Give Your Savings a Bonus
Or, better yet, check with your payroll department to see if those refunds are coming because you're withholding more than you need to. If you are, withhold less and put the extra cash from each paycheck into savings so some of that money is earning interest all year.
The idea, of course, is to configure your withholding on your W-4 so that the amount that is withheld from your paycheck each month more or less matches your estimated tax liability. That way, come April 15 of the following year, you don't get a refund, but you also don't owe. A good way to run your numbers is by using the Withholding Calculator on the IRS website.
Even if you've been with the same employer for years, it's not too late to make a change, says Roni Deutch, author of The Tax Lady's Guide to Beating the IRS. "You can adjust your withholding any day of the year. But the longer you fail to adjust it, the longer you're going to be addicted to getting that refund check in April."
She's right, of course. You've come to count on that little windfall once a year, but wouldn't you rather have some extra each month to save for retirement, or pay down debt, or just make ends meet? So let's not put it off anymore. Tomorrow, when you go into work, go straight to your human resources manager (or your boss, if you work for a small company) and ask that he or she help you adjust your withholding. Then, stay on top of it, because many of life's milestones call for another look at your W-4, including marriage, divorce, a second job, birth of a child, the purchase of a home, capital gains and retirement.