Most people will be receiving a tax refund this year, and many people I know have received theirs already. There are two reasons people would receive a tax refund: either they’re not minimizing their withholding throughout the year and missing out on interest or investment returns they could earn, or they deliberately overpay for the benefit of receiving a large check once a year. Regardless of the reason, it’s fun to decide what to do with the nice check you receive from the government.
CNN Money has five “slam-dunk” uses for a tax refund, and they suggest the typical advice. Fund an IRA, fund a 529, open a CD, add to your emergency fund, and/or reduce your credit card debt. In celebration of my Chinese food fortune last night, “You will have a fine capacity for the enjoyment of life,” here are ten things you can do with a $1,000 to $2,000 refund to enhance your life now, not in 30 years after average market returns.
1. Take a road trip. If you have AAA membership, you can get maps and travel planning for free, and the books they can provide are much better than planning the trip using Google Maps. Ask for the scenic route, and have no specific destination.
2. Pimp your ride. Now that I work closer to where I live, I’m only in my car 90 minutes to two hours each day. Some of my coworkers have a commute of over two hours each way. If they work five days a week for the entire year, that’s 1,040 hours (or more than 43 full days) in the car. If I were be in any certain place for 43 days a year, I’d want that place to be as comfortable as possible. Start with a car microwave but don’t forget about the sound system.
3. Get on television. Perhaps you can convince the producers of House to cast you as a patient with an evasive affliction by offering some cash. If House isn’t your thing, there are other shows that require new actors every episode. For example, NBC is always looking for people to portray rape victims.
4. Emulate your hero. Order gold coins, bill wrappers, and money bags and re-enact your favorite scenes with Scrooge McDuck.
5. Invest in your favorite hobby. Speaking of coins, if you love coin collecting, visit a dealer or reputable eBay seller and pick up the 1909-S VDB 1C or 1880-CC Morgan $1 missing from your collection. Add something to your collection that will make you proud. If music is your hobby, buy a new instrument that you will enjoy. If photography is your thing, get some new lenses.
6. Attend a big sporting event. Get good tickets to the Super Bowl, World Series, or World Men’s Curling Championship. It’s more than just the game, it’s the atmosphere. Sports aren’t for everyone, so for the others, there are the Drum Corps International World Championships, this year in Pasadena.
7. Get a makeover. You are $1,000 to $2,000 richer now. If your outward appearance reflects who you are, you should make yourself look like you spent $1,000 to $2,000 on your looks.
8. Upgrade your gadgets. It’s time to upgrade your television. Everyone else has a wide aspect LCD or plasma screen, isn’t it time you have one, too? If you really enjoy television and movies, there’s nothing wrong with making that experience more enjoyable. It’s your money.
9. Treat your friends. Take them to dinner, see a Broadway show, and/or go to a strip club — whatever your friends happen to enjoy. They’ll like you more if you wave around a few Gs, and it’s all about you.
10. One word: Las Vegas.
If you have any other suggestions for ways to blow $2,000 or so, spending the money today to enhance your enjoyment of life rather than investing for the future, please leave them in the comments here.
Updated May 29, 2014 and originally published March 30, 2007.