49.2 Percent of Surveyed Americans Will Save Their Tax Refund

April may start off with some lighthearted fools jokes, but the month turns very serious right around the 15th. As Americans work feverishly to submit their taxes by midnight on April 15, or the extended deadline this year of Monday, April 18, due to the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C. (Maine and Mass. taxpayers actually have until April 19, due to Patriots’ Day). Regardless of if taxpayers filed in January or wait to file in mid-April, the IRS anticipates that more than 150 million tax returns will be filed this year, and 70 percent of the nation’s workforce will happily await a tax refund from Uncle Sam. Last year’s average tax refund amount totaled $2,797 dollars.

If you’re expecting a tax refund this year, what do you plan to do with it? According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual Tax Returns Survey, 49.2 percent (the highest percentage in the survey’s history) of taxpayers plan to save their tax refund rather than spend it right away. Here are some of the most common ways people choose to use their tax refund:

Risky Spending

According to the NRF survey, 8.3 percent of taxpayers are planning for big splurges with their tax refund. Many people still like to treat their refund as a gift or free money from the government, instead of remembering that these dollars belonged to them all along. So in celebration, some taxpayers spend their entire refund on lavish vacations, expensive merchandise and/or tons of individual retail purchases. While it may feel good at the time to reward yourself — with money that was always yours — you might be putting yourself at higher risk for experiencing buyer’s remorse. After all, once it’s gone … it’s gone!

Business as Usual

On the flip side, 22.4 percent reported that they plan to simply deposit their refund into the bank and continue on with business as usual, budgeting for groceries, gas, family expenditures, car payments, household bills, etc. Think about it this way: when you return damaged or unwanted merchandise to a store and receive a cash refund, you probably don’t think of it as free cash to liberally spend on anything. You likely deposit it back into your bank, or your wallet, and use it to pay for the next necessity. Likewise, if a tax refund is treated as just what it is — a refund of your annual earnings held by the government — it will make sense for some taxpayers to just add the money to their everyday funds and continue on as normal. While these taxpayers may not experience the thrill of instant-gratification spending, they are preventing any regrets due to impulse buying.

Smart Financing

NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a press release, “Americans this year see refund season as a time to improve their financial health by using their refunds to get ahead on savings goals, pay down debt and plan for purchases in the future. Money saved is spending potential down the road.”

In fact, 34.9 percent of the NRF study’s respondents indicated that they intend to use their refund to pay down debt. Some other popular financial-saving decisions that many taxpayers use their refund for, include:

  • Having an Emergency Fund — Making it twelve months without incurring any unexpected expenses can prove a hard feat for anyone. So using your tax refund to either start, replenish or grow your emergency fund is a positively safe and smart decision.
  • Increasing Retirement Savings — Putting money into a retirement savings account is always a good decision, as the more you save, the more financially secure you’ll be in the future.
  • Opening an Extra Savings Account — An extra savings account can become a money hero for the expected and unexpected special events in life, such as weddings, anniversary trips, senior care for aging family, etc. Don’t be afraid to think ahead and start saving money for those unique times.
  • Growing a College Fund — If you’ve got children, you might consider adding to or starting college funds. College may still be a long way off for junior, but growing a college fund now could mean the difference between him pursuing his dreams with your help, or taking up permanent residency on your living room sofa.
  • Building a Young Adult’s Savings Account — For older dependents that are earning an income, consider helping them open a Roth IRA account that will help them begin investing in their own financial future. Eligible dependents can contribute up to $5,500 dollars, or the amount of their annual income, whichever is lower.

Smart Spending

If you like the idea of saving, but you also feel like your tax refund is burning a hole in your pocket, you might enjoy some smart spending. Smart spending includes decisions that have a high probability of leading to a more positive financial future, like:

  • Investing in a Home — I bet it’s no surprise that PrimeLending’s favorite smart refund spending idea is to use those extra dollars as a down payment on a new home. With home loan options that fit a wide range of budgets, some requiring as little as 3% down, and today’s low interest rates, it’s a great time to purchase. Check out our Why 2016 Is The Year To Quit Renting and Buy post for more on the benefits of homeownership.
  • Taking Care of Repairs — If there are costly repairs to your home, vehicle or other lifestyle necessities, consider using your tax refund to take care of everything. You won’t regret it, especially when all of your repair worries are behind you.
  • Giving to Others — It always feels good to help others in need. Donate some of your tax refund to your favorite local charity. You’ll be helping your community, plus setting yourself up with a tax benefit for your 2016 tax return.
  • Shopping the Sales Rack — Treat yourself a little bit, but just don’t overdo it! Remember that this is your hard-earned money. So celebrate yourself with some light pampering, and allocate the rest to smart saving and smart spending.

Happy tax month! If you’re receiving a tax refund, we hope your influx of extra cash aids you in your long-term financial goals. Let us know in the comments section below how you plan to use your tax refund!

Putting your tax refund toward a down payment on a new house? Contact a PrimeLending loan expert to learn which mortgage plan will work best for you.


from the PrimeLending blog by Mandy Jordan