Happy tax season!
The average tax refund will likely amount to about $3,000 this year, according to IRS data.
And what will we do with this thrilling windfall? ...Only about 11 percent of Americans plan to spend their refunds on travel, according to a recent survey from the National Retail Federation. More than half will squirrel it into savings or debt payments, creating a culture that almost makes you feel guilty if you "blow the money" on a trip.
Granted, there are many instances in which saving your refund is crucial. But if you're on the fence between spending and saving, then travel could be the MOST practical thing you do all year. Hear us out:
Scientifically, experiences make us happier than items.
Studies have shown that happiness from recent purchases like TVs, purses or cars fade quickly, whereas travel becomes a lasting part of our identities, a special experience we carry with us forever. Experiences -- like travel! -- connect us to others and become a part of who we are, not just part of our homes or closets.
And simply planning a trip is the most powerful mood-booster.
A 2010 study showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning phase of a trip, as opposed to when subjects actually took their vacations. Planning a vacation boosted happiness for eight weeks, researchers found... so get crackin' on yours now!
Not to mention the lessons learned... for free.
A trip teaches lessons that college never will. So consider your vacation a performance enhancer for when you come back to the office.
And there are ways to plan a trip for cheap.
No matter how small your refund may be, you can almost certainly finagle a trip to fit in its price range. Practice traveling during shoulder season, using masterful flight booking sites and staying somewhere off the beaten path to get the fullest experience on the fewest dollars.
Bon voyage, tax season travelers!