UNITED STATES—For many Americans, this is the time of year that so many love because many are expecting a hefty return from Uncle Sam. However, the most important question is what are many Americans doing with that tax return? I know for me it has always been a time of year where that money which is kind of unexpected in most cases for me. So if I do receive a return, that money automatically goes towards paying off debt. Yeah, it sounds boring, but it’s the reality of things. I always tend to go a bit overboard around the holidays and because of that I find myself paying the price as the New Year kicks off.

Trust me; I’ve really made a pact with myself for 2018: keep things simple. Simple gifts for Christmas from this point forward! There is no need to overbuy and considering my top goal is to eliminate debt and purchase a home, I need every single penny I can amount. However, for those receiving a return it is never a bad idea to think about how to spend that refund before just blowing it on materialistic things.

It can be a very wise choice to set-up a plan: some for saving, some for expenses, some for necessities and then take a little and do something for yourself. Yes, I am a firm believer that if you work hard for your money you should have the opportunity to take some of that money to do something for yourself. I will point out I’m not the biggest fan of someone utilizing their entire refund on a specific thing, but if that is money that you desperately need to pay of a student loan, property taxes, rent, a new car, payment towards a house, you do what you have to do.

There is an issue though: so many people don’t utilize their tax refund to put themselves in a better financial situation. The refund comes and they go a shopping splurge, take a lavish trip, do their best to impress those in their orbit, and before you know it Americans are back at square one. If you don’t plan the best approach to savor that refund for as long as possible, what is the point in having the refund to begin with? Many of us live by this notion of I’d rather have a ton of money in my pocket or bank account and have loads of debt. Instead we should live by the notion of paying off all our debt and having some in saving.

It seems odd, but let me explain: if you have no debt, you don’t have to worry about dishing out money on top of your everyday expenses. There are those bills that we will always have: rent, mortgage, electricity, gas/heat, house insurance, car insurance, etc. There are of course expenses that can be cut, sliced in half or completely eliminated, but there are those things that will be part of our monthly budget until the day we die. Anytime you bring in extra income it is never a bad idea to stash a little for a rainy day.

Ugh, I hate thinking about it, but things unexpectedly happen in our lives all, and I mean all the time. This is something that is impossible to escape. There is no worse feeling than having something out the blue transpire and have absolutely no idea how you can dig yourself out of this fiasco. For those not certain where to go when it comes to tax preparation there are local agencies out there helping low-income families and those in need.

So don’t try to do things on your own; if you need help to maximize your return and get the biggest bang in your return, there are options out there. While many people see tax season as a stressor (it is if you owe Uncle Sam), but for those who don’t and you’re expecting a return, it’s a great feeling to see money come into your orbit that you never expected.