UNITED STATES—January 2019 is here, and even though the federal government is partially shut down that does not mean that tax season will stop in its tracks America. That was a fear so many people thought, but the government has assured Americans that if you submit a tax return it will indeed be processed for those Americans expecting a refund. So for those who are indeed getting a return from Uncle Sam it is time to start to prepare in advance what you will do with that money.

I’ve been asked multiple times over the years, what I plan to do with my tax return, and the answer has never changed: it’s going to be used to pay off bills. Why? If you have debt the goal should be to knock down that debt as much as you possibly can without any hesitation whatsoever. Look, even if you choose not to use your entire return to pay off bills or debt that you have that is fine, but it would be smart to take a portion of it to pay off expenses. Why? Well that check that you get each week or bi-weekly can then be used to do something to treat yourself.

I am not a huge advocate for taking that large refund check and just blowing it on something extravagant unless it’s something you absolutely need like a new car, home improvement projects or a long overdue family vacation. You do indeed deserve the opportunity to treat yourself for all the hard-work that you endured from the previous year. Rewarding yourself is something that should be done on more occasions.

However, we’ve talked a lot about spending on expenses and ourselves, but we haven’t talked a bit about savings. Yes, if you’re getting a hefty return it’s not a bad idea to take a portion maybe 20 to 25 percent of that return and place it into your savings account for a rainy day. We hate the word ‘SAVE,’ but saving a little bit now can help in the long run. You never know what unexpected surprise will transpire in your life and trust it ALWAYS happens, and it does so when you least expect it.

More and more Americans seem to live paycheck to paycheck, so when that extra income comes in, instead of splurging or spending it on things that you may not need, stash some of it away. I was watching something on TV this week, and they were chatting about the word budget, and how for some reason it seems to frighten people to death and it hit me like a torpedo: neither do I! It’s like the word budget constrains us from doing the things that we want to do, but in actuality it doesn’t. When you set a budget it saves you from doing something that you will regret later down the line.

I’ve talked so much about those of us expecting a return I forgot to talk about those who might have to pay Uncle Sam. There are ways to prepare for it. Take a portion of your check each week you get paid and put it away to cover your taxes when they’re due. There is no worst feeling then doing your taxes and coming to the realization that you owe an abundance of money and you’re scrambling to come up with those funds. Preparation is key America, rather you’re getting a refund from the government or rather you have to pay the government.

Written By Kelsey Thomas