Five Ways to Spend a Refund

5 Ways to Spend Your Financial Aid Refund

I can hear it now, ‘What refund? I can barely find enough money to pay for school!’  Yes, in a perfect world, we would all get a fat check each semester instead of a bill.  In fact, some lucky souls who actually earn enough through federal financial aid and scholarships to enjoy a little spending money every now and then. It happened to me during the last three semesters I was enrolled in college (thanks to several scholarships!), but being the serious student I was, I used my refund to pay down the student loan I needed to take out my first year in college. Looking back now, I wished I had used it for something a bit more fun and frivolous, but still within the realm of college necessities. If I had it to do over, here are a few things I might have purchased with my financial aid refund.

Beats by Dre

1. A Killer Pair of Earphones

Trying to study in the dorm room or even out in the quad can be a challenge with all the constant commotion. Instead of those cheap earplugs and earbuds I picked up at the local discount store, I could have been rocking a Beats Pro headset or Tour earphones. Not only would my music sound freaking amazing, but I’d look good, too!

Weird Science

2. 3D Printer

I am a huge fan of The Big Bang Theory and love the episode where Wolowitz and Koothrappali buy a 3D printer for $5,000 to make tiny doll versions of themselves.  How cool would it be to have one of those contraptions in a dorm room? Of course, I could never afford to buy their 3D printer, but I could have picked up an UP! Mini for around $899. Just think of the endless opportunities it could have presented to procrastinate and put off doing my homework. On second thought, maybe it’s a good thing I never picked one up; I might still be working on my degree.

Custom Bike

3. Custom Wheels

Parking on my college campus was a nightmare. You had to arrive at least an hour before class to circle the lots to find an empty space, even though I had forked out serious cash for the premium pass. If I had been wiser, I would have moved closer to campus and used a bicycle, instead. I’m not talking about a Huffy or Schwinn that you can pick up at Walmart; I would want to ride in style. Say hello to the Strada. For less than $500, you can pimp your ride and zip around campus on a bike that lets everyone know you’ve arrived.


4. New Technology

Being the frugal student I am, I spent most of my college years tapping out papers on a keyboard that was missing a few letters. I didn’t want to fork over a few hundred dollars for something that would be obsolete in a matter of months. I realize now that having a good laptop or tablet should have been a priority. Not only would it have saved me from making stupid typos, but also improved many of my assignments.  Although my last refund was quite substantial, it still wouldn’t have covered the expense of a new MacBook Pro, but a Microsoft Surface would have been nice to own.

Buy Some Friends

5. Friends

Okay, so I wouldn’t have really gone out and bought some friends, but it would have been fun to make a few people smile. October 5 is ‘Do Something Nice Day’ and I could have easily purchased several $10 or $20 gift cards, like Starbucks or Target, and handed them out to random students on campus. I know it would have felt incredibly good to commit a random act of kindness, and who knows? I might have even made a few new friends along the way.

Of course, anything I purchased with my financial aid refund would have been subject to tax if it didn’t fall under the qualified expenses allowed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but I’m sure I could have found a way to make these items work. If I was really clever, I would have found a way to bankroll a cruise or Spring Break trip before I graduated. If you could use your financial aid refund for any reason, what would you buy? Share your answers with me in the comment section and let’s see who has the best idea!

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Tamara is the Social Media Coordinator and a regular writer for, and She enjoys helping students prepare for college. As a mother of four, Tamara has first-hand experience with many areas of education, including special needs (autism), the International Baccalaureate program and post-secondary education. She enjoys speaking at schools and mentoring others online. In her free time, Tamara enjoys volunteering and supporting her favorite football team, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
3 Responses to “5 Ways to Spend Your Financial Aid Refund”
  1. HH says:

    Pay off credit card debt, ensuring that by time my degree is acquired the only debt I will have will be Federal Student Loans and maybe a car note. I would totally us it get rid of any other kind of debt.

    Living Expenses, and a road trip here and there.

  2. Deanna says:

    You should definitely update this article to something a little more, um, helpful perhaps. The comment before mine is what I’ve been looking for. I’m about to enter my last quarter of college and my loan refund will be quite substantial. I want to have a plan for all this money that isn’t MY money. What’s a good way of spending it besides not using it?

    I think I’ll actually do what “HH” said and pay off the couple of high interest credit cards that I acquired while I was in school. Only having ONE loan out post-college would be a wonderful thing.

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Deanna. Thanks for reading the post. It was all done for fun and not really serious. Any overage you receive from your financial aid should ultimately be used to lower your debt, but keep in mind that it will be counted as income (and taxable) if it is not used for qualifying educational expenses per the IRS.


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