NBCNews, Feb 5, 2019
Those W-2s and 1099s are starting to roll in and you’re already dreaming of the day you check your bank balance and there it is — that nice fat direct deposit of your tax refund. Of course, you’ve heard that you shouldn’t be getting a big refund — you should be saving that money every month, earning interest yourself instead of giving it to the government.
But most of us ignore that advice. According to the Internal Revenue Service, seven out of 10 of us get a refund, averaging almost $2,800. Is that so bad? It depends who you ask.
Ideally, you should change your habits so you can put money toward your goals with every paycheck. But if that doesn’t work for you, it might be OK for you to keep getting a refund. Tonya Rapley, creator of My Fab Finance, says, “I’m not against tax refunds if they allow people to save more than they would on their own. Some people don’t have the willpower to save.”
But you do need to be smart about how you spend it. “You can invest some, save some and spend some. The main thing is to focus on what’s most important for you right now in your situation,” says Jackie Beck, a debt reduction expert who created the app Pay Off Debt.
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This might be the single biggest chunk of money you receive all year. Still, “It’s not a windfall. It’s money you earned all year long. You worked for it, so you may as well use it to achieve your goals instead of blowing it,” Beck says.
Financial expert Jennifer Streaks agrees. “I’m not against doing fun things,” she says. “But there’s nothing wrong with putting aside some money first. I would never say you should blow your entire return. Put some back into something that will improve your life.”
She’d limit splurge spending to 25 percent of your return at most, and even that depends on how you define a splurge. “A good pair of work boots you’re going to wear every day? OK, fine,” she says. But a pair of Christian Louboutins? Not so much.
And don’t overlook the value of making your financial situation more comfortable. Although it might not have the wow factor of a day at the spa, it can bring a degree of peace to your life to worry less about money. “To not be financially stressed about everyday bills to me is so worth it,” Streaks says.