Are you fortunate enough to get a refund this year? Maybe you’re wondering what to do with the extra money. I’ll start with the practical advice, then jump into the unconventional.
The practical advice is to make sure you have your financial planning 101 basics covered. Don’t have an emergency fund? Owe money on a credit card? If this sounds like you, pretend this money doesn’t exist, and either pay off the credit card debt or transfer it to a high yield savings account. Not sure about the emergency fund? The rule of thumb is to make sure you have at least three months of living expenses on dual incomes, or six months if you have a single family income.
Okay, so we got the not so fun stuff out of the way.
Since you’re reading this via a mom’s club, I’m assuming you have kids. And, for those of you with a partner, I recommend investing some of your refund in your relationship! Why? Well, divorce is really expensive, and more importantly, investing in your relationship is much more fun!
My wife and I joke that we are simply co-employees for our two daughters under the age of four. Every morning and night it’s all about making sure our kids (baby bosses) are comfortable and happy. Otherwise, there is hell to pay! After having our second child, it took us almost six months before going out on our first date night. We have friends that have gone an entire year without a night out. This is way too long! It’s really important to invest in your relationship, and that means doing fun things together, instead of binge watching Netflix for the hundredth time.
But, let’s face it, date nights can be expensive. You start to add up the babysitter, the dinner, the concert or show, Uber, and drinks, and a night out can end up costing three or four-hundred bucks. And, although I am recommending spending that tax return on these items, I do not recommend sending yourself into financial ruin.
So, here are a couple ideas on how to invest in your relationship, and go out without breaking the bank:
1. Call on a friend instead of a sitter - You probably have friends with kids that live nearby. Instead of hiring a babysitter, invite one of these friends over to sit for the kids after bedtime. You can then switch off and do the same for them. Babysitters basically get paid $20 an hour to watch TV and make sure the house doesn’t burn down…I’m sure you can find at least one friend just as trustworthy!
2. Make smart choices - Instead of opting for an expensive dinner and a show, I recommend choosing one or the other. This makes your date night dollars stretch much further. For instance, if you go to a concert, do a fast, casual dining option instead of an expensive dinner reservation. Or, if dinner is the centerpiece of the night, then by all means feel free to splurge a bit, and hold off on anything else. If money is tighter, maybe stay away from the French Laundry altogether.
I know it can be tough to leave your kids at home, but I promise it will be worth it. My wife and I recently had a date night, and it felt weird not having the kids with us at dinner. We almost felt like we had warped back in time to our younger self-indulgent, pre-kid selves. Investing in your relationship can be one of the best options for your extra dollars and sanity.
Now, next time I write, I promise I’ll dive into the best way to save in your retirement accounts.