Ah, mid-April. That joyous time of year when we cross our fingers and toes and hope for a gift from Uncle Sam. It’s not really a gift, of course, but you get my drift.
That hoped-for sudden influx of cash can go a long way towards making the sun shine brighter and our spirits soar higher as we confront the dreaded question – should we spend the money on needs or wants? You know you have debt. But you’ve also been eyeing a new Smart TV. Choices, choices.
That’s where this list comes in. What to do with that little bump of cash? Here are the best ways to use it for you and your family.
Pay Down Debt
I’m no Suze Orman, but this is a no-brainer. Paying off high-interest credit cards or loans should be your number one option because that will have the added benefit of freeing up more money in your monthly budget. Being debt-free is like lifting a massive weight off your shoulders, saving you money and stress.
Save and Invest
Another no-brainer, but it takes on a different priority when you have a family to support. There is often little money to put away each month or year for savings and retirement. When you get a sudden infusion of cash, you should try to invest or save a chunk of it.
Here is an opportunity to take that tax refund and put it towards a beneficial, long-lasting investment – your child’s education. If you have created a 529 plan for your children or are enrolled in a prepaid program, siphoning off a portion of your tax return for college savings is a good idea.
Sports and Activities
Our kids are always involved in one sport or activity after another and the sticker shock on some of the activities is serious. If you set aside a few hundred bucks for activities and equipment, it will make your life easier the rest of the year.
Do your kids love the zoo? The art museum? That cool indoor playground with all the jumping equipment? If you take a few hundred dollars and purchase an annual membership, it will pay off throughout the rest of the year and give you a great, family-friendly outlet for the next 12 months. And you should always check out Groupon or Living Social for deals.
Depending on how much money you’re getting back, you might be able to dedicate a portion of the money towards a long-awaited family vacation. Think about your budget and what you can realistically afford. If you have the opportunity to take some money and use it for a vacation the entire family will enjoy, you’ll be making great use of that money.
Think of this as spreading the wealth. Sure, you’re getting a nice batch of money dropped in your lap, but you can make someone else’s day by donating a portion to church or a favorite charity. You will receive the best benefit of all – the knowledge that you made life easier for another human being. And you will also get a financial benefit – the opportunity to write off your contribution on next year’s taxes.
I know Christmas seems like eons away, but in reality, we should always be saving for the holidays. There is no end to the amount of things you need or want around Christmas and New Year’s, whether in terms of gifts, activities, or hosting parties.
Odds and Ends/Emergencies
There is a constant demand on our dollars throughout the year. Think about all the things that crop up from medical bills to unexpected issues around the house to car registration renewals. It can’t hurt to put a stash of cash aside and promise not to touch it unless it’s for emergencies or for a household need.
If your kids are old enough to understand finances, sit them down and include them in this process. Sure, you and your spouse will carry full veto power, but if you ask them what they would like to do with some or all of the money, they might have some ideas that will surprise and please you.