Tax season usually falls somewhere between hurricane season and leaf-raking season in terms of pleasant times of the calendar year. But it’s not all bad news: According to the IRS, the average American family receives a tax refund for a little more than $3,000.

So what’s the thing that needs the money more than you do? Your home. Here are a few ways to make your $3,000 refund work to your — and your home’s — benefit:

Replace your windows. The cold air you felt in your living room this winter wasn’t a fluke — you’ve got drafty windows, and it’s time to get them replaced. Your average standard-size window replacement runs about $300 per installed window. Depending on the number of windows you replace, this project will take up most, if not all, of your tax return. However, you’ll see the return on investment not only in the saleability of your home, but also in monthly energy savings.

Paint. For both your interior and exterior, paint can make a big difference for a modest price tag. Spring’s mild temperatures are great for exterior paint projects, and the newly warmed weather make indoor painting easier to ventilate through open windows. The size of your home will dictate how expensive this project is, but budget between $1,500 and $3,000 for full painting and priming. A fresh coat on the inside and outside of your home not only boosts your curb appeal exponentially, but the return on investment for painting closes in on 75% to 100% of what you paid for it.

Landscape. If you’re looking to sell your house, think curb appeal. Judgments are made with the first and the last look at the house, so your lawn had better be in top shape. The projects can vary (a decorative retaining wall, for example, will likely cost you more than $1,000) but expect to spend all of your refund on materials and labor — maybe more if you want to hire a landscape designer. Bonus: When this project is finished, you’ll want to spend more time in the great outdoors.

Get a new water heater. Treat yourself to a hot shower every morning. A tankless water heater can cut your water-heating energy by nearly half — something that could ensure that it pays for itself in a matter of just a few tax seasons. Tankless heaters come at a much higher price than standard water heaters — frequently more than $1,000 — and their installations will take an even bigger chunk out of your refund. Think of this one as a long-term investment in the efficiency of your home.


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