Making a plan for your tax refund is the best way to make sure it doesn’t slip through your fingers. It’s possible to use a tax refund to enhance your future. Whether you’re expecting your “usual” tax refund this year or have a sneaking suspicion that it will be larger than usual, it’s good to have a plan. Without a plan for using the funds, it’s easy to let the money slip through your fingers. Here, we offer eight ideas for ways to make the money work for you.

1. Shore up your emergency fund

Last summer, nearly 40% of people who had an emergency savings account said they’d dipped into those funds during the COVID-19 pandemic. And according to a YouGov survey, 73.3% spent half or more of their savings to get by.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who could not pull money from emergency savings to cover medical expenses or repair a busted radiator, this is your chance to turn things around. Sure, it would be more fun to spend the money on a weekend getaway, but it’s possible you’ll find it more satisfying to have an emergency fund.

2. Contribute to retirement

If we live long enough, we’re all going to reach retirement age. Why not get the jump on retirement by investing your tax refund? Whether you already have a growing retirement account or have not begun to save, the benefits of compound interest cannot be overstated. For example, let’s say you’re 35 years old and receive a $3,000 tax refund this year. You put it in an investment account with an average annual return of 7%, and don’t touch it until you’re 70. This year’s $3,000 refund will be worth more than $32,000 by the time you need it, even if you never add another cent to the account.

3. Fund self-care

The last couple of years have been challenging for many, emotionally and physically. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), about 4 in 10 U.S. adults have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s up from 1 in 10 between January and June 2019. KFF also reports that 12% of Americans say their chronic health conditions have worsened since the pandemic hit U.S. shores. In addition, 36% say they’ve had difficulty sleeping; 32% have had a hard time eating; and 12% have increased their consumption of alcohol or other substances.

If you’re suffering emotionally or physically, consider using your tax refund to help. Book a doctor’s appointment, buy the medications you need, pay for a series of relaxing massages, or find another healthy way to make yourself feel better.

4. Pay off debt

There’s no denying that being overextended is a stressor. Even if your refund isn’t large enough to pay off an entire debt, why not use the funds to pay it down? Not only is paying down debt satisfying, it can help you rest easier.

5. Buy life insurance

Paying for life insurance is one of the most inexpensive ways to provide for your family. A term policy can cost pennies a day, but provide your family with the money they need to live if you should suddenly die.

7. Make repairs and improvements

Delayed maintenance issues like dry rot, peeling paint, and cracked windows can become expensive problems when left unattended. Make a list of the jobs that need tackling around your home, and use the refund money to pay for materials (and labor, if needed).

8. Start a small business

Many small businesses require very little seed money. Think about what kind of business you want to create, and read up on what it would take. Then use your refund as a down payment on your future.

In some cases, a refund means you’re having too much kept out in taxes each year. If so, you would come out ahead if you changed your deductions and invested the extra funds each month. If that’s not the situation in which you find yourself, that’s okay. You can still enhance your life by choosing where your tax refund can do the most good.

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