How can you Maximize your Refund?
United Way’s MySmartMoney tool can walk you through steps to build financial security – if you have immediate financial needs or if you’re starting to plan for the future. Check it out!
You can also use this Tax Refund Planning Tool available from Goodwill Industries International.
1. Buy a Savings Bond
With the Tax Time Savings Bonds program you can save part of your tax refund with U.S. Savings Bonds. For as little as $50, you can buy a savings bond and start saving for your family’s future.
- Savings bonds can help you by setting aside money for emergencies, or to get closer to your goal to buy a home, pay for education or save for retirement.
- You can buy bonds in someone else’s name to give as gifts and help your loved ones reach their dreams.
- To buy a savings bond, check the box on the paper or online tax form and indicate the amount of the savings bond(s) you want to buy. If you are filing a paper return, use Form 8888.
- Watch your mailbox: You will get your savings bonds in the mail 3 to 5 weeks after you receive your tax refund.
- Learn more about buying savings bonds with your tax refund.
2. Pay down your debt and overdue bills:
If you have overdue bills or loans, use your tax refund to pay them. Once your debt is gone, you’ll have more spending money and you may even sleep better at night.
- Late fees and interest charges can add up quickly and they can ruin your credit.
- Start by paying your bills, credit cards or loans that charge the highest fees and interest rates.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your debt, get free help from a Consumer Credit Counseling Service agency.
3. Open a savings account
Having a bank or credit union account will help you:
- have a safe place to keep your money,
- save money by avoiding check cashing fees,
- get into the habit of saving,
- establish a financial history, and
- get affordable car and home loans in the future.
Learn more about choosing a bank or credit union.
4. Create an emergency fund
Deposit your tax refund into your savings account to save for a rainy day. Or better yet, open a separate savings account or money market account at your bank or credit union. That way you can avoid using your emergency account on a regular basis and your money will be there when you need it. You should try to save the amount of money you would need to pay your regular expenses for one to three months in your emergency fund.
5. Save for retirement
You are never too young to start saving for retirement. You’ll need more than what you’ll get from Social Security to retire. Use your tax refund to add to your retirement account or find out how to open a retirement account if you don’t have one already.
6. Save for education
B.B. King once said, “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” Give your child—or yourself—the chance to go to school and have a better future. Put your money in a college savings fund so your money can grow safely and tax-free. Or use your tax refund to get a GED so you can get a better job.
7. Fix your car or buy another one
Are you having trouble getting to work on time every day using public transportation? Have you thought of buying a car? Or if your car could use some TLC, you could use your tax refund to pay for some needed repairs.
8. Buy a computer
Having a computer could help you or your kids succeed. If you have Internet, you could take online classes or find a better job. Your kids can use a computer to work on projects and find help with their homework.
9. Repair your home
If you own a home, you know it’s hard to set aside money to fix it up. With more cash in your pocket, you can make needed repairs to your home, whether it’s replacing a broken appliance, fixing a leaky roof or adding insulation to save you money on heating and cooling costs.
10. Start a business
Your tax refund can be a great way to jumpstart a small business. Call your local community college to see what kind of small business advice or classes might be available.
11. Get food with SNAP
Food Stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a government program that gives households money to buy food.
Programs vary but in many states, if you receive SSI or SSDI, you may qualify to get SNAP benefits as well. Plus, if you’re applying for or receiving SSI, you may also be able to get SNAP information and an application at your local Social Security office. Those who qualify get an Electronic Benefit Transfer order EBT card that can be used like a debit card at many grocery stores, gas stations, and farmers’ markets.
12. Access WIC if you're pregnant or a mom
WIC is a federal nutritious food and education program for women, infants and children — specifically, pregnant moms and kids under five. Programs vary state to state but the average monthly benefit is $40.
Keep in mind that just because you get WIC benefits doesn’t mean others won’t. All who qualify can access these services. Plus, if you receive SSI, you may qualify to get WIC benefits as well. WIC benefits include nutritious food or coupons to buy things like milk, juice, eggs, cheese, cereal, and formula. And, access to free health services like prenatal care, immunizations, nutrition advice, and parenting education.
Contact your local WIC office to learn exactly what your state requires to qualify.