5 Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Now that most Americans have filed their tax returns—an estimated 10 million applied for extensions—the wait is on for the much-anticipated refund checks. This year the IRS says the average tax refund is $2,464. Those checks will soon be followed by an "economic stimulus check" of between $300 and $1200, depending on whether you've got a family. The Federal government (and retailers) hope your newfound feelings of prosperity will translate into a trip to the local mall where you'll pump your cash right back into the moribund economy.

Before you blow your cash on car payments or flat screens, it's worth honestly considering your financial situation before making any decisions. Of course, all the experts advise asking yourself fundamental questions like what are your credit card balances in total (be sure to include those store-issued cards from your favorites, like Old Navy and Target). Got anything socked away for a rainy day?

Important questions, to be sure. But working gals would do well to also ask themselves when they last updated their wardrobes. This might be an ideal time to buy those so-called investment pieces (a good trenchcoat, a well-tailored business suit). Also consider your savings goals—are you looking to put a down payment on a condo in the next few years? Are you perennially putting off plans for an exotic vacation because you don't have the cash?

Remember, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can pay back a little, save a little and spend a little on yourself, too. You deserve it. Smart gals would do well to consider these suggestions for spending your forthcoming tax refund.

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