Overall, this is sad, but in a couple of weeks I’ll be getting nearly a G in tax returns. Yeah, that’s a crapload of money. But when I look back at all the hours I worked in 2008, it also makes me realize… I made jack sh*t. Still, this hefty lump sum couldn’t come at a better time for me, as I’m watching my credit card debt grow, next month’s rent is looming on the horizon, and summer (aka a full-time waitressing gig) can’t come quick enough.
In reality, I’d love to take my refund check and spend it in one go at the mall, especially since warm weather means I have to chuck my so-worn-they-belong-in-the-What-Not-to-Wear-dumpster sweater boots, and I don’t have ANY cute flip flops to wear in their place. But, since I’ve been struggling all winter, I am going to use this money wisely. And by use “wisely,” I don’t necessarily mean put it back into the bank. We all deserve to splurge every now and then, and here are some of the best guilty pleasures your tax refund can buy.
1. Upgrade your phone.
Am I the only campus coed who has never known the joys of an iPhone or Blackberry? I recently lost my cell in a drunken stupor, and, though I had been waiting for the summer to upgrade, I figured it’s now or never. Best buy of my life. I got a refurbished 16-gig iPhone for under $250. And it’s not just a phone– I can check the weather without getting out of bed or waiting for Weather.com to load on my slow-ass computer, I can check my email for last minute class cancellations while on my way to a lecture, and once I figure out these apps, I’m pretty sure I can load a calorie counter onto my phone to use in the dining hall. How did I live without this baby?
2. Buy a new wardrobe.
I don’t mean a new Juicy Couture bikini or strappy Jessica Simpson open-toed heels, but if you’ve got some extra cash coming your way, it’s not a bad idea to spend on some new work attire. When you’re strapped for cash, it’s hard to shell out on a business suit for an interview you haven’t scheduled yet, but when you get a check for a few hundo in the mail, there’s no time like the present to invest. That sleek blazer might land you the job interview, and that knee-length pencil skirt will make a great first impression when you start your new job. Which of course will lead to earning more money, which you can then spend however you see fit.
3. Embark on a summer journey.
Note that I did not say summer vacay. I’m not writing off putting this moolah towards a cruise–you totally deserve it– but there are other ways to travel this summer. Use your tax refund to see the world while you build your resume by signing up for a summer abroad course or a volunteer program. Spending the whole summer abroad will probably still cost a lot of money, but look into a week long intensive program in Europe, or check out programs like Habitat for Humanity or Teach for America. Usually, these volunteer programs will house you, but you’ll have to foot the travel expenses. If you can afford to get there, you’ll be rewarded with new friends, memories that last a lifetime, and an fabulous bullet on your resume.
4. Get active.
Get physically active, socially active, or mentally active, and watch a relatively small investment go a long way. Get private lessons in an area that you’ve always wanted to excel in, such as art lessons or vocal lessons. Try out a personal trainer for a month, or get a year-long gym membership. Buy a set of instructional yoga videos. Doing something for yourself doesn’t mean you need to feel guilty later. If you splurge on something you couldn’t otherwise afford, but it reaps a positive outcome, it can create a domino effect in your life. By losing a few pounds (without really trying), you may double your wardrobe if you’ve kept some of last year’s suddenly-too-small jeans. By de-stressing, you could add years to your life. By getting better at something you could add to your appeal in the career field. Spoil yourself now, and you’ll be doubly rewarded.
5. Eat gourmet.
Don’t go to Chez Expensif and order a $100 entree, but treat yourself to more from the grocery store than just store brand Mac n Cheese and cans of tuna. Buy the ingredients to try that recipe your grandma passed down– that from-scratch casserole that calls for a pinch of this and a dash of that, stuff you have to buy a whole bottle of because you don’t carry ‘this’ and ‘that’ on the regular. Buy fresh or organic products that usually make you salivate but that are never on sale. You shouldn’t have to put a price on eating healthy, but when fresh fruit costs several bucks a pound, it’s easy to veer towards the greasy Dollar Menu when you’re paying with the change you just found in your couch cushions.
These are just a few examples of how spoiling yourself can come with advantages– and why it’s okay to blow through your tax refund. Of course, depending on your financial situation, you may be opting to pay off your credit card bill, send in your rent check on time, or simply stash the cash in your savings account. We do all deserve a break from time to time, however, so I hope however you’re spending your extra cash, it makes you happy. So… what ARE you going to buy with the dough the IRS coughs up to you this spring?