Why It’s OK To Get A Tax Refund

Don’t get a tax refund.  That’s one of the first things most personal finance bloggers will tell you.  It’s giving the government an interest free loan.  That’s what they will say to justify the reasoning.  Keep the money yourself.  That’s the advice you’ll get.  Earn the interest on your own money.  That’s the benefit you’ll be told justifies it.

I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to worry about it.  If you get a refund, even a large one, it’s no big deal.  It really isn’t much of a problem at all.

The Justification For No Refund

Avoiding a tax refund was one of the first big tenets of personal finance I heard when I started reading money blogs.  That was over ten years ago.  I listed above the reasons, but it basically boils down to the idea that you shouldn’t give the government an interest free loan.  It’s money that you paid all year that you get back, right?  So, you should earn interest on it.  Interest is more money.  More money is great for personal finance. It all makes perfect sense.

It’s Stale Advice

Back in the day ten years ago, I was 100% for this.  However now, I really don’t think it’s that important.  Why?  Two

image from Morguefile courtesy of clarita

words: Interest rates.

Ten years ago, banks were flying high and paying out big interest on savings accounts.  Getting a yield of 5-6% was not uncommon.  Things like CDs and such could get you 7% or more.

That was pretty big money.

Now, interest rates are pretty low.  The biggest savings rate I earn is 1.75%, and that’s up big from a few years ago.  It was 1%.

Say you get a $3,000 refund.  Your interest, back in the heydey, could have been as high as $210.  Now, with 1.75%, you’d get $52.50.  *I know that it wouldn’t come to these exactly, but for simplicity purposes, I’m going with these.

When Something May Not Be Better Than Nothing

One thing I still hear is that, even with low rates, it’s still free money.  After all, while $52.50 isn’t as much as the $210 you could have earned, it’s still $52.50.  You should grab it, right?

My answer: Sure, but….what about temptation?

See, when you get extra money in your check, it’s easy to say that you won’t spend it.  But, what if you do?  In my example above, it would only take $52.50 of spending through the entire year before you come out behind.

Think about that.  $1 per week and you’d be behind.  One night out with dinner and drinks.  You get the point.

You Can’t Spend What You Don’t See

Getting $52.50 is certainly nothing to sneeze at.  But, if you take away the temptation to spend that throughout the year, most people won’t.  If you don’t see it, you’ll be less inclined to spend it.

Is taking away $52.50 a small price to pay to end up with a guaranteed $3,000?  I think that for many, it might be.

It’s All Discipline

Many will read this and be aghast.  They’ll say that of course they could save that money every week.  They’ll point out that any money left on the table is foolish.  They’re right.

But the fact is, those people are in the minority when it comes to saving.  Many people may not be disciplined enough to end up with that full $3,052.50 at the end of the year.

See, I’d rather a whole bunch of people end up with $3,000 than end up with $2,500 because they spent $10 per week throughout the year.  For many, that’s worth it.

Know Yourself And Trust Your Gut

If you end up getting a hefty tax refund, don’t beat yourself up.  If anything, understand that it’s still your money.  Interest alone won’t make you rich, so don’t sweat the lost opportunity.

If you think you can make the change, then do so. Keep the money.  Enjoy the interest.

But if you decide it’s not worth it, don’t sweat it.  If you think you might get tempted to spend a little bit, then let the government have their loan.  Take your refund next year and enjoy it.  I promise it’s not that big of a deal.

Readers, what do you think about getting a tax refund?  Am I violating the personal finance code of ethics, or do you see my point?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How To Have A Great Valentine’s Day

Editors Note: I’m competing in the Rockstar Rumble, which is a contest to select the best Personal Finance post of 2018.  Please go over and vote for my post in Game 43 “How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything”.  It would mean so much.  Thanks!

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.  This is the time where you have to buy chocolates and flowers, right? Well, not necessarily.  Only Hallmark and the florists really believe that!  Actually, it is possible to have a great Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank.  Here are a few ideas.

image from Morguefile courtesy of rosevita

How To Have A Great Valentine’s Day

  1. Make A Favorite Meal.  You don’t have to go out to have a great Valentine’s Day.  Sometimes staying in with a special meal works well.  Maybe something you make just once per year to keep it special.
  2. Send Along A Note. Since Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of the week this year, one or both of you will probably be working. Send a note in their lunch or wallet to let them know you’re thinking about them.
  3. Make A Card.  Why spend $7 on a card when you can make one yourself?  It will probably be more meaningful that way, too!
  4. Relax.  A nice massage along with a glass of wine can be a perfect little gift.
  5. Take a skip day.  If one of both of you works, maybe a skip day is in order.  This works really well if one can surprise the other.
  6. Don’t forget the kids. If you have young kids, include them on the fun.  Make the whole family feel special.  They’ll just feel loved in a different way, but will still be happy.
  7. Netflix and chill.  After the kids go to bed, pop in some Netflix, relax, and see where things go.

Valentine’s Day comes around only once per year.  While it can be a go-all-out type of day, it can be special no matter what.

Readers, what do you remember most about your favorite Valentine’s Day?   Do you prefer to go over the top or would you rather lie low?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

The Power Of Bad Habits

The other night I got really upset with my kids. They are 8 and 6 and they were bickering.  Again.  About what?  Nothing.  I got upset because their bickering has become nearly constant.  I sat them down and talked to them about it becoming a bad habit.

Two Different Personalities

My kids have two very different personalities.  They’re opposites in many ways.  My son is more the bookworm who is just fine playing on his own.  He has a difficult time fitting in, which breaks my heart because I was the same way around his age.  My daughter loves being around other people and has no problem making friends.  My son thinks very logically, where my daughter often drifts around in her thinking.

They’re both awesome and amazing, but the differences cause them to bicker.  Like, all the time.

It drives my wife and I nuts.  I know that others notice it, and it’s off putting.  I’m sure we get judged as parents though we honestly try our best  The fact is that they are two different people that spend a lot of time together, and butt heads often.

Still, it breaks our hearts when they bicker.  And, it often boils our blood.

The Start Of A Bad Habit

The bickering has become a really bad habit.  To the point where a small disagreement often instantly escalates into a shouting match.  When one or both is tired, this can happen literally 100 times between school and bedtime.

The other night, probably the 99th dust up took place and I had it.  I sat them down and tried to explain how important it was that they try to get along.  I didn’t just tell them they had to do it.  What I did was try to explain why.  And, more importantly, why they couldn’t put it off.

Bad Habits Take Root

Bad habits don’t form overnight.  You don’t just start doing something.  Most are a gradual thing.  They often take a long time to become a really bad habit.  The problem is that by the time you realize you’ve taken on a bad habit, it’s taken root in your life.  And just like some weeds that go far underground, they’re very difficult to get rid of.  If you pull a weed, it’ll come right back unless you get that root.  And, if you have a weed (like a dandelion) that roots far underground, it’ll always come back.  (My front yard can attest to this last fact).

That’s why, I explained to them, they have to address this now.

image from Morguefile courtesy of MGDboston

Bad Habits Don’t Go Away

I sat down and explained to my kids that their arguing wasn’t just impacting them now.  It’s setting them up for a bad relationship down the line.

Many people know that they’re doing something wrong and figure they’ll get to it later.  I know my kids think this way.  They figure they’ll just start getting along later.

The problem is, with bad habits, it doesn’t work that way.  Once a habit is there, it sticks there.  As time goes on, it gets tougher and tougher to get rid of.

So, I talked to my kids and explained that they’ll need each other in life.  I talked about middle school and high school, which are tough times, and how they will need to look out for one other.  I explained college and then growing up.  We talked about how one day my wife and I would’t be around, and it wouldn’t be just them.  This may seem like heavy stuff for kids that young, but I think kids need to hear it straight sometimes.  I often forget how much they can process.

And for each of the references, I explained that they wouldn’t just start getting along at any of those points if things didn’t change.

You might think, well it’s too late.  After all, they’re just 8 and 6, right?  Well, I don’t buy that at all.  There are so many things being formed in their brains. If they develop a relationship that isn’t based on trust and respect, that’s going to be how their relationship grows.  If anything, when they get to be teenagers and start hating everything, it’d be even tougher to form a stronger relationship.

The time is now.

My Fingernails As An Example Of Bad Habits

I am a nail biter.  I use this example a lot to go through how difficult it is to get rid of a bad habit. See, I started chewing my nails as a kid.  And, I still do today.

Had I stopped early on in life, it would have been a non-issue.  But, I didn’t break the habit, and now it’s with me.  Even if I do consciously quit, I think the most I’ve ever lasted is a month.  It took root and now it’s there.

I don’t want my kids bickering to be their version of nail biting.  They need each other.  To have each other can be a gift that they’ll one day want.  Need, in fact.  Trying to help them figure out a better relationship is something I desire greatly.  I even hinted it at in my 2018 goals, when I set one to ‘be protective’.  Our kids bickering and trying to get rid of it was the basis of that goal.

It’s probably the one that, if I could hope to achieve more than any other, I would target.  We can’t force them to like each other.  I would never ask my kids to change who they are.  But, I do want to make sure that they respect and appreciate each other.  That they look out for each other.  To protect each other.  It’s my biggest hope for them right now.

Readers, what do you think about bad habits?  Is it ever too early to try to work past them?  What habits have you seen that endanger relationships or affect someone for life?   Any suggestions on how to get two ‘opposites’ to form a relationship based on trust?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

What If I Had A Million Dollars

It’s kind of a cool idea, isn’t it?  To think about someone walking up and handing over a bundle of cash.  What would you do?  How would it change your life?  Here’s some things I would do if I had a million dollars all of a sudden.

The Goal: Less Worry

I would have a goal if I got a big pile of money.  That goal would be to use the money to provide financial security.  A million dollars would be awesome.  It wouldn’t be enough to retire at the age of 43.  Yet, it would be enough to provide security in many ways.  I would also want to take away as much of the day to day worry that money can bring.

The Spend

I would send away some of the money on a few things.

  • Pay off all debts.  The mortgage and student loans would be gone.  There’s hardly any better security I can think of than to have all assets and no debts!
  • Splurge.  I would probably look at a few items.  We’d definitely get a new camper.  I would upgrade some things around the house.  I’m thinking flooring, and some light kitchen and bath work.  I’d probably have the inside professionally painted.
  • Take care of college.  I’d make sure that the kids college funds were fully funded.  We contribute now, but I don’t think what we’re setting aside will fully cover the costs.  It would be a goal to close that gap.
  • I’d treat immediate family.  I’d make sure to splurge on family who have helped us along the way.  Maybe a luxury vacation or something along those lines.
  • Donate.  I would want to use the money to give something back.  Right now we give, but not enough to where it makes a direct difference.  Instead, the money helps when it’s combined with that of others.  I’d like to use some money to know that we’re directly making a difference in some way.

The Save

Most of the money would probably be saved. I’d look at funneling as much as possible toward our retirement accounts.  I’d work with a financial adviser to invest a chunk.

It’s funny because this section is noticeably shorter than the section above.  That’s for a reason.  Saving isn’t sexy.  Spending is fun to think about.  But, in the end, more of the $1 million would be saved than spent.  Once you get it to the right accounts, it just sits there.  And takes care of you.  Which is the cool part, no?

The bottom line is that I’d want to make sure that the money provided a foundation for years to come.  Five years. Ten years. Twenty years. However long it is, I’d want to be able to see that money working.  This is possible if done right.


Most people will never receive a million dollars in their lifetime.  Still, it’s fun to dream, isn’t it?

What would you do with a million dollars?  Share your ideas and dreams in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.