By KAYWANDA LAMB

I remember a conversation I had with a co-worker just like it was yesterday. “You should refile your taxes and include your dependent care expenses,” she said. I replied: “That’s okay. What I got back is more than enough.”

Yeah, I could pop me now, too! Listen: as a young single mom, I had no idea the tax savings available to me. But as I grew and learned about these things, I took advantage of them. No matter your income level, what side of the tracks you’re from, your education or background, saving money ought to be important to you. I mean, we have mouths to feed as single moms. And let’s face it, what we do with our money matters.

Income tax time in the U.S. is like being picked to go to the Super Bowl with all expenses PAID. It’s a big deal! Unfortunately, many of us grew up thinking it was a gift from the government, a.k.a. Uncle Sam, and we thought we could splurge on anything we wanted when the time came.

Not so.

Nope. That’s your money hunty. You pay it in every month and depending on your exemptions and liabilities, status, certain situations, and so much more you may get a return. (Seek legal advice please. This is information from my viewpoint. I’m not your attorney. In fact, I am not an attorney. ) So, you should do right by it and let it work for you, your babies, and your future.

Folks hate being told not to go shopping or get blinged out with their refund, so I won’t tell you not to do that. I’ll say do a bit of that and these Top 9 things if you are a single mom and you want your finances to be A-okay going forward. I wholeheartedly believe that you should implement these tips right now.

9 Ways Single Moms Can Make Tax Refunds Work For Us

1. Pay your mortgage/rent ahead
I cannot stress to you how important it is that you use this money to get ahead. Pay your rent or mortgage ahead with your windfall and you can reap the benefits monthly by having breathing room and money to save or spare. It will give you a long-lasting boost in both the financial and emotional arenas because there is a peace about not worrying about the rent. Is it just me? I get tired of paying the entire rent by myself. But it is what it is. Take a break from writing that check and let Uncle Sam’s return of your money give you a breather.

2. Begin an emergency fund
Much like number one, this will allow you the peace of mind and “breathing room” you need to begin to build a super solid foundation. We all know crap happens and often when you’ve just had some victory. Begin an emergency fund with some of your windfall. To find out more about how to do that, check out DaveRamsey.com It will bless you! I love me some Dave!

Listen, an emergency fund is the peace of mind you need. If you make a great living, but spend it all, shame on you! I’ve been there when you look at the end of the month and think, “Where did it go?” Sis, you’ve got to get ahead of the game. Slow down and budget. Here is a post full of financial tips.

With kids, we cannot afford to be riding life out by the seat of our pants. Click To Tweet

But, with kids, we cannot afford to be riding life out by the seat of our pants. If you make a little and find it hard to find extra, when this refund comes, THIS is your chance you’ve been waiting for. Stop. Breathe. Strategize the best places to put your money so it can work for you. Little by little, add to it. It’s going to happen. Start now!

3. Invest in a retirement saving plan using your tax refund
You must seek legal advice to decide on a Roth or a Traditional IRA. My point is you must start one if you have not. If you have an employer who contributes to these, take them up on their offer. Free money is amazing! Saving for retirement doesn’t take a lot of money. It takes will, preparation, sticking to your guns, and time. You can do it! Start now! Start early!

4. Begin savings accounts for your kids
Ready or not, college is coming some day. Why not start saving now for your child’s college? I know I have a gazillion student loans. I wish my folks had started a savings account for me. One can dream, right?
But, speaking of your kids, what if they need help with an apartment after college or moving expenses? Stating a savings account for them years before they need the money helps you and them. Talk to your banker to see what plans are best for you. If you have teens like me, it’s not too late. I suggest you look into what options your bank has and use some of your tax refund to set your babies up for success. Who knows what will come. But you will be prepared! A little bit a month will bless your babies years from now.

5. Treat yourself a little
I am not going to tell you not to buy rims. When I was in college, that’s what people did. I was always baffled at that. Rims! On a car! And next month, broke. “Why?” I thought. But, I have made my money mistakes, too! So, my point is simply put your money on something that does not depreciate you.
Honey, you go up in value! Prepare to spoil you in some way all year. I don’t care if you set aside $15 per month for that nail polish you like. Do things for you. That way you do not feel bad about saving and investing. The things we must do to have what we say we want.

6. Tell no one you got a refund
LOL! I know I am wrong, but I so mean this! This should have been #1! Do not tell folks you just got a little heavy about the pockets. Do Not. You will have a line around the block until the money’s gone. Please just carry on as normal, stuff the money in places that will bless you later, and enjoy the peace of mind knowing you did a great job of allowing your money to work for you. Shhh. Mums the word. Progress is the goal. Peace is the prize.

7. Start a self-care fund for you
I will preach self-care until I can’t speak. This is the single most important thing next to your spiritual and mental states that you must take care of. Taking care of you has to be a part of your lifestyle in order to handle all the stresses life brings. Add in single parenting and you can go bat … crazy. Haha! Listen, plan your fun.

Use some of your tax refund to bless you long after April 15th. Click To Tweet

8. Get a head start on college planning
They make tuition funds: just like we have IRAs as adults, we can put money away for our kids’ college. I don’t know about you, but college costs scare me. I have two years before my oldest is off to college and time goes by quickly. As single mamas, we have to prepare ourselves now so our kids can have what they need. Even if it’s a little, put money away monthly for their college. So, take some of your tax refund and start a 529 plan. You will be so glad you did! And your babies will have what they need when the time comes. No stress. Start small. Build.

You will find this article super helpful on college planning.

Also, check this information from the IRS.

9. Start a family bucket list
One of the things I love to do is travel. I love to travel. My boys do, too. I haven’t taken them out of the country yet and that requires budgeting, saving, and, you guessed it: doing it anyway! So, one of the things I came up with is to create a family bucket list. What are the things we want to do as a family? You and your kiddos can add some fun and spontaneity to the way you normally spend your refund. Take some time and if your kids are old enough, get their opinion and build the list together. Decide on a small trip (or a big one), and go for it. Build those memories! Just make sure you set some funds aside for the previous areas we discussed.

You’ll find this post on finances to be interesting.

Why should you listen to me? Honey, I’ve been there. Been up, down, around, and in between. You can find out more of my money story in my new book. I super spilled the beans. But take it from me, if you see your refund as free money, you’ll waste it. If you process that it’s yours and you lent it all year, you’ll use it wisely to catapult you and your kids. I did. And then the bottom fell out. But you gotta read the book for that!
On this journey, we don’t get to choose what we go through, but we do get to choose how we go through. Be good to you. Set yourself up to win! Spend your money wisely. Let this be the year you say, “No more! I will win in every area of my life!”

Go on girl!

Do It Anyway!

*  * *

Kaywanda Lamb is an author, speaker, and single mom coach, AKA The Winning Single Mom. Her mission is to teach single moms to parent, thrive, and win using practical tips and strategy gleaned from her 14 years of experience. “9 Ways Single Moms Can Make Tax Refunds Work For Us” appeared originally on her website, KaywandaLamb.com. Connect with Kaywanda on Twitter (@Kaydyma), Facebook (Kaywanda Lamb The Winning Single Mom), Instagram (kaywandalamb), Pinterest (KaywandaL) and Periscope (@Kaydyma).

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

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