Flexible Spending: Stretch Your Tax Refund Dollars
If you get a tax refund, what will you do with it? This year, one in two Americans receiving a tax refund (50 percent) say they plan to spend the extra money on bills or other household expenses, as opposed to vacations (15 percent), leisure activities (8 percent) or gifts (4 percent), according to a recent poll from Cricket Communications.
The survey also noted that more than three-quarters (78 percent) of Americans receiving their refund will be "smarter" about how they spend it, with more than half (55 percent) pledging they are more likely to use refund dollars on practical "needs" instead of "wants."
To give you tips on stretching tax refund dollars, Cricket has partnered with certified financial planner and savings expert Robert Pagliarini, author of "The Other 8 Hours," and "The Six-Day Financial Makeover."
• Set up an emergency fund - Stocking away six to twelve months of expenses can really help if you find your home equity line of credit has been reduced -- or you face unexpected medical fees arise.
• Open a 529 college savings plan - According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the cost of a college education continues to rise every year. Between 1999-2000 and 2009-10, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 37 percent, and prices at private institutions rose 25 percent, after adjustment for inflation. Planning early and setting aside money for college now is the most important thing you can do for your children's collegiate success.
• Seek out classes to boost budgeting skills - Taking a refresher course at a community college or neighborhood center can help boost financial planning skills that you currently have or help you learn a new one.
• Research the best deals on monthly expenses - There are expenses you will incur each month, such as food, transportation and cell phone costs, which are easy to re-evaluate and cut -- as long as you do the right research. For example, choosing a pre-paid wireless provider such as Cricket will help you save hundreds of dollars each year, without sacrificing all of the fun apps, games and music that your family enjoys. Cricket has the latest devices with a no-contract plan that includes unlimited talk, text and data for less than half what you'd end up paying at a larger wireless provider.
Personally, I think the ups and downs of the economy in general over the last few years have caused many of us to refocus on what's important in our lives. So, regardless of what you decide to do with your refund, if you're even getting one, remember to hug your spouse, spend time with your kids and, if they are still on this earth, call your Mom and Dad and just say hello.
You'll be glad you did.