03/21/2012 04:53 pm ET Updated Mar 22, 2012

Tax Refund: Smart Ways To Spend Your Cash

As the deadline to file our taxes approaches, many of us are anticipating a nice tax refund.

Americans will receive an average refund of $2,913, according to a survey released Tuesday from Capital One. Most of us will gratefully use the "extra" cash on every day expenses or to buy stuff. One-third of those surveyed by Capital One said they'd spend at least some part of their refund.

We say "extra money" because it's important to remember that a tax rebate isn't like, say, lottery winnings. The government is giving your money back to you. “A tax refund is often seen as free money, which makes it very tempting to spend it right away, but it’s important to remember that the refund you’re getting back is your own money,” said Mickey Konson, a vice president at Capital One Bank.

Instead of running to buy the new iPad, we'd be best advised to pay down debt or stash away the cash for a rainy day. Yet only 17 percent of those surveyed plan to pay down debt with their refund this year. A survey conducted by found that 30 percent of people planned to pay off debt with their tax return money in 2010.

The fact that fewer Americans plan to pay off debt with their tax refund doesn't mean that Americans are carrying less debt. In 2011, Americans racked up 424 percent more in credit card debt than was incurred in 2010 and 577 percent more than in 2009, according to a recent Card Hub study.

Here are six tips on how to spend your tax refund money: