5 things not to buy with your tax refund

NEW YORK, April 17, 2016 - The average tax refund currently hovers at $3,000, according to the Internal Revenue Service, enough to make a dent in a credit card bill (or take a nice vacation). For those who filed before the April 18 deadline, it usually taxes six to eight weeks to see the cash, but three weeks for those who filed online. With most refunds issued within 21 days, many Americans can expect to have a bump in their bank accounts right before the spring sales, which will start next month in earnest. The average taxpayer can feel pretty secure in spending their return money as only 1% of returns are actually audited, according to Paul Dunham, managing director at accounting and professional services provider CBIZ MHM in Clearwater, Fla.

But you don't want to squander that money burning a hole in your pocket, so with that in mind, here are five things not to buy with your tax refund:

Laptops, computers and tablets

Laptops, computers and even tablets aren't the best buys during early spring sales. Even though half of Americans with Internet access will buy new smartphones in a 12-month period, according to 2014 online poll of 1,000 adults by personal finance site FatWallet, and even with the recent launch of Samsung's Galaxy S7, big smartphone discounting won't come until Apple's expected release of the iPhone 7 later this year, says Brent Shelton, a spokesman for deal site FatWallet.com. The best time to buy laptops and computers is during back-to-school sales or Black Friday in November. The same is true for tablets, he says, but with a shrinking market share, there could be great tablet sales in the run-up to Mother's Day, Father's Day and graduation sales."

New mattresses

New mattresses are probably the most typical tax refund purchase and a good investment for a good night's sleep, "but unless you're really good at haggling prices, you won't find great savings on new mattresses in the spring until Memorial Day on May 30. "That's when every store competes for your business," Shelton says. "Shop a little early ahead of the holiday weekend so you can enjoy your new sleeping arrangements after spending the first warm holiday of the year with family and friends." There are exceptions to this rule, however. Sears (SHLD) is currently offering up to 50% off (http://bit.ly/1E2r5rc) on some mattresses -- but it's a decision that should not be taken lightly, given that once you choose a mattress you will spend up to eight hours every day lying on it.

Home improvements

Home stores and handymen don't have much motivation to slash prices in March and April, because spring inspires winter-weary homeowners to get started on projects, creating a spike in demand for their services, says Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert with Kinoli, an online marketing firm based in Windsor, Colo. Many people spring for new floors after a long winter, which means that carpenters will be in short supply and home retailers will be busy, Shelton adds. Better times to hire home-improvement experts are just before the July-August peak season, or after the holidays when the traffic from holiday guests is over and the industry demand slows down.

Patio furniture

Late August and early September, when retailers are trying to get rid of their end-of-summer stock, are the best times to upgrade your garden furniture, Woroch says, when sales can be as high as 50%, with even steeper discounts as the fall wears on and retailers get skittish about being left with unwanted inventory. At the moment, discount retailer Overstock.com currently has offers of up to 45% off on outdoor dining sets. However, patient consumers can snag deals of up to 70% off later in the year if they're prepared to put up with their old furniture in the meantime, Shelton says.

Wearable electronics

Americans are largely sticking with their digital watches (or smartphones) to tell the time, particularly if they're on a budget. The Apple Watch Sport starts at $349, Apple Watch starts at $549 and the more classic Apple Watch Edition made of solid gold will cost at least $10,000. Apple (AAPL) did not respond to request for comment, but research firm IDC notes (http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160223005496/en/Worldwide-Wearables-Market-Leaps-126.9-Fourth-Quarter) that Apple Watch sales hit 4.1 million units in the fourth quarter of last year, making it the No. 2 bestselling wearable behind Fitbit.) And while there are many other smartwatches that cost thousands of dollars (http://www.zdnet.com/pictures/six-of-the-most-expensive-smartwatches-you-can-buy/2/), the Pebble smartwatch was rated the best smartwatch by Tom's Guide and costs $99.99 on Amazon.com.

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