It’s everybody’s favorite time of year–tax time! Oh, how I dislike doing my taxes. I do love the return, though. I was thinking about my return over the weekend, and all of the things I could do with it, namely–purchasing some new clothes for work, since a lot of mine are starting to look worn.
The problem with waiting a few months to do my taxes is that it inevitably leads to ideas of grandeur about what I can do with my return. In reality, the return is much smaller than I want it to be, and it doesn’t stretch nearly as far as I’d like it to.
I thought I’d offer a few suggestions for how to handle your tax return. These are pointers than help me spend it wisely, as opposed to blowing the whole thing and having nothing to show for it.
#1: Don’t spend it before you get it
I almost fell into this trap. While walking around the mall with my fiance over the weekend, I saw shoes, belts, bags, and clothes and thought, “Oh…that sure would make me look like a professional lady. Maybe I’ll just purchase it now and deduct the amount from my return.” Dangerous road, professional lady…dangerous road. Instead, always, always, wait until the money is in your account. Don’t put yourself in the hole before you even get the money.
#2: Make a plan
This isn’t rocket science, nor is it very time consuming. When you don’t make a spending plan, though, you risk spending your money on things that aren’t very important, and that aren’t aligned with your financial goals. Tell your return where to go. Figure out what debts or needs could use it the most, and if you don’t have debts or needs, put it in savings.
If you are one of the lucky few with no debts, no needs, and a lot of savings, then enjoy making yourself look like a professional lady (or man), or do whatever you want with it. I have a sneaking suspicion that most of you aren’t in that position though, so make that plan.
For instance, I know that as soon as my return is in hand, I need to purchase tires for my car, purchase a wedding gift for my sister, and the balance will go to my student loans. Goodbye, new wardrobe!
#3: Don’t forget where it came from
This is your hard-earned money, not a nice gift that the government is sending you. Your tax return is money that you have loaned to the government (and they don’t even pay you interest on it!) Don’t treat the money as a gift; treat it as a paycheck, and spend and save accordingly.
Haven’t done your taxes yet?
If you are an individual or family with a combined 2012 income under $57,000, you may be able to file both your state and federal returns for free, using this: http://myfreetaxes.com/ (Disclaimer: I am not qualified to give tax advice, nor am I affiliated with myfreetaxes.com. This site was recommended to me by my cousin, and I found it to be a very easy and free way to do my taxes.)