It’s nice to get a refund. Even more so after the hours upon hours of preparing your taxes.
You’d like to reward yourself. A nice vacation perhaps, or maybe a swanky night out at a fine restaurant.
Sometimes the last thing you want to do is reinvest in yourself. However, with this newfound money, the long term benefits could far outweigh the short term satisfaction of a quick incentive. The cost of one of the suggestions below of what else you can do with your tax refund might indeed lead to that career with better pay, where the money you earn in the future will pay for those vacations and three star Michelin meals ten times over instead of the one time each year when you’ve overcompensated for what you owe the government in the first place.
Consider one of the following with your tax return, and reap the rewards:
Pay Off Your Bill(s)
A common concept in the workplace is the Golden Handcuffs, where we stay metaphorically chained to our job or the company we work at because it provides us false hope financially. We feel stuck because we have a hard time envisioning how to get out of the hamster wheel that is our job because we need the weekly or monthly paycheck to support ourselves and our loved ones. We become blinded to opportunities to move up or move on to better things because we are so focused on staying stable and “secure.”
One great way to get out of this mindset is to pay off a bill. Whether a small amount or a large credit card bill, to have one less financial stressor can give you the positive psychological mentality that you are worth more than where you currently are. Believe it or not, adding a vacation to that bill might feel good in the short term, but once it ends everything is back to normal and you likely owe even more money and feel more stuck in your job.
Get Educated Online
Through the internet, it is even easier to get further education and certification in (or outside of) your field. Even better, many of the resources available to enhance your education are inexpensive. Udemy, for example, allows you to learn new skills in business, technology or for your own personal development, often at a dramatically discounted price (most courses appear to be under $25). Better yet, you can take the course you purchase on your own time, making it flexible with your schedule. Lynda.com works in a similar way, but with a different model, as you get exposed to as many courses as you can muster for a monthly fee (not to mention a free first month trial to test it out).
Does $25 seem like too much for your wallet? Coursera provides courses from top universities for free. All three of these resources are credible enough to be accepted on resumes. They do, however, come with a caveat. Just learning these new skills will not be enough to convince employers to hire you. You will need to show how you applied this knowledge through work or a project for consideration.
Buy a Starbucks Gift Card
One of the best way to build relationships with people is over a cup of coffee. Seeking out successful professionals in your field (or the field you want to go into) to have informational career conversations can enhance your career potential dramatically. Many people are hesitant to have these conversations, often referred to as informational interviews, because they know networking is a two-way road, and are not sure how they can give back. Well, buying a cup of coffee is a good way to start! Better yet, informational interviews work in all stages of life, so whether you are just graduating from college or in the third stage of life, sitting down, asking questions, and getting to know about the field and opportunities from others still works wonders.
Pay for a Membership to a Professional Association (and Start Attending)
If you know the industry or field you want to go into (or stay in), the best way to move up or move on is to network with professionals like you. Most professional associations have local chapters, regular meetings, and conferences to gain further exposure to trends in your field. Many organizations will pay for their employees to be a part of a professional association, but if your company doesn’t, using part of your tax refund is a nice alternative. Furthermore, many professional associations allow you to participate in an initial meeting or event for free to test it out, so you can attend and get a feel for how beneficial the network can be for you before you even join.
Hire a Resume Writer
Check out Thumbtack, Upwork, or Fiverr to find a resume writer who can craft an updated resume for you. Make sure before you hire them that they are familiar with Applicant Tracking Systems and know how to incorporate key words into your resume to get it past the black hole of online applications. Also consider looking for resume writers who specialize in certain fields. For example, if you are in healthcare, see if you can find a resume writer who mostly writes health care resumes for their clientele.
There is no guarantee with resume writing that it will get you the job, but these experts know what to look for and handle the headache that comes with crafting words on your own. Most resume writing services cost somewhere between $50 to $300, but that might be worth the price tag if it gets you moving to new opportunities.
Hire a Career Coach
If you have crafted the resume, updated your LinkedIn profile, and submitted applications without success, a career counselor or coach can often help you overcome the obstacle of not getting noticed. Career coaches also help with career exploration, acting as a thought partner with you as you assess your values, interests, skills, experience, and personality and how it all fits within the world of work. A strong career coach will help you focus on finding a career that aligns with your lifestyle wants and needs, as well as dig deeper to ensure this new career has the potential of being purpose-driven and fulfilling to you.
Aside from the credit card bill, depending on what you owe, most of the options above cost $2000 or less. A new career or job that is a step up will likely net you well over this amount in the long run. With that in mind, invest in yourself with your newfound money, watch it compound with a better career, and make note of how those new funds eventually lead to better vacations and even more swanky nights out on the town at fine restaurants in the future.