We have a dozen suggestions on how to be wise with that windfall:
1. Pay down your credit card balance. After you’ve given yourself that 10 percent treat, throw whatever’s left at your consumer debt. If it’s a large balance, although you may not feel that you’re making much difference, you are
2. Seed money for your emergency fund. Again, even a relatively small refund is a start. Once you’ve got an account seeded, you’d be surprised how exciting it can be to add to it, especially if you are living paycheck to paycheck. ”
3. Build your own personal food bank. Fill your pantry with cereal, canned vegetables, jars of fruit pasta, sugar, flour, oatmeal, and the like. A well-stocked pantry means less temptation to order in – and if there’s a financial crisis such as illness or layoff, you’ll have plenty to eat. Extra frugal points if you buy some of this stuff on sale with coupons or at a Warehouse store.
4. Retirement savings. Don’t have a plan where you work? Let your tax refund be the beginnings of a more secure old age. Research this on your own or meet with a professional. Just do it!.
Toward a healthier you
5. Visit the dentist. Start watching now for new-patient specials (which usually include X-rays) or even for social commerce deals like through Groupon. I’ve seen deals for X-rays, an exam, a cleaning, and a teeth-whitening kit for $29.
6. Visit the optometrist. How old are those glasses, anyway? Look for deals through social media (see above) or in the Sunday coupon inserts for discount vision centers.
7. See a doctor. When was your last physical? Maybe quite some time ago, if you don’t have health insurance. Look for a community or public health clinic where you’ll pay based on your income – and with a tax refund, you’ll be able to pay cash. Remember, there are “silent” ailments that can do major damage. Get yourself checked out.
A year’s worth of savings
8. Prepay your car insurance. See if there’s a discount for paying 12 months at a time rather than twice a year or, heaven forbid, monthly.
9. Warehouse club membership. A dedicated couponer can beat Costco’s or Sam’s prices on many staples. If you’re not a clipper, a warehouse club might be the place for you. Better to buy a crate of toilet paper at a fixed price than to pay more if TP isn’t on sale the week you run out. Memberships don’t cost much.
10. Buy discounted gift cards. Do you purchase cat litter at PetSmart or Petco? Get your hair cut at Regis? Outfit your kids via Kohls clearances? Stretch your dollars even further by paying with gift cards obtained on the secondary market. You’ll see discounts of anywhere from 5 to 20 percent (or more) on a ton of everyday items as well as treats like movie theaters and restaurants. Go to the GiftCardGranny.com aggregator site and see who’s got the best price.
11. Home improvement. Not granite countertops or new cabinetry, but something that will impact the bottom line. Examples: new windows to replace some of the heat-leaking old ones; an energy-efficient fridge; the down payment on a new furnace or whole-house fan system. Cheaper fixes: a low-flow showerhead, faucet aerators, compact fluorescent bulbs, weatherstripping. Extra frugal points if you invest in a home-improvement item that generates a tax credit for next year for next year.
12. Pamper your wheels. I
If you change your own oil, get a case of your car’s preferred brand (look for loss leaders at auto centers) and the filters to match. Stash replacement wiper blades, some windshield fluid, and any other odds and ends you might need this year. Check your tires – if they’re looking worn, start watching for sales. (The best price might be at the warehouse club you just joined.)
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