I imagine that my soul is a lemon being squeezed into my own eye during tax season. I wait like a criminal to get back a Dickensian portion of the wealth that I have bestowed unto the government from my larger Ikea purchases. I am impoverished from the people with the spinning signs with offices next to the Cash 4 Gold locales.
It’s just a reality for most of us. Taxes are part of life and it’s a wonderful mind-game that we play with ourselves when we get excited to receive money “back” as a refund that was ours to begin with. I don’t know if it’s the unexpected nature of not knowing how much I’ll get back or the lump-sum nature of it but whatever it is, getting a tax refund somehow tricks me into thinking I should just blow the money on something frivolous that I would never have purchased had the money been from a paycheck. I think it’s interesting hearing the ideas my friends and family have used for their tax refunds in the past so I wanted to put together a list of some things that may actually be *good* ideas (at least fun) for spending a refund if you’re lucky enough to get one this year.
#1 – Let’s start with something mind-numbingly responsible… A 529 college plan for the kids.
Is this generation of kids even going to need college? They’re literally closing them down and I’ve learned more from my phone in the past week than I did in all of the 6 Spanish classes I took in college (I needed 4 passing credits). Chances are that we’ll be in a post-apocalyptic wasteland ruled by Justin Bieber.
These are college savings plans that can provide significant tax advantages. They come in a couple of different types, either pre-paid plans that help to lock-in the price of college tuition or college savings plans that offer tax advantages. Most individual states have their own 529 programs that offer some great incentives for contributing. For example, where one of our staff members lives, in Indiana, the state will provide $1000 for the plan if you invest $5000. So it’s like getting $1000 for free every year that you contribute. Websites such as the one maintained by the College Savings Plan Network, as well as a number of commercial websites, provide links to most 529 plan websites. You can generally take this money out for any member of your family that needs tuition assistance. You can have a plan in one child’s name and transfer it to a different child if necessary. These are definitely the best and most flexible college savings accounts out there right now.
#2 – Home improvements
My house has had a leak on the front porch since we moved in. I am haunted by the thought of black mold gestating in my family’s lungs and killing us all. Each year I promise myself that I will spend the money to fix the roof and each year I roll the dice knowing that there is a chance they’ll land on “black moldy lung of doom”. This year will be different. This year I won’t endanger my family…
Continuing with the responsibility theme, doing something like adding energy-efficient improvements to your home is a great idea for a tax refund. It will allow you to then claim these improvements on your tax refund next year if they meet the energy-efficient requirements. Things like new storm doors, new siding, and many others have the huge advantage of not only being a tax-writeoff for next year, but they also have a great return-on-investment if you want to sell your house.
#3 – Buy a new car
Sensibility is painful but at least you can pick a color.
While cars aren’t always seen as great investments, they’re necessary for most of us. Getting a tax refund is a great way to make that down payment or get started with a lease. DriveTime has great prices on used cars and I’ve found the one I would buy if I chose this option for my refund this year:
#4 – Plastic surgery
I’ve always thought that cats are wonderful and with the right placement of collagen I believe that I’ll be able to get the feline look that I’ve been aiming for. My refund this year should be upwards of 2K so I maybe able to get a little tabby tattoo. I may not go completely feline but there’s definitely some need for a change. This face is just bland and I’m sick of it.
I lived in Indiana for a long time and I know that Alabama exists. There’s always a reason to leave the state that you’re in and you can make a trip happen for anywhere from $60 – $60K. Yeah, it’s a pretty wide range but you can figure out where you’re comfortable in there. You got this. With TripAdvisor you can save up to 25% on your hotel rental.
As you walk out of the tax man’s office wondering if you should’ve TurboTaxed or Quickened it’s easy to lay down on the pavement, slow your breathing, will your heart to give up and pray for the ground to swallow your body and leave the sad remnants of lies behind (we know that you didn’t give GoodWill $5,000.00 worth of electronics) ask yourself this simple question: what do I have to show for this year?
If it’s just another dozen pounds of lard resting on your waistline and a higher hairline then maybe you should look at where your time goes along with your money. Get out and do something. Have something to go somewhere in and have somewhere to go. I’ve got a feeling that you’ve got a neighboring state with some kind of park. Take the family there. Do something. Your time is a more important resource than your money.
This is a sponsored conversation written by IANtB on behalf of DriveTime. The opinions and text are all mine (obviously ;)).