23 ways to spend your tax refund that can make you happy and the world a better place.
It’s April, which begs the question how are you going to spend your tax refund this year?
(If, of course, you’re fortune enough to get a refund. My condolences if you end up owing Uncle Sam.)
Bills need to be paid. And the zeroes in your student debt total should, at least in theory, keep dwindling. You should probably stock the pantry while you’re at it, and make sure the gas tank is filled, too.
But if you cross off all the boring payments on your "being a responsible adult" list and still have a good chunk of change at your disposal, I have a few suggestions that could make you feel good about where your money is going.
Here are 23 seriously rewarding ways you can spend your tax refund this year:
1. Buy individual sets of flowers and visit a senior center.
Bring a friend if you like, too, and pass them out room by room. You’ll definitely make (at least) one person’s day.
2. Find a cool and important project helping teachers and students on DonorsChoose.
The online platform allows educators, mostly in underserved communities, to raise funds for neat learning opportunities for their students — from getting new computer tablets to providing enough instruments to create a drum line for music class.
Big, national, or international nonprofits do vital work, of course. But there’s something pretty special about seeing how the people in your own city can benefit from a little generosity.
4. Pay it forward in the drive-through line — or, better yet, the grocery store.
You’ve seen the viral stories of folks grabbing the tabs of other patrons ahead of or behind them in line. You could be the person who starts the next chain reaction.
5. This one isn’t immediately gratifying, but … your savings account may need some padding.
Just because something doesn’t give you instant gratification doesn’t mean it won’t eventually be rewarding, right? Save up to pay off that loan, buy that car, be prepared for a rainy day, or be less burdened when next semester’s tuition bill arrives. It’ll be worth it.
6. Sponsor a person or group that has been taken advantage of by our flawed justice system.
News flash: The power structures at play in our law enforcement and justice systems favor white and wealthy people. Funded Justice is a crowdfunding platform where donors can help foot defense expenses — like legal and bail fees, for example — for those seeking a fair shot.
7. Throw a pizza party at your local food bank.
Ask the Pennsylvania man who did just that in 2016 — it’s great knowing every cheesy bite is greatly appreciated.
8. Reach out to that friend you’ve been meaning to call and take them out to dinner and a movie.
You both deserve each other’s company.
Hey now, it’s good for you. Indulge a little.
10. Give cash to a friend or family member who could really use it this month — in the form of a money cake.
OK, this is a bit lavish, but if you’re feeling especially generous, here’s how to make it, courtesy of Jodi McKinney’s blog, "The Creative Life In Between."
11. Buy new socks and feminine hygiene products to give to a homeless shelter.
They’re always among the most requested items, but — because you can’t donate these sorts of items used — many donors don’t realize how tremendous the need is. (Here are other vital products to donate you maybe haven’t thought of.)
12. Donate to Meals on Wheels, then grab a friend and volunteer for the group locally.
After seeing President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, the organization may need all the help it can get in the years ahead.
13. Commit to guilt-free purchases for the week.
Shopping for food, clothes, and other products that are fair trade, locally sourced, and produced by ethical companies can be an expensive, exhausting privilege not everyone can afford.
But with some extra cash on hand, try to take the leap for a few days. You may be able to work in some better long-term spending habits, too.
14. Book a solo weekend getaway on the fly.
Depending on whether you’re an impulse buyer, this probably sounds either exciting or terrifying. Either way, you should indulge in some R and R. In today’s 24/7, on-the-go world, recharging mentally and physically is important. (Plus, solo travel rocks.) Quick, go!
15. Donate to an organization that helps people who are particularly vulnerable in the era of Trump.
So many groups — immigrants, LGBTQ people, women, people of color, Muslims, and others — are facing a hostile administration attempting to strip away their rights and send us backward. Help them out.
16. Buy house plants and bulk up on garden items just in time for spring.
Research suggests that greening up your living quarters can actually benefit your health and boost happiness. If you’re new to the plant game, maybe start out with some succulents (they practically take care of themselves).
17. Order a bunch of Girl Scout cookies for the neighbors you love or the ones you haven’t met yet.
What’s a better icebreaker than "Hi, here are some Thin Mints"? Another option: Hoard all of the Samoas and Caramel deLites for yourself (no judgment). Either way, you’ll be supporting an important organization doing great things.
18. See if there’s an Amazon Wish List registry for an animal shelter near you.
Animal shelters need lots of specific items to care for their four-legged friends — things like outdoor, durable furniture, cat and dog food, and specialized collars to keep pups (and their humans) safe.
19. Buy some Dogsbutter for your pup. Your purchase will helping another sweet doggo in need.
Dogsbutter — made from peanuts and flaxseed (minus any sugar, salt, or hydrogenated oils) — is a healthy snack for your pup they’ll certainly enjoy. For each item you buy, Dog for Dog also gives an equal amount of food to a pet shelter, so dogs in need will benefit, too.
20. Buy "(R)evolution: The Girls Write Now 2016 Anthology" and help underserved teen girls pursue their creative dreams.
The book of essays and poetry was published by Girls Write Now, a New York-based after school program that connects girls with accomplished female writers, who serve as mentors. All proceeds of the book benefit the program.
21. Donate to a bowling team that’s helping fund abortion access.
The National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon allows people to set up bowling teams and fundraise on behalf of abortion access across the country. Donate or — better yet — join a team. It’s a sort of unconventional but equally awesome idea.
22. Get your neighborhood excited about books again, and snag some supplies to set up your own Little Free Library.
Once you build and stock one of these (ridiculously adorable) mini-libraries in your yard — or any other public-facing space you think might be a great spot — readers take a book from the stockpile and leave a different one in its place.
23. And last but not least: Treat yo’ self.
Get that flat-screen. Book that massage. Splurge a little (or a lot).
You work hard, and you deserve it.
Correction 4/12/2017: Several references to "tax return" in this article have been corrected to "tax refund."