It is the one time of year when Uncle Sam is confused with Santa Clause. For millions of Americans in the spring, the IRS becomes the most beloved government agency imaginable. That is because for millions of Americans, the spring is tax refund season.

Nevermind the fact that a tax refund is an over-payment to the government they grudgingly return without as much as a penny of interest. The fact is, when we get a tax refund, we are all overjoyed to see it. Perhaps that is because the average tax refund for 2017 is estimated to be $2,840. That’s enough to make anyone jump for joy.

We generally treat tax refunds like found money. It wasn’t in the budget. It is just a sack of money we found on the street. So we pretend that we can spend it without any responsibility – like mad money. A trip to the mall plus one new computer, and poof! We are back to reality. Easy come, easy go. Instead of that, here are some more worthwhile things you could do with that money:

Manage Your Finances

These days, places like Salt Lake City accountants are more than just glorified tax preparers. All over the world, CPAs are expanding their expertise, certifications, and service offerings to include the following:

  • Financial planning
  • Small business accounting
  • Payroll
  • Business valuation
  • Cash flow management
  • And so much more…

Whether business or personal, accountants can do a lot more than help you file your taxes. If your finances are in disarray, You can use that tax money to help you get your finances on the right track.

If you don’t want to consider formal financial services, you can still use your tax return to manage your finances by paying down a large chunk of debt. That overextended credit card makes an excellent target for that $2,840. There is nothing but upside when using a tax return to better manage your finances.

Savings

If you started a savings account (even sans interest) with that $2,800 a year of found money, and nothing else, you would have $14,000 in savings in five years. By any standard, that’s a real savings account. Just imagine how much more it would be if you actually increased your savings in the traditional way.

Starting and maintaining an interest-bearing savings account can feel very much out of reach for someone living from paycheck to paycheck. Putting your tax refund into a savings account is one of the best ways to get one started. You can always access it if you need it. But even better is to leave it be, and add to it the following year.

Charitable Giving

Donating to a charitable cause is the sort of thing we think about when we don’t have the money in hand to do anything about it. When we do get the money in hand, the impulse for charitable donations is drowned out by other priorities.

But doing worthwhile things cannot be left to a spur of the moment impulse. It has to be a part of a bigger plan – an extension of who you really are. You can tell that you are the kind of person who would make a big donation if when you have little, you make small donations.

If you are that kind of person, big donations have to be a part of your overall budgeting plan. Many charitable organizations make their pitch around tax time because that is when a lot of people are coming into large sums of found money.

Much of that money donated actually can be deducted from your future taxes. So by giving your refund to charity, you are creating a benefit for the following tax season.

You can always buy another computer and go crazy at the mall. But if you are looking for something even better to do with that money, try using it to get you finances in order, jumpstart a real savings account, and/or make a meaningful charitable donation.