ASK A FINANCIAL PLANNER: What should I do with my tax refund?
Sophia Bera answers:
My husband and I got married in June and are very much looking forward to our combined refund check this tax season.
But we have very different ideas about how to spend it. My husband thinks we should put most of it away to save for the down payment on an apartment.Where we live, a one-bedroom costs no less than $200,000, and while we have less than $2,000 in savings accrued so far, both of us put about $200 into our down payment savings account a month.
I think, however, that this strategy will yield enough for us to buy an apartment in the next two or so years, and that we should spend our refund check this year on life experiences, like trips to Ecuador and the West Coast. We're still young and childless, but that may not last forever, and I worry about missing out on these memories together.
Congrats on the upcoming tax refund. You're probably not going to like my answer, but I'm really concerned that you and your new hubby don't have adequate emergency savings. What would happen if a large medical expense came up, or a car repair wiped out your savings?
I generally recommend that couples have at least three months of net pay saved for emergencies. Start by setting aside one month of your net pay before you start saving for other goals. I would use 90% of your tax refund to boost your emergency savings and use 10% to do something fun, like a dinner out or earmark it for a future vacation. I would continue to put $200 a month into emergency savings.
Once you have a month of your combined net pay saved, then break up your savings like so: $100 a month for emergencies, $50 a month for travel, and $50 a month for a down payment on a home. Keep growing your emergency savings until you have three months of net pay saved.
Here's the reality: It's going to take you a while to reach your financial goals if you're only able to save $200 a month. You have two options: decrease expenses or increase income. I would suggest that you do both.If you're wondering where your money goes every month, I would highly recommend that you start using YNAB: youneedabudget.com . Stop using your credit cards to pay monthly expenses and instead switch to a debit card so you can track where your money is going every month. YNAB allows you to allocate a home for every dollar you have which will help you streamline your spending and cut your expenses. See if you can find an extra $300 a month.
I would bet that between you and your husband, you could figure out how to earn an additional $500-$1,000 a month. Can you pick up a side hustle ? Can you negotiate a raise? Are you able to pick up extra hours at work? Think about how much faster you can reach your financial goals if you're saving $1,000-$1,500 a month instead of $200!
If you drastically increase your savings rate, then you're able to set aside emergency savings, continue to take a vacation each year, while starting to save for a down payment on a home. You can have your cake and eat it too, but it's going to take a little streamlining and lot of hustle to get there quickly! My question for you is: Are you up for the challenge?
Sophia Bera, CFP® is the Founder of Gen Y Planning and has been quoted in The New York Times, Forbes, Business Insider, AOL, The Wall Street Journal, and Money Magazine. She tweets , travels, and loves helping millennials manage their money more effectively. Curious? Sign up for the free Gen Y Planning Newsletter .