By Alan Prahl

Every tax-filing season, advertisements suggest ways to spend tax refunds. It’s easy to give in to the urge to splurge and quickly spend a refund.

Don’t spend your refund impulsively on the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, before your money arrives start a “want list.” Put it on your refrigerator, phone or mobile device where you’ll see it often. As you think of things you want, add them to the list.

Do you wish you had more money in savings? Would you feel better if you paid down debt? Want money for a vacation or weekend getaway?

After your refund arrives, review the items on your list. Don’t be surprised if you have more ideas for spending than you have money to spend. Here is an example.

Rob and Robin are getting a $3,000 tax refund. Their want list includes $8,300 of spending ideas.

Idea, possible amount to spend:
Car repair fund, $500
Saving for better car, $1,000
Visa charges, $800
Kohl’s charges, $500
Vacation, $1,000
Weekend getaway, $400
Special dinner, $100
New carpet, $2,000
Emergency fund, $2,000

What would you do if you were Rob and Robin?

Financial professionals often recommend paying off credit card debt and boosting savings. Rob and Robin could pay off Visa and Kohl’s, boost savings and still set aside a nice chunk of money toward a vacation or weekend getaway.

A combination of paying down debt, adding to savings and having a vacation to look forward to offers immediate financial strengthening, plus positive encouragement to stay on track financially. What will you do with your refund?