If you're one of the lucky people getting a sizeable tax refund this year, and you have all your bills paid, have money in the bank and are gainfully employed at a job, breathe easy. It's time to spoil yourself for all that hard work. Yes, you could be totally practical and save it for a rainy day, which as we now know comes far more often than we'd like. But sometimes you just need to treat yourself and your loved ones.
Go on a trip
In 2011, the average tax refund was $2,913. That's a pretty fine sum of money. It's enough for a short vacation including two plane tickets in coach and a couple of nights in a decent hotel where you can have a fine-dining experience. European Destinations has a plethora of fabulous travel specials right now. If you're flying from New York, check out this six-night stay in Madrid and Barcelona for $1,049 a person. Or you can stay stateside and take a trip to Vegas, where casinos offer free drinks and cheap buffets.
Buy brand-new pots
If you're like me, you're still toting around that jumbled collection of pots and pans you've acquired over the years. A frying pan here, a baking dish there, a big boiling pot there and none of them from the same brand. Now that you're a grown-up you deserve grown-up cookware. Nothing says, "I'm a serious chef" more than Le Creuset. Get its Signature 6-Piece Set of cast-iron pots, pans and baking dishes for $600. They are all dishwasher-safe, and the bright colors (red, orange, turquoise and green) will look beautiful on a shelf when not in use.
Get a fancy-pants smart TV
You've got a 21st-century computer, cell phone and refrigerator, but your TV is still from the 20th century. Ditch that heavy, low-resolution bubble and upgrade to a flat-screen HDTV. For $469.95, PC Connection Express sells the 42-Inch Panasonic Viera TC-P42X3, which is a television for the new millennium. The TV has built-in apps like Netflix and Pandora, so you can connect to your account and stream movies without any external device, or listen to music while you get ready for work in the morning.
Update your wardrobe
If you're like me, you're not a clotheshorse. Shopping for apparel seems time-consuming and can sometimes be depressing. You know, the dreaded need-to-get-a-new-pair-of-jeans-because-the-old-ones-no-longer-fit problem. But you've got some money to burn and a new dress—or three—to buy. If the thought of paying full retail makes you squirm, go to T.J.Maxx, Marshalls and Kohl's. There, you can find discounted designer duds like Versace sunglasses, Michael Kors dresses and Rock & Republic jeans. Your closet (and your wallet) will thank you.
A day at the spa
A day of beauty is the ultimate indulgence—and one that you might not normally have the time or money for. But with that hefty tax return, you'll have enough cash for several days of beauty. If you're feeling generous, you can even choose to take a friend along with you. Go to one of the infamous Bliss Spas located around the country in cities like Boston, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale and Scottsdale to book yourself a Blissage 75 ($155). That's a blissful 75-minute head-to-toe massage that includes a warm wax foot-softening wrap. Pair that with the Brightening+Exfoliating Enzyme Peel ($70), Hot Cream Manicure ($25) and Hot Milk and Almond Pedicure ($65). You'll feel like a shiny, happy new person.