Spend your tax refund: Emergency fund
If the financial tsunami washed away your emergency cushion, rebuild it. Aim to sock away three to six months of expenses in an insured money-market account or short-term certificate of deposit. You won’t get much more than 1 percent in interest, but the key is to keep the fund safe and easy to access.
Crunch the numbers: A 2009 Consumer Federation of America study found that people with even $500 stashed away were far less likely to struggle with monthly bills, bounce checks or carry high card balances.