Financial representatives say many Brazoria County residents this year are electing to save their tax refunds or use them to pay off debt rather than splurge on vacations or shopping sprees.

A national poll by Bankrate.com showed 84 percent of Americans receiving refunds intended to either pay down debt, put the money into savings or use the funds for everyday necessities.

Luke Billeri, regional vice president for the Texas Dow Employees Credit Union branches, said thus far he is seeing the same trend locally.

“What I’m seeing most are two things: people are paying down debt, or they’re saving it,” he said.

When they receive refunds, Billeri said people usually look toward their immediate needs first, then analyze their long-term needs.

“We advise them in certain ways based on what’s going on in their life,” he said.

He said these needs include taking care of bills, such as house or car payments, as well necessities, such as buying clothes for children or paying electricity bills.

With refund season being a common time-period where people are known to pay off debt, Billeri said the credit union often advises people to first look at the debt that has the highest rate to pay down, like credit cards. He said this option can save people money down the road.

In addition to immediate needs, he said receiving tax refunds can be a good way to take care of long-term issues, as well. These could include someone with a medical condition buying medication in advance while they know they have the money.

Due to a recent economic downturn, Billeri said people are not saving at the same rate as they were a few years ago, which he said they expect to change at some point.

“At the same time, people still are saving at a very high rate,” he said.

At the credit union, he said they have seen a 5 percent increase in savings over the past three months.

“We advise everyone, if possible, to have six months worth of income in their account at all times, because sometimes life happens,” he said.

The Bankrate.com study showed only 7 percent of people planned to spend their tax refunds on a shopping spree or vacation.

Billeri said he has also heard very few mention this possibility.

The credit union often recommends anyone who wants to splurge on these activities to make sure they are financially comfortable beforehand.

“We want them to make sure they are comfortable with their income if they decide to splurge,” he said. “If they want to splurge, that’s OK, we know people work hard, we just want them to be comfortable with what they have as far as debt and income.”

First and foremost, Billeri said, every year the credit union tells people to look toward one group of people above all when they make their tax refund decisions.

“We always advise them to take care of their family first,” he said.

Lance Reaves is a reporter for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0154.

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