Ever since the Great Recession, South Floridians have slashed expenses and cut their credit card debt.
This year they will probably be like other refund-getting Americans with more than three fourths saying they will use their expected federal tax refund to either pay down debt or stash away the money, according to the consumer website, dealnews.com. Only 22 percent say they will spend it.
A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey, taken over the weekend, found that 38 percent of Americans have already filed their income taxes since the Internal Revenue Service first began accepting returns Jan. 30.
Last year, the average tax refund was $2,803, with three fourths of the nearly 148 million taxpayers who filed 2011 tax returns getting money back, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
The Great Recession has spurred many South Floridians to pay off debt. Average credit card balances, for example, fell 12 percent in January compared to a year ago, according to the consumer website CreditKarma.com. The average credit card debt was $5,410 in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, down $746 from January 2012 when it averaged $6,156, Credit Karma reported.
"People have really seized on that goal of getting out of debt," said Michael Lynch, a Plantation certified financial planner who is president of the Financial Planning Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale.
Here is how the average household that spent more than $38,000 in 2011 can cut about $3,000 more from their budget.
It entails spending only half of what average-spending people in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties told the U.S. Census Bureau they spent on entertainment, eating out, household furnishings, clothes, tobacco and alcohol in 2010 and 2011:
$1,575 -- Food away from home
1,404 -- Entertainment
897 -- Clothes and services
865 -- Household furnishings and equipment
542 -- Personal care products and services
430 -- Miscellaneous
228 -- Alcoholic beverages
197 -- Tobacco products and smoking supplies
$6,138 -- Total or a potential of $3,069 to save in a year or to use in paying off debts.
South Floridians may find other ways to cut back but "it's extremely important" that they know where it is going, Lynch said. "They should definitely look at what is flowing out."
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