By Cameron Huddleston, contributing editor, Kiplinger.com
I want to share a poem my 7-year-old daughter wrote last night:
I have had no money for a while
Then for my birthday someone gave me 1,000 dollars.
Let's go buy all we want!
Oh, now we have no more money.
Plenty of you have probably received -- or will soon -- checks for that amount from Uncle Sam. In fact, the average refund has been nearly three times that amount for the past two years. It's tempting to spend on something you really want -- say a big-screen TV, tech toys or new clothes -- but you'll be better off it you put that money to work for you.
Here are five good uses of your tax refund (or birthday check, or any other small windfall). And check out our 10 Smart Uses for Your Refund slide show for more ideas.
5 Surprisingly Smart Ways to Blow $1,000 of Your Tax Refund
For $1,000 you can add several evergreen plants, redo a small backyard, install landscape lighting or even hire a landscape designer or architect to create a plan for your yard. See Cheap Ways to Improve Curb Appeal for more ideas.
Online forms can be an affordable way to write a will if your finances are uncomplicated. But if your circumstances are complex, you should hire a lawyer to help you draft estate-planning documents. Expect to pay about $300 for a simple will. You could pay up to $1,000 for a more comprehensive estate plan that includes a living will or health-care directive and a power of attorney document.
Take classes to improve your current skill set to land a raise or promotion. Or learn new skills if you're thinking about switching jobs. Check with a nearby community or technical college for affordable courses, or consider UC Berkeley Extension's online courses, which cost less than $1,000.
If you're trying to sell your home, you can make it more inviting to potential buyers by decluttering it and decorating it for the masses -- in other words, staging it. This will set your home apart and cut the time it's on the market. See Home Staging Transformations for Under $1,000.