1. More education. Whether you want to finish college, are considering a master's degree, or just want a little continuing education to keep your skills sharp, your tax refund can send you in the right direction.
There are many statistics proving that investing in more education can help you reap financial benefits as soon as you're done. One figure says you can increase your salary anywhere from 10 percent all the way up to 300 percent, depending on your field. That's a wide range, but suffice it to say: a little investing in yourself can go a long way.
2. Certifications. Some careers, such as nursing, offer add-on certifications that can open the doors to other jobs. If, in the nursing example, you were to become ER-certified, you'd be eligible for positions that come up in emergency rooms in local hospitals. Taking a one- or two-day training seminar to get certification can help you find your next job, even if you don't have a lot of experience in that field currently.
3. A better résumé. Not every job-hunting expense is as expensive as a college education. Even just spending $50 on better quality paper for your résumés and nice business cards can help you stand out from the pack.
4. Interview clothes. Find yourself washing the same suit and tie over and over again for job interviews? Take your tax refund and buy another suit. It's wise to have more than one interview outfit so that you're always well-dressed, and so that you can have a different outfit for second and third interviews with the same company. And if your interview outfits are older, consider what impression that gives. It doesn't have to be designer, but it shouldn't be threadbare.
5. Career coaching. It might be time to bring in a professional to help you figure out what you're doing wrong in the job hunt, if it's taking an inordinate amount of time. A coach can help you better position your résumé and cover letter for the job you want, as well as give interview tips. The money will be well-spent if it helps you get your dream job.
6. A cushion. If your current job is unsteady, either because you might be laid off or fired, or just think you can't hang in long enough to find another job, save your refund as a cushion to pay your bills in between jobs. Having a bit of an emergency fund makes focusing on your job search easier and less stressful.
If your tax refund wasn't quite enough to cover all of these ideas, consider taking out a student loan to pay for school, or setting aside additional money from your paychecks to help cover the costs associated with finding a new job.
Remember: Finding a new job takes dedication. You need to be committed to making yourself more hireable, and if that requires investing time and money in yourself, now is the best time to do so.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.