The average household will receive about $3,000 in income tax refunds this year, and businesses from furniture stores to car dealerships see the trickle-down effect from those checks.
“It’s our money time,” said Claudia Davis at Davis Appliance & Furniture on Deans Bridge Road.
Davis said the first quarter of each year brings a steady stream of customers more willing to purchase big-ticket items, and with a larger down payment. Sometimes they even get customers who ask them to cash their refund checks for them.
“We do a lot of business, and we move more substantial items,” she said.
This year, the increase in store traffic started the last week in January, and Davis said she doesn’t expect it to peak until mid-March.
According to CNNMoney, more than 40 percent of consumers saved their 2011 income tax refund. Only 13 percent of consumers bought a big-ticket item with tax money; 30 percent paid for everyday expenses and 11 percent used it to go on a vacation.
Cerrone Walker, a manager at Kia of Augusta, said the first part of each year always brings out customers who use their tax money as a down payment. His dealership allows customers to use their tax form as proof of their coming refund, and will hold the car they want to purchase until the refund check comes in.
“Just for peace of mind, so they know their car isn’t going anywhere,” he said.
Walker said he has heard more and more people talk about their tax money over the past few years, and he believes the economic downturn has made people spend that money with more thought.
“Times are hard,” he said. “We try to do anything and everything we can to help people out.”
Hard times are a reason to save that tax refund, said Melissa Whittaker, branch manager for the CSRA Consumer Credit Counseling Agency. She advises people to start an emergency fund with the money instead of making a purchase that could bring maintenance and upkeep expenses.
“What happens when that car breaks down or the washing machine breaks?” she said. “This is the best time of year for consumers to get started on emergency funds, or build up existing ones.”
Whittaker also said that planning out how to spend windfall money often turns into a grander scheme than originally intended. Consumers may start out to buy one thing, she said, but wind up buying several items that aren’t necessary.
“We blow through that money faster than we realize,” she said.