5 things to do with your tax return

It is tax season, and for many that means tax refunds. The tax refund is a magical beast that comes when we have paid too much in taxes and Uncle Sam says, "Thanks for the loan, kid."

Once the taxes are filed and the money comes in, the only thing left to consider is what to do with that money. Most would say use it to pay off credit-card bills or to build an emergency fund. Those are certainly things that should be done with most of the money, but why be a killjoy with all of it?

Some of that money should be used for something that you want to do. It might be a trip, a new toy or even a night on the town, but even just a little of this "free money" should be used to make yourself feel just a touch better, especially considering how much you have to pay The Man anyway.

Here are a few ideas for making the most of your tax refund.

Invest

You have probably always wanted to invest but never really knew where to get started. To be honest, I don't think anyone really knows what to do when it comes to investing. Some people are lucky and some people, well, aren't. But there are ways to make your money work for you, and it starts with a little research and a leap of faith.

With some of the cash you got from your refund, buy shares in companies that have a history of increasing dividends. Dividends are the money you receive based on the amount of stock you own and how well it did over a quarter or a year. Dividends are pretty much free money for investing in a sound company.

You can do this a number of ways, but the easiest has to be using a website like ScottTrade or eTrade. The price is right and you can buy anything that floats your boat.

Start your own venture

Find that great idea you had and put your money where your thoughts are. It might be the next big website or an app that no one else is doing. Heck, you might have an idea for a food truck or just want to create a fundraiser that helps people in need. Whatever you have wanted to do, invest a little of that refund cash in yourself and see where it takes you.

Buy savings bonds

This one sounds pretty dull, but if you want to have something that will double in value and accrue interest over the years, a savings bond is a pretty good way to go about it. These are especially great for your children, nieces, nephews or whoever might be out there who will need money in about 30 years. They work pretty well: just buy a $100 bond for $50, let it mature and then collect. You can buy up to $5,000 in savings bonds in a given year, and you can forget about them until 2042.

Invest in your home

Making home improvements makes spouses happy, and it makes the value of your home happy. If you have been thinking about adding on to the house or putting in new hardwood floors instead of the old shag carpet, now is the time to do it.

Splurge on you

Take the plunge and buy yourself something nice. Or take the spouse out for a night on the town. Or get out with friends, stay in a fancy hotel and make like you are rock stars (without all the damage that you will have to pay for the next morning). The fact is, you deserve something for your troubles.

Perhaps you have had your eye on a new bike to usher in the spring season. Buy it. Or maybe there is a golf course on the coast you have always wanted to play. Hit it. Even splurging on new tires for the car, a whole mess of new flowers for the flower bed or just buying that thing you have always wanted, but always knew it was silly, should be had now. This isn't to say you should spend all or even most of your money on this splurge. To the contrary, this is something you can buy without feeling guilty or the pinch of debt from it down the line.

(Contact Jake B. Grove of the Anderson Independent-Mail in Anderson, S.C., at jake.grove@independentmail.com.)

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