Even those with the smallest amount of money management smarts know that there is a way to be responsible with their "tax rebate" check, and a way to be irresponsible. Our government is hoping you're irresponsible with yours. The whole point of the checks is for everyone to run out and spend it on things they might not otherwise buy, giving a little boost to our economy.
But as prices are rising (and there is no shortage of people complaining about it) and people more are in debt than ever before, the most responsible thing to do with a tax rebate check for most consumers is to save it or use it to strategically pay off some debt. That's what Terri Cullen of the Wall Street Journal is hoping her family does with their checks.
But she knows they probably won't. Why not? Because she says they (and many other consumers) look at these checks as "found money." It's an unexpected windfall that's not likely to happen again, so they feel as if they have somewhat of an obligation to run out and spend this free money.
I understand the mindset, especially if you've been living under a very tight budget for a while. But imagine what good could come out of being a little more thrifty and saving the money for a rainy day. For one, you could generate some interest on that money. (Maybe not a lot, but it's still something!) And I guarantee that a few months down the road when your car breaks down unexpectedly or you have some other surprise expense, you'll be happy you set that money aside.
Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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