When it comes to tax refunds, many Americans say they plan to do something virtuous with the money they get back from Uncle Sam, like pay down debt or put it in the rainy day fund.
We're not completely fooling ourselves: Experts say people who plan to save their refund or use it to pay off bills do that—with at least part of the money.
But whether we realize it or not, having a little extra money in the checking account also often leads to a splurge or two, like a new pair of shoes or a nice dinner out.
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"You also find significant spending among households who say they're saving it," said Jonathan Parker, a finance professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management who has studied how people spend money they get back from the government.
It's not clear whether people are aware that they are spending a bit more than they otherwise would have. Parker said people may just see that their bank balance is a bit higher, or know that they just deposited that big check, and feel comfortable spending a bit more even a month or two later.
"It actually caused spending even though you think you saved it," he said.
For many Americans, a tax refund is a significant financial boost. The Internal Revenue Service said Thursday that it had issued more than 40 million refunds already this year, and average refund so far is $3,116.
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