11 Things To Spend Your Tax Return On That Will Actually Improve Your 2019

11 Things To Spend Your Tax Return On That Will Actually Improve Your 2019
Don't squander your tax return - invest in your future and your personal growth instead.

The bad news: it's tax season. The good news: for a lot of people, it's also tax return season.

Reporting suggests that many early filers are upset and asking, “Why is my tax return less this year??” following the 2017 tax bill, but chances are good your return will be the same as previous years… or better.

The question is, what will you do with your tax refund?

Save Your Tax Return!

When it comes to spending your tax return, you'll always hear the same advice from us here at Primer: save it. Invest it. Pay down debt. Don't just spend it. If you're not already investing for retirement, use your return this year to kickstart the process.

Read more: 3 Reasons to Start Saving for Retirement Now and 5 Steps to Get Going

After you've saved, invested, or paid down debt it's OK to set aside a small amount for yourself – after all, behavioral economists say well-considered rewards can help you reach a long-term goal!

Here are 10 investments in your personal growth that will pay dividends for the rest of 2019… and beyond.

audible on iphone

1. Audible Membership

Amazon, $14.95 per month

There’s a good chance that you’re not quite the reader you once were. That’s understandable. After work and prestige TV shows available to stream on demand, the bandwidth left for reading is slim.

And while nothing takes the joy out of reading like making it mandatory, nothing makes it fun again quite like Audible.

With an Audible membership, listeners receive their choice of a free audiobook (from a catalog of thousands of classics and modern works) with the additional choice of two Audible Originals every month.

Still working through your reading list? Not to worry – credits roll over for up to five months, and members have the option of exchanging pieces they’re not satisfied with. With an intuitive system that makes switching between devices a breeze, Audible makes a perfect gift for any voracious reader looking to better themselves.

Recommendations from the Editor:

Audiobooks have singled-handedly changed the way I'm able to consume long, written information. I now ‘read' books on self-development and business while I'm walking my dog, in traffic, or cleaning the house. Before I picked up the habit my completion rate was embarrassingly infrequent; when a book recommendation would come in from a respected source, I would say, “Oh cool, I'll check it out,” knowing I never would. Now, I'm texting that person two weeks later to discuss what I learned. And it isn't aggrandizing to say the principles that were learned and the growth they've inspired have been the cause of tangible improvements to my life.
— Andrew Snavely

bullet journal

2. Bullet Journal

Bullet Journal, $24.95 on Amazon

There are few skills in life more worth cultivating than the lost discipline of faithfully keeping a journal.

Practiced by great men and women across history, journaling gives you a chance to get out of your own head – a few minutes to untangle, articulate, and actually address all the unspoken impulses, worries, hopes, dreams, and anxieties that are grappling for your attention.

While society has (unfortunately) let this discipline fall out of fashion, the Bullet Journal process is here to provide a much-needed introduction to this vitally important discipline.

The Bullet Journal is more than just a mere diary. It’s a specific method for not just articulating what’s happening in your head; it’s a way of making sense of everything – prioritizing the thoughts that matter and giving context to the ones that don’t. Accompanied by a companion app delivering structure, direction, and daily inspiration for $2.99, the Bullet Journal is a natural starting point for both the experienced and the uninitiated alike.

For even more support on intentional living, check out The Bullet Journal Method on Amazon (and yes, it's on Audible).

3. Therapy

One of worst ideas that our society impresses upon on as we grow up is that “therapy is an important and essential tool…for people who are in a really bad place.” But we usually assume that means you can't get out of bed for a week. Or you got fired for drinking on the job again. Or your partner is insisting you get help – or lose the marriage – because of your uncontrollable anger outbreaks. If you aren't dealing with as drastic an issue, the general attitude tends to be, “Well, things aren't that bad, so I don't need therapy.”

This couldn't be further from the truth.

No one can go it alone. And our friends, family, and partners can be amazing support and companionship…but they can't be the voice of detached, unbiased reason. For that, great leaders have turned to highly trained and respected counselors since the dawn of time – why should your life be any different?

Maybe you're under constant stress from not being able to meet the demands of work. Maybe you avoid networking events because the thought of small talk makes you feel like you got punched in the chest. Maybe you feel like you don't feel a whole lot of anything. You may tend to downplay the significance of something you're dealing with, but untangling it with a trained therapist will rocket you lightyears from where you started.

Unfortunately, many people use the cost of therapy – either a per session co-pay or complete out-of-pocket payment if you don't have insurance coverage – as an excuse for forcing themselves to go it alone. For those without insurance, out-of-pocket 1-hour sessions can be as low as $50. So instead of buying that iPad Pro you'll only use sometimes, you could have a year's worth of counseling.

Make the investment. It pays huge dividends. You can use services like GoodTherapy or Better Help to find a therapist to try.

Image of Duolingo logo

4. Duolingo Plus

Duolingo, $6.99 per month (for 12 months)

In this increasingly interconnected world, the benefits of being bilingual have never been greater. And with sites like Duolingo, you’ve never had less of an excuse.

Constructed by a team of people passionate about bringing the planet closer together, Duolingo offers interactive language courses ranging from Spanish to Mandarin, French to Swahili, Russian to that-made-up-language-from-Game-of-Thrones (I’m not a big enough nerd to admit I know it’s called High Valyrian).

While courses are free, fun, and comprehensive – even allowing you to grade your pronunciation via microphone – Duolingo Plus offers exclusive, in-depth, and ad-free features for the truly serious student (including the notable ability to download lessons directly onto your device).

Whether you’re looking to prepare yourself for traveling abroad or gain a competitive edge in your job, Duolingo Plus can be an invaluable resource.

over the door pull up bar

5. Sagler Pull Doorway Heavy Trainer

Amazon, $40

For plenty of guys, working out is less about finding motivation than it is about losing excuses, and there’s nothing that can take those away faster than the ever-reliable doorway chin-up bar.

Taking mere seconds to install, a high-quality chin-up bar can offer years of efficient upper-body exercise, and there’s nothing quite so effective in getting you off your ass than your exercise apparatus staring accusingly from your doorway.

An ideal self-gift for the guy looking for a quick (and more importantly, inescapable) way of staying in shape no matter how far it is to the gym.

running in desert

6. Trip To A Running Store


There are few things better for your health than cardio (and it’s one of the few exercises you can truly do anywhere) but it's all too easy to injure yourself running in old or poorly-fitting shoes.

Most cities and towns have a dedicated running store – swing by and take advantage of the deep experience many running store clerks bring to their trade. They can help analyze your gait, learn about your regular route, and recommend the right shoe.

Your knees and your tendons are never going to be as strong as your pride, and it’s critical that you take the time to find a shoe that fits both your feet and your needs.

Image of Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In Paperback – May 3, 2011

7. Getting To Yes 3rd Edition

Amazon, $26

This isn’t a book about negotiation, this is the book about negotiation.

Boasting nearly forty celebrated years of expert development, and taught in business classes, psychology courses, and conflict management workshops across the world, Getting To Yes provides a simple but brilliant manual on how to drive a hard bargain, stick up for your interest, and find common ground without once having to sacrifice your principles (plus most of the Jedi mind tricks you’d normally only learn after years of apprenticeship at some frigid, mountaintop monastery).

Elegantly written and updated with the latest research, Getting To Yes is a worthy investment for any ambitious man.

Image of nation parks and federal recreational lands annual pass

8. America the Beautiful National Parks & Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass

United States Geological Survey, $80.00

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Those words were spoken by John Muir, the grizzled father of conservationism and the only man to out-tough Theodore ****ing Roosevelt.

What the ever-eloquent outdoorsman (and all-around badass) meant to tell us was that nothing exists in isolation. And that’s true of nothing more than ourselves.

Escaping into the great outdoors can offer a fantastic way of disconnecting from the madness of modern life and re-engaging with the most essential elements of yourself. For just $80, you (along with three accompanied adults) can enjoy full and complete access to all 401 national parks – 84 million acres of untamed and breathtaking American wilderness.


weighted blanket

9. Quilty 20 lb. Weighted Throw Blanket

Amazon, $130

For all the jargon about sleep numbers, memory foam, and the endless debate about whether hard or soft mattress are turning your spine into a pretzel, people often forget that what you sleep under can be just as important as what you sleep on.

You spend a third of your life sleeping. Or, if you’re like the 20% of the country who suffer from chronic sleep problems, you’ll spend a third of your life simply trying. While you might try to write off those nights of tossing and turning as just another thing you have to suffer through, the simple fact of the matter is that a good night’s sleep really can make all the difference, affecting not only your energy the next morning, but your short-term and long-term health and your state of mind. You just can’t be your best self if you’re operating off of weeks of poor rest.

The weighted blanket is here to change that.

Initially designed for children with autism and other disorders, weighted blankets (also called “gravity blankets”) have been discovered to help almost anyone get the best sleep of their lives.

Weighing between fifteen to twenty-five pounds, the heaviness or “deep pressure touch” of these blankets has been found to help produce serotonin, lower stress, and promote deeper sleep – generally tricking the body into imagining it’s getting gently hugged by an enormous chinchilla.

Whether you’re struggling with anxiety, battling insomnia, or simply looking for a calm and cozy night of rest, the weighted blanket is here to help.

paris review

10. The Paris Review Subscription (Or Any Deserving Literary Mag)

The Paris Review, $59 per year

Looking to become more cultured but don’t know where to start? Hungry for fresh, original stories but not sold on the idea of shelling out $40 for a book you might not even like? Ready to meaningfully support new talent but not thrilled with the prospect of sorting through a dozen Patreon pages?

Maybe it’s time to consider a subscription to your local literary mag.

Across the country, there are countless publications on almost every conceivable subject doing their damnedest to produce quality work and showcase young talent.

Though it might not seem like much, a yearly subscription to a magazine can give you immediate access to the next undiscovered Hemingway or Faulkner while going a long way to keeping the lights on for the people doing the work. Plus, you can finally be a patron of the arts without having to commission enormous nude statues (unless that’s your thing – you do you).

While almost every major university (and most of the minor ones) will run a publication well-deserving of your attention, you can find a wonderful index of established and fledgling magazines, journals, and publishing houses over at NewPages.com.

11. Vacation Fund


There’s probably no better time to travel than this period of your life – young enough to handle some good wild fun and old enough to know how to be smart about it. Whether you’re looking for that coastal road trip, daydreaming about that Moroccan excursion, or prepping for that horseback trek across Mongolia, looking forward to the adventure of a lifetime means starting to save for it now.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to leave this to the last minute. Spontaneous trips might look dramatic and cool in movies, but in reality, they’re simply impractical (just compare the cost of a flight leaving in four months with a flight leaving next week.)

Budgeting is everything, and nothing quite helps so much as the magic of auto-withdrawals. Life is hectic. Left to your own devices, you will forget to save – and there’s nothing quite like missing an opportunity to experience some new part of the world just because the frustrations and complications of daily existence distracted you. You may even find it advisable to create a separate account – just one more layer keeping you from accidentally dipping into your funds, or worse, doing it intentionally. Don’t trust your future self to make up the difference – your future self is a goddamn liar.

Plan not only for everything going wrong (trust me, it sucks getting your passport stolen overseas) but for everything going amazingly right. Enough cash for that extra round of drinks with newfound friends. Enough for that cab ride down to the ocean at dawn. Enough for that special experience that you’ll get to carry with you for the rest of your life.

2019 is here…

What are you going to ask from it?

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown grew up in the deserts of Syria and now lives in the deserts of Nevada. Since his arrival in the New World, his award-winning work has appeared in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Modern Haiku, The Ocotillo Review, 3rd Wednesday Magazine, and elsewhere. His writing has appeared in Primer for the past seven years.