If you are like many Americans, you get excited around tax time to see that pretty chunk of change available at your fingertips. Face it, we could all use more cash, there never seems to be enough to go around.
However, your tax refund is not free money. It is your hard earned income that the government has been collecting from your paycheck throughout the year to cover your tax burdens. If the taxes you owed is less than what the government has collected through the year, you'll be getting a tax refund. Since this is your money, lets talk about a few ways you can keep more of it for yourself...
1. No Rapid Refund Loans
A Rapid Refund Loan, is an advance on your expected tax return. These loans are typically provided by tax preparation companies. Seems like a great idea doesn't it? Not so much. Basically, you get an immediate amount of cash, less huge costs and fees for the company to get you loan (keep in mind, these fees are estimated to be a 149% Annual Percentage Rate, or like paying back $249 over a year to buy something that costs $100). So why should you pay this much to use YOUR money? You've already waited a year, so have patience, your tax refund will be here before you know it (likely within a few weeks, and faster if you ask for your refund to be direct deposited into your bank account).
The only scenario we can imagine that justifies using one of these loans, is if you have a bill that has a late or overdraft fee that charges more than the cost of the rapid refund. Skipping the Rapid Refund route will make sure you keep more of your money this year.
2. Don't just immediately spend it
If you have debt or credit card bills racking up fees, consider paying the one with the highest interest rate and fees with at least a portion of your tax refund. Once you have paid some of your outstanding debts, if there is anything left over, consider saving that cash. Save your tax return for a rainy day fund. Life happens, and acting like emergencies won't come up, could hurt you in the long run. Financial author, Dave Ramsey, suggests setting money aside for an emergency fund, consider having least $1,000 to save yourself stress and headaches for these unexpected happenings. In the long run, paying off high interest debt and paying your self first with a savings account will keep more money for you and your family down the road
3. Use it towards a home
Since your return is your hard earned money, why not use your tax refund to work even harder for you? Putting your tax refund towards your downpayment on a home is one of the top strategies for saving up the required cash needed to become a homeowner.
There can be several tax advantages to owning your home including writing off the cost of mortgage insurance and interest. This means by putting this money to work for you on your new home this year, you could receive an even larger tax refund in the future.
For this to be most effective, consider keeping your home buying costs as low as possible. One example is focusing on an affordable purchase price (don't forget to budget for property tax, insurance, and maintenance of your home). Do this right and you could be paying less than your current monthly rental costs. Consider getting advice from a local home buyer counselor, such as ACTS Housing.
Can't qualify for a mortgage? Consider the alternative of using your tax refund towards a rent to own option, moving in to your future home as you work to improve your credit. Strong Blocks operates a 21 month Rent to Own Program which uses $3000-$5000 of up-front cash for your first month of rent, security deposit, and a future down payment when you are able to qualify for your mortgage. Click the button below, to learn more about Strong Blocks.
Written by Mary Leach-Sumlin, Any House Realty
Mary Leach-Sumlin is the owner/Broker of Any House Realty, which she founded in 2017. Prior to launching her own real estate firm, Mary was a Realtor for ACTS Housing since 2007, and then the Managing Broker. She has an office located inside St. Martin de Porres Parish on 2nd and Burleigh. She holds the Accredited Buyer's Representative designation. She has helped more than 200 families achieve their homeownership dreams. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org