(BPT) – Tax season is in full swing and everyone is hoping for a refund from Uncle Sam. What will you do with yours? Whether it’s several hundred or several thousand, if you use your refund smartly, it can provide the jumpstart to boosting your budget and living financially well this year and beyond.
Americans expect to cash in during tax season, as nearly three-quarters of all taxpayers anticipate they’ll receive a return of $500 or more this year, according to a national survey conducted by Straight Talk Wireless. Furthermore, nearly 80 percent of Americans consider tax season as a time to think about ways to save money.
This year, maximize your refund with these five simple tips for getting your money fast, putting it to work for you and slashing monthly costs:
1. Get your refund ASAP
Want your refund as fast as possible? Skip the snail mail paper check and choose direct deposit into your checking or savings account instead. The IRS states direct deposit is the fastest, safest way to receive your tax refund, and better yet, people who combine e-file and direct deposit can get their refunds in as few as 10 days.
2. Start an emergency fund
If you don’t already have money designated for a rainy day, your tax refund can be a great way to give your savings a boost. Resist temptation to spend every penny and give yourself peace of mind by setting money aside for the unexpected. It’s a much smarter alternative than turning to high-interest credit cards in a pinch, plus you’ll earn interest while your money sits safe and secure in an account.
3. Cut your cellphone plan in half
A cellphone bill can be one of your largest recurring monthly expenses. Tax season is the ideal time to shop around to find an affordable plan that meets your needs. For example, Straight Talk Wireless offers the same phones on America’s most reliable network, but at a fraction of the cost. For just $45 a month, you can get a no-contract unlimited talk, text and data plan with the first 3GB of data at high speed. Visit www.straighttalk.com to learn more.
4. Lower your utility bill
Consider using part of your refund to invest in items to lower your utility bill and enjoy savings all year long. One of the best options is a programmable thermostat – an affordable upgrade that lets you adjust the temperature when you’re not home. By turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours while away, you can save up to 15 percent a year on your heating bill, states the U.S. Department of Energy.
5. Shop smart at the grocery store
Grocery bills hurting your budget? Adopt a new approach starting now. First, never underestimate the impact of shopping sales and using coupons. Next, always make a list and stick to it – it cuts impulse shopping (and your bill) dramatically. Finally, consider the benefits of buying in bulk and stock up on affordable alternatives to your favorite foods, such as frozen vegetables, canned fruits and generic cereals.