Don't wait for next year's tax refund... you can have it now!
If you're getting a big refund each year, you're having too much money withheld from your paycheck. So the government is taking extra money from you every two weeks, using it for whatever it wants, and giving it back to you in April without paying you any interest. How much sense does that make? Why are you letting the government use your money for free all year?
You need to reduce your withholding, and that's easy. All you have to do is go to your payroll department and ask to fill out a new W-4. You should also ask how many "withholding allowances" you're currently claiming. (This is easy for them to find out and they shouldn't have any objection to telling you.)
The more allowances you claim, the less money is withheld from each check. So you want to increase that number in order to take home more pay each week. Try it out and see how you like it. This isn't a permanent thing... if you need to change your allowances in the future, you can. Your employer cannot stop you.
Just remember that if you do this, you won't be getting that big refund in April. But if you're getting more money each paycheck, why not set up an automatic savings plan and have $50 or $100 automatically set aside into a savings account for you? Then you can start building an emergency fund and earn interest on your money at the same time. See? You really don't have to wait for your refund!
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.