My dad remarked that my 4-digit refunds are like my interest-free forced savings account. I totally agree, and I'm okay with that. As much as I would love to be more disciplined, I just can't ever seem to keep my monthly expenses from increasing whenever my monthly income increases. At some point, I just have to accept my personal limitations, and still figure out how to make it work.
I put about 3/4 of my state refund in my actual savings account, and spent about 1/4. The girls and I love our new Wi-Fi Blue-Ray player. I also got myself some shoes, a new purse, and happily went grocery shopping for 3 weeks without minding the budget! The federal refund will go entirely to paying down my high-interest credit card. It won't completely pay it off, but I should be able to accomplish that by the end of 2012 and cross that item off my budget for good! (Or until the next emergency, whichever comes first.)
I used to drive myself crazy, spending the $$ in my head about 15 different ways from the time of filing until it actually hit my bank account. Now I know, I'm going to do a little of everything; I'm going to save a little, spend a little, and pay down debt.
Of course, I wish I could get to the point of not having debt at all, but again, I've had to accept both who I am and what our circumstances are. The fact is, I'm a single parent that doesn't receive child support. The fact is, I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. I acknowledge that some of it is by choice, and some of it is not, but it is what it is.
So my non-expert method is in line, after all, with Suze Orman's: I stand in my truth. While I will most likely never have her recommended 8-month emergency savings, I'm also responsible enough to always pay my bills on time. When that high-interest credit card has a zero balance, I will celebrate by streaming something on our Blue-Ray...with a homemade cocktail.