5 Ways to Use Your Tax Refund That are Productive, But Not Boring

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Getting a tax refund is like when you would get cash for your birthday as a kid. Here is this beautiful pile of money, gifted once a year, given for no discernible reason. Each birthday, you would leave your own party with a car full of toys and huge wad of cash in hand! You didn’t have to do anything for it except take another trip around the sun.

Were you the type of kid to save that money, or blow through it? & Now that you’re an adult, are you likely to save your tax refund, or spend it?

We know what we’re supposed to do when stumbling upon a large sum of disposable income — invest it in a retirement account! Put it towards your school loans! Start building your emergency fund! Wipe out some of that credit card debt.


Those ideas sound like ones a financial adviser (or even your mother) would give. You worked hard all year long for the right to that little government payout! Don’t you deserve something nice? Don’t you deserve to pay for something new — different from your car payment or rent, which you take care of every month anyway?

The Broke Girls think so.

At the same time, if you have debt to pay off… if you have large monthly payments to make, or a paltry savings account, we can’t in good conscious defend spending that cash on a shopping spree or spontaneous vacation, either. Instead, we’ll advocate for the following productive ways to spend your tax refund, that are both fun and practical!

  • Create a ‘Fuck Off’ Fund – Not a savings account. Not a rainy day fund. A Fuck Off Fund.

    This one is fun to say, and empowering to have and to use. We first heard about it through Erin at Broke Millennial. According to her, a Fuck Off Fund is a pile of cash money you can turn to when you want or need to get out of a shitty situation.

    Think: when you’ve finally had enough and can tell your boss to “shove it” without fear of surviving only on unemployment as you look for a new and better position. Or when you end a toxic relationship (*cough* and want to “win” the breakup with a new gym membership and makeover. Or adopt a cat out of loneliness). Or when you’ve had enough of living with your parents and decide “Screw it, I’m gonna make it in New York!”

    The Fuck Off Fund is awesome because it gives you freedom and options when you most need them. And the best part is, you won’t have to rely on an Emergency Fund (existing or non-existing)!

  • Create a Treat Yo Self Fund – If you desperately want to splurge after your refund rolls in, you’ll love this idea. Instead of splurging right away, put aside that separate stash of cash and make its primary purpose to be spent on things that make you feel good.

    This is the money your future self will use when you want: a well-deserved massage or spa day. A decadent mid-afternoon dessert from the bougie bakery down the street to break up a stressful workday. Expensive makeup or bath products on a day where you’re feeling like you “need” them. That bottle of nail polish, just because.

    With a Treat Yo Self Fund, you not only get the ability to treat yo self, but you can do so totally guilt-free, because you’re using money already put aside for this specific purpose! Win, meet win.

  • Take that class you’ve always wanted to – It doesn’t have to be for work, and it doesn’t have to be for pleasure. What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted to learn, but never seemed to have the funds for a class?

    Maybe it’s learning to code. Salsa dancing. Sushi making. It could be pole dancing, painting, or video editing. Maybe it’s an online course with a career or life coach? Woodworking. Self defense. Improv classes. Wine tasting. Piano lessons.

    This is your money, so do what you want with it! Whether or not it furthers your career is irrelevant. If it’s something that’s always interested you, it’s worth the investment.

  • Start a holiday savings account – If you’re a woman, there is a gooood chance one of your favorite things to do with money is to spend it on other people. Whether it’s buying a round of drinks for your friends or buying groceries for your kids, something about our tendency to care for others extends to spending on their behalf.

    So you know what we say? Open a new savings account exclusively for holidays and gift-giving, and empty your tax refund into it. This will be the place you turn to when it’s someone’s birthday; when you’re throwing a holiday party, or in December when you’re checking off your gift list!

    This one will be especially appealing to those who dislike the idea of “splurging” on themselves (or who always find themselves swiping their credit cards in order to do nice things for others!)

  • Spend it on things that will make your life easier – Note we said “easier”, NOT different! This one requires some planning, OK? It involves creating a list, justifying the items on that list, and budgeting their amount to make sure you use only the money from your tax refund.

    People buy things every day to make their lives different. Need an example?

    How about kitchen appliances, so that maybe we’ll start cooking at home more! Exercise clothes or equipment, so that maybe we’ll lose those pesky few pounds! Material items like vinyl record players, new shoes, the latest iPhone, so we can be better liked, better looking, or better informed.

    Fuck. that. stuff.

    If you’re going to spend your tax refund, spend it on items that maybe aren’t sexy or exciting, but whose use will actually, knowingly improve your life.

    Think: a Roomba if you hate, hate hate vacuuming but have to do it once a week. A new laptop bag because the one you take to work every day kills your shoulders. A new mattress because it’s been months since you got a good night’s sleep. That designer pair of prescription glasses, because staring 8-hours a day at a computer is literally making you go blind.

Your tax refund – that precious little gift from the government – is not the cure to your every financial distress. So let’s stop pretending that the “right” way to spend it is by giving it back to the institutions who put us in debt in the first place! There are productive ways to spend that money on yourself — that don’t include a $300 trip to Sephora. *wink*

What other ideas do you have for fun ways to spend your tax refund? Others would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Jess works in the e-commerce and nonprofit industries with a focus on digital marketing, search engine optimization, social media, and public relations. She loves pop punk, performing arts, big cities, books, and chardonnay.

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