Invest a Tax Refund in Your Home: $3,000 Projects

Four great, summery ways to invest your $3,000 tax refund in your house.

This year, considering using your tax refund to make outdoor improvements to your home. Image: Jupiter Images/Getty Images

When it comes to your taxes, you’ll probably be happy with the national average refund of about $2,700. Sure, you deserve to celebrate. But before you go buy a bushel of lottery tickets, invest your refund in your home.

Boring? Hardly. Upgrading and maintaining your home preserves its value, giving you a nice return on your investment. Plus, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labors every day.

With summer on the horizon, here are four outdoorsy ideas for spending your refund.

Add outdoor lighting

Show your house in its best light, even in the evening, with an outdoor lighting scheme. You’ll enhance your home’s architectural features and play up landscaping details, plus you’ll be adding safety and security to your property.

Here’s a quick price check on a professionally installed system:

  • 7 LED outdoor lighting fixtures to illuminate 100 feet of walkway: $2,275.
  • A transformer to convert household current into low-voltage: $400.
  • Two motion-detector security lighting fixtures: $300.

Total: $2,975

Install a patio

backyard patio is an inexpensive way to add some sweet living area to your home.

For a professionally installed brick or concrete paver patio that’s 12 by 16 feet—plenty of space for a table, chairs, and barbecue equipment—you’ll pay about $15 per square foot, or $3,000 total. Expect a payback of 30% to 60% on your investment (plus many hours of great outdoor living).

Other paving materials include limestone, slate, and granite. Concrete is a less expensive option that costs $6 to $12 per square foot, installed.

Upgrade your deck

Make your deck more livable with upgrades that add shade, increase privacy, and provide convenience.

  • Shade sails provide soft, diffuse shade for areas not covered by trees and building overhangs. They’re made of weatherproof materials that never need maintenance, and come in various shapes. Professional installation of a 12-foot triangular sail costs about $3,000, including the sail and support posts.
  • Cable railings are thin stainless steel cables stretched between posts. They open up views and add a contemporary feel. Expect to pay $70 per lineal foot for the railings plus pro installation.
  • Built-in planters add visual texture and help define separate areas of your deck. Integrate their construction with built-in benches to add seating. You’ll spend $150 to $250 per lineal foot for cedar or redwood planters and benches, including materials and installation.

Replace your air conditioning

Hoping the old unit holds on for another year? New central air conditioning units require 30% less electricity and lower energy bills by 30% more than AC units made just a few years ago. You also may qualify for an energy tax credit. Prices for a new energy-efficient central air conditioner start around $3,000.