23 ways to spend your tax refund that can make you happy and the world a better place.

Feel good about your splurging.

It's April, which begs the question how are you going to spend your tax refund this year?

(If, of course, you're fortune enough to get a refund. My condolences if you end up owing Uncle Sam.)

Bills need to be paid. And the zeroes in your student debt total should, at least in theory, keep dwindling. You should probably stock the pantry while you're at it, and make sure the gas tank is filled, too.


But if you cross off all the boring payments on your "being a responsible adult" list and still have a good chunk of change at your disposal, I have a few suggestions that could make you feel good about where your money is going.

Here are 23 seriously rewarding ways you can spend your tax refund this year:

1. Buy individual sets of flowers and visit a senior center.

Image via iStock.

Bring a friend if you like, too, and pass them out room by room. You'll definitely make (at least) one person's day.

2. Find a cool and important project helping teachers and students on DonorsChoose.

The online platform allows educators, mostly in underserved communities, to raise funds for neat learning opportunities for their students — from getting new computer tablets to providing enough instruments to create a drum line for music class.

3. Donate it to a local nonprofit helping your own community.

Big, national, or international nonprofits do vital work, of course. But there's something pretty special about seeing how the people in your own city can benefit from a little generosity.

4. Pay it forward in the drive-through line — or, better yet, the grocery store.

You've seen the viral stories of folks grabbing the tabs of other patrons ahead of or behind them in line. You could be the person who starts the next chain reaction.

5. This one isn't immediately gratifying, but ... your savings account may need some padding.

Image via iStock.

Just because something doesn't give you instant gratification doesn't mean it won't eventually be rewarding, right? Save up to pay off that loan, buy that car, be prepared for a rainy day, or be less burdened when next semester's tuition bill arrives. It'll be worth it.

6. Sponsor a person or group that has been taken advantage of by our flawed justice system.

News flash: The power structures at play in our law enforcement and justice systems favor white and wealthy people. Funded Justice is a crowdfunding platform where donors can help foot defense expenses — like legal and bail fees, for example — for those seeking a fair shot.

7. Throw a pizza party at your local food bank.

Ask the Pennsylvania man who did just that in 2016 — it's great knowing every cheesy bite is greatly appreciated.

Image via iStock.

8. Reach out to that friend you've been meaning to call and take them out to dinner and a movie.

You both deserve each other's company.

9. Chocolate.

Hey now, it's good for you. Indulge a little.

10. Give cash to a friend or family member who could really use it this month — in the form of a money cake.

Image via Jodi McKinney, used with permission.

OK, this is a bit lavish, but if you're feeling especially generous, here's how to make it, courtesy of Jodi McKinney's blog, "The Creative Life In Between."

11. Buy new socks and feminine hygiene products to give to a homeless shelter.

They're always among the most requested items, but — because you can't donate these sorts of items used — many donors don't realize how tremendous the need is. (Here are other vital products to donate you maybe haven't thought of.)

12. Donate to Meals on Wheels, then grab a friend and volunteer for the group locally.

After seeing President Donald Trump's proposed budget, the organization may need all the help it can get in the years ahead.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

13. Commit to guilt-free purchases for the week.

Shopping for food, clothes, and other products that are fair trade, locally sourced, and produced by ethical companies can be an expensive, exhausting privilege not everyone can afford.

But with some extra cash on hand, try to take the leap for a few days. You may be able to work in some better long-term spending habits, too.

14. Book a solo weekend getaway on the fly.

Depending on whether you're an impulse buyer, this probably sounds either exciting or terrifying. Either way, you should indulge in some R and R. In today's 24/7, on-the-go world, recharging mentally and physically is important. (Plus, solo travel rocks.) Quick, go!

Image via iStock.

15. Donate to an organization that helps people who are particularly vulnerable in the era of Trump.

So many groups — immigrants, LGBTQ people, women, people of color, Muslims, and others — are facing a hostile administration attempting to strip away their rights and send us backward. Help them out.

16. Buy house plants and bulk up on garden items just in time for spring.

Research suggests that greening up your living quarters can actually benefit your health and boost happiness. If you're new to the plant game, maybe start out with some succulents (they practically take care of themselves).

17. Order a bunch of Girl Scout cookies for the neighbors you love or the ones you haven't met yet.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

What's a better icebreaker than "Hi, here are some Thin Mints"? Another option: Hoard all of the Samoas and Caramel deLites for yourself (no judgment). Either way, you'll be supporting an important organization doing great things.

18. See if there's an Amazon Wish List registry for an animal shelter near you.

Animal shelters need lots of specific items to care for their four-legged friends — things like outdoor, durable furniture, cat and dog food, and specialized collars to keep pups (and their humans) safe.

19. Buy some Dogsbutter for your pup. Your purchase will helping another sweet doggo in need.

Dogsbutter — made from peanuts and flaxseed (minus any sugar, salt, or hydrogenated oils) — is a healthy snack for your pup they'll certainly enjoy. For each item you buy, Dog for Dog also gives an equal amount of food to a pet shelter, so dogs in need will benefit, too.

20. Buy "(R)evolution: The Girls Write Now 2016 Anthology" and help underserved teen girls pursue their creative dreams.

The book of essays and poetry was published by Girls Write Now, a New York-based after school program that connects girls with accomplished female writers, who serve as mentors. All proceeds of the book benefit the program.

21. Donate to a bowling team that's helping fund abortion access.

The National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon allows people to set up bowling teams and fundraise on behalf of abortion access across the country. Donate or — better yet — join a team. It's a sort of unconventional but equally awesome idea.

22. Get your neighborhood excited about books again, and snag some supplies to set up your own Little Free Library.

Once you build and stock one of these (ridiculously adorable) mini-libraries in your yard — or any other public-facing space you think might be a great spot — readers take a book from the stockpile and leave a different one in its place.

23. And last but not least: Treat yo' self.

GIF via "Parks and Recreation."

Get that flat-screen. Book that massage. Splurge a little (or a lot).

You work hard, and you deserve it.

Correction 4/12/2017: Several references to "tax return" in this article have been corrected to "tax refund."

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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