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Will consumers do what they say with their refunds?

Losing weight is a little like saving money. Consumers will always intend to do more of both, but then reality sets in and they tend to do neither. Retailers can count on that pattern holding true this year, which is good news because a recent study by the National Retail Federation shows those planning to save their tax refund is at an all time high.

Whether they do so is highly unlikely as consumers often behave in ways that are inconsistent with there stated intentions and it’s a retailers’ job to make sure they do so. For example, Walmart this year offered free simple tax preparation, which it said was expected to return $1.75 billion in total tax refunds, and then the company also provides low-cost check cashing and then targets recipients of new found cash with “celebrate your refund” promotions.

It can be hard for shoppers to resist such temptation, but NRF’s survey shows that 43.8% of those expecting a refund planned to save some of their money, up from 42.1% last year. The majority of consumers who expect a refund (39.4%) said they will use some of the money to pay down debt and 28.7% plan to use their “free cash” for everyday expenses. A few said they will use their refund for a major purchase, such as a car or new television (12.3%) and vacation (11.3%).

“After a rocky few years, consumers are now more vigilant about how they spend their money and the importance of preparing for future financial stability,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said of the finding. “Increased consumer savings proves extremely beneficial to shoppers and businesses in the long run, allowing future opportunities to invest in a large household item or even take advantage of a well-deserved family vacation.”

No matter how they choose to spend their tax refunds, Americans want them sooner than ever. According to the survey, 64.4% of Americans will have filed their taxes by the end of February, the highest since 2006. An additional 21.3% will file in March and 14.3% will wait until the last minute and file in April.

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