Here are Some Ideas for Your Refund
It’s Tax Day, or as we of the working class like to call it, Second Christmas. If you’re in the lower wage ranges, which increasingly applies to increasingly more Americans these days as wages fail to keep pace with the cost of living, you know the ebb and flow of life that is perfectly summed up in tax season.
Theoretically, if you get a big refund, you should invest it, right? Save it back for a rainy day? But as many struggling working class families know, what you do before anything else is replace everything that’s worn out in your life, which, because you’re working class, is basically everything.
It’s the circle of tax season, and it moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and…complete and utter desolation.
As most working-class families will tell you, the kids that eat you out of house and home all year long and seem to lose countless uniforms/shoes/backpacks/things that need replacing and can’t wait, there really is no sweet reprieve from the constant grind of borderline poverty like that beautiful Earned Income Credit.
And because everything you have was cheap or second/third/fourth-hand to begin with, your household appliances and belongings can often basically fall apart right as that refund is about to hit but with just enough of a gap to really heck up your life.
It’s the same principle as a warranty that expires and two days later your whatever stops working. So try as you might to plan ahead for savings and rainy days, a great many EIC families end up simply replacing everything that’s fallen completely apart over the past year.
In our case, that usually includes a fairly sizeable vehicle-related expense, a chip away at medical debt and dental work, replacements for a janky appliance or two, next year’s school uniforms, and some kind of technology update since we’re always working about five years in the past.
Of course, you’re probably going to take your family out to dinner–but you won’t go crazy about it. What are you, Caligula?
And then there’s that sweet grocery store trip. The one where you plan ahead and create meal lists. You stock up on baking supplies and cleaning supplies and everything your little cupboards could desire. Your family has probably forgotten what fresh veggies taste like, but they’ll remember, and the pure joy of fresh cilantro will get them through the lean months of Best Buy canned peas.
When it’s all said and done, the more you struggle, the faster that money goes. But if you’re like our family, you try to set aside a little dough to shift the burden of that struggle off your kids a little. For us, that means investing in some entertainment to get through the summer months when you’re broke and bored alone at home with kids.
Before you blow all your money on medical debt and car repairs, here are a few suggestions for family entertainment that will last long past refund season. But don’t go crazy. You probably still have to replace that janky dishwasher and get the middle kid braces.
1. A Tulsa Zoo Membership
This is always my pick for our family. When my little brother (Noah’s biological father) was alive, he and I used to hang there regularly before we even had kids. When the boys were little, we packed up those babies and carried them around all day, developing one-sided relationships with the animals and assigning them illogically anthropomorphic behavior rationales.
Now with my three kids, I can entertain them pretty much limitlessly there. Everyone gets a journal, and since my kids love to draw, I ask them to create biology notes and sketches in their journals and gather data. See, this is where STEM and the arts come together. I didn’t go to college for nothing.
A family membership is only $89 for a year and includes two named adults and five kids. So if for some reason you feel like bringing extra kids, they’re covered. I wouldn’t, but that’s just me. Your kids are probably calmer than mine.
2. Oklahoma Aquarium Membership
If your kids love hanging with the sharks, consider getting an Oklahoma Aquarium membership. They’re $135 for two named adults and four kids. But if you live in Jenks, it’s half that price if you bring a valid photo ID with a Jenks address.
3. Discovery Lab
Discovery Lab seems like a pretty safe bet for a good time with kids all summer. An annual membership with only two kids saves you a few bucks, but if you’ve got a party of five like we do, you’re going to shell out a little more. At $135.65 for two named adults and up to four kids, it’s still not bad.
Discovery Lab's Animation Land exhibit
4. Air and Space Museum
Get a family membership for two adults and for kids for a cool Benji over at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum.
All right, EIC fam. What are you spending your tax refund money on? Do you have your eye on a sweet outdated video game system, or are you simply hoping to finally figure out why the toilet in your front bathroom won’t flush? Hint: either way, it’s gonna fall apart next year, so you might as well enjoy the zoo this summer, where the toilets almost always work.