing in Bonds

If you want to invest your tax refund, but don’t have much tolerance for risk, you might consider investing the money in bonds such as Treasury bonds. These are fixed-income investments that typically make regular interest payments to investors. On the maturity date, your principal investment will be returned to you.

41. Pampering Yourself

Whether you filed on time or missed the deadline and filed late, tax time can be stressful. If you have some tension to work out, you may want to use some of your refund to reward yourself for getting it all done. You could get a massage to help release tension in your shoulders, or splurge on a day at the spa.

The Takeaway

While your tax return may feel like “free money,” it’s really your money given back to you by the government. Uncle Sam was merely holding on to it for a while. It’s yours, so it can be a good idea to be smart with it. For instance, you could use it to save for a house or to invest in your future.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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