2018 tax refund trends: early filers spending on travel

If the only sure things in life are death and taxes, then tax refund spending is surely a seasonal shopping moment that shouldn’t be ignored. We recently conducted a survey to find out when Americans file their returns, and how they plan to spend their refunds.

The majority of those surveyed (66%) expect a refund this year and nearly 80% plan to spend at least part of it – and they plan to do so soon. Travel was a common theme, with 23% of people planning to spend tax refunds on a vacation.

70% of respondents file as soon as they receive W2s, compared with just 6% that wait until April to file. And the earlier you file, the earlier you can spend your refund. For the 23% of respondents planning to spend their refund on a much-needed vacation, filing early can make all the difference when it comes to finding and booking the cheapest flights, hotels and entertainment.

“We filed our tax return the minute our W2s came in January,” said Oklahoma City resident Kendra Barreda. “We’re planning our family summer vacation now and 90 percent of the funding for our road trip out west to Disneyland is coming from our tax refund. This isn’t the first year we’ve used our tax refund on vacation either, last year we took the family to Universal Studios and Harry Potter World thanks to our refund!”

Returns aren’t just going to vacations, however. Other ways Americans will be spending their refunds this year include:

  • Doubling down on debt: 62 percent will put their tax refund toward paying down existing debt
  • Being basic: 36 percent will use the money to pay for everyday expenses
  • Loving life: Home improvement projects (19 percent), major investments like a car or home (17 percent), self-care (16 percent) and shopping spree (11 percent) round out reported spending

Twenty-four percent of people will be saving the entirety of their refund by:

  • Sticking it in savings: 70 percent will send it into their savings account
  • Preparing for the worst: 17 report using the refund to create an emergency fund
  • Being sensible: 3 percent plan to invest in retirement accounts, the stock market or college savings accounts, respectively
  • Keeping It old school: 4 percent will stash the goods under their mattress

Shopkick now offers opportunities to earn rewards when booking travel through a variety of partnerships with leading travel sites Booking.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire and CheapOair.