The holiday season flew by and now it’s nearly February. But whether you’re enjoying a balmy day in Hawaii or bundling up in Minnesota, there’s one thing that spring will bring for us all -- tax season!

If you haven’t started thinking about it, there’s still plenty of time. Read our tips from a previous post to make sure you’re prepared. Next, if you plan on getting a tax refund, start giving some thought to what you’ll do with the money.

The day you get your tax refund may be the thickest your wallet will feel all year. For some, it may feel like an extra paycheck. But remember -- it’s not a gift from the government. It’s your hard-earned money.

You could use it a couple of important ways:

Minimize or pay off debt. Higher interest credit cards or past due balances are a good priority when minimizing your debt. Consider taking care of smaller-balance, higher-interest debts. It’ll give you one fewer debt commitment, allowing you to focus on any other larger balances you may have. You could also apply your tax refund to a car loan payment or a mortgage.

Give to your savings. The majority of Americans do not have a rainy day fund, or enough for three months of expenses. If you’re among this group, consider setting aside some money for an unexpected emergency. You could also save for your children’s college tuition, a vacation or a big household appliance (like a new washing machine).

Another way to save is to invest in a U.S. savings bond with part of your return. If you’re afraid of spending your savings if they’re in an account, a savings bond is a great way to go. They can be purchased for as little as $50 and cashed in after one year, or continue to earn interest for up to 30 years. They can even be given as gifts.

The IRS also offers several options that make it easy to save. For example, Form 8888 allows you to have your tax refund direct-deposited in up to three accounts (i.e., savings account, checking account or a retirement fund).

And now there are even more reasons to save thanks to Doorways to Dreams (D2D) Fund and America Saves, two nonprofits offering a contest called SaveYourRefund. Tax filers over 18 who use Form 8888 to save a portion of their tax return can enter for the chance to win cash prizes at saveyourrefund.com.

As you get ready for your tax refund, think about how you can use it to make the most of your financial future.

Is there an area of personal finance that you’d like us to cover in a course or Fast Financial Fact? Where do you struggle with managing your finances? We’d like to know! Or are you an organization that’s interested in collaborating? Please get in touch at education(at)lendup(dot)com.