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As a working single mom, while others joked about the terrors of tax season, I looked forward to the refund I received every year in the spring. The windfall gave me extra space to breathe and allowed me to have a little fun after the long austerity of winter. Over the years, I learned to plan carefully and spend my refund in ways that would most benefit my household. The following are a few ways I invested that money to take care of our needs.

Save cash for an emergency fund. Stashing a few hundred dollars gave me peace of mind and helped me feel ready to face the inevitable crises that would arise throughout the year.

Payoff credit cards and small debts. One less debt is one less thing to worry about, so paying off credit cards gave me a clean slate feeling to the year ahead.  

Save for Christmas shopping. Yes, in the spring, Christmas looks far away; but the holiday arrives at the same time every year, so we might as well be ready for it. I also shopped clearance shelves throughout the year for gifts and toys that could be hidden away for the next holiday season.

Put new tires on the car, schedule an oil change, and arrange for any necessary vehicle repairs. We depended on the car to get us to work and school, so every act of maintenance I could muster gave us more reliable transportation.  

Schedule doctor appointments and dental checkups. I never enjoyed them, but they had to be done.

Buy something for home. New towels or bedding made our apartment more comfortable and homelike.  

Enroll in a class or a workshop. Education is never wasted, and I am always happy to improve my skillset.

Get a good haircut. For most of the year I got trims at the discount place, but once and a while it felt good to have a luxurious haircut with the full salon treatment.   

Invest in a professional outfit and a nice pair of shoes. A few new clothes gave me more confidence at work and job interviews.

Buy kids’ clothes on winter clearance. Depending on what kind of growth spurt my daughter was going through; I bought coats, snowpants, boots, hats, and gloves at the after-season clearance sales and stashed them away for the next winter snows.

Let the kids shop. Sometimes I gave my daughter a small amount and let her buy something she had been wanting.

Have some fun, already. Every year I tried to plan something fun to do with my daughter. An afternoon at the movies, the zoo, the aquarium, or indoor waterpark makes memories of the time your family shares together.  

Remember to be grateful and give thanks for the abundance God sends our way each day throughout the year.

How are you looking forward to using your spring tax refund? How do you plan to invest in fun with your family?

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Snow fell again this week. The wind drove drifts across the driveway and formed sheets of ice across the patio. For weeks I have felt frozen in place, waiting for a gentle thawing to release me to move again. While I wait, I have considered how often feeling stuck takes over our experiences, and I have been exploring the strategies that help us escape the clutches of stuckness.

This video for a TED talk by Dr. Lani Nelson Zlupko describes a few ways we can get out of a stuck state of being and back on the road again.

Turn. Instead of focusing on the problem that keeps you in place, turn to look in the direction of your goal. Name what you want and focus on that instead of the circumstances that are holding you back.

Learn. View bumps in the road as opportunities to learn, and recognize that even large bumps can be overcome and lead to future growth.

Persist. Keep trying until you achieve your goal. With each step along the path, you will grow closer to being the person you were meant to be.

This winter I will be working to focus on the spring sun and leave the bitter cold behind. I pray your road leads you to a bright new season of growth.

How do you get out of a stuck situation? How do you turn to focus on the path that lies ahead?

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