The average tax refund check is around $3,120 out of about 50 million returns each year. If you’re one of those lucky designers who is expecting a tax refund, you’re likely trying to figure out what to spend that money on. Whether you plan to put some of it in savings, take an exotic vacation or pay some bills, you probably also want to look at design gadgets that can help grow your business, make your work easier or that are just plain fun.

Around 66% of people receive a tax refund in the United States. The size of that tax refund can vary from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. We’ve gathered some gadgets that will work for any budget. Even if you didn’t receive a tax refund at all, you might want to invest in these gadgets to take your design business to the next level.

1. Pencil Stylus

Courtesy of Amazon

The pencil stylus by FiftyThree can be used with your iPad to create lines and artwork. You can also use your finger to smudge lines, just as you would with an actual charcoal pencil. The stylus works via Bluetooth. Use the end as an eraser if you make a mistake that needs to disappear.

Some versions stick to your iPad’s cover if it’s magnetized. Brilliant. This gadget is very affordable, so even if you owed the IRS taxes this year, you can likely afford to buy one of these gadgets for yourself.

Cost: $59.99

Available: From FiftyThree through

2. 3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator

Courtesy of Dell

This 3D mouse button offers a unique 6-degrees of intuitive control in 3D model type environments. If you’re looking for ultimate control and precision while working on design projects, then this unique mouse is for you. Even the shape of the mouse allows you to move swiftly and smoothly from one point to the next within your design software.

Cost: $99.99

Available: from Dell


3. Cube

Courtesy of Palette

If you have over $100 to spend, consider the Cube, which is a portable color digitizer. Basically, you carry this tiny tube with you and when you see a color you’d like to use in a design, such as a wall color in a local coffee shop, you simply place the cube flat against that surface and capture the color to use later.

This opens the door wide for creativity because you can now take the colors and patterns you see in the world around you, capture them and design on the fly.

Cost: $139.00

Available: from Palette’s online shop

4. Glowforge 3D Laser Printer

Courtesy of Glowforge

If you love to create your own designs and print them on anything and everything, then this is the printer for you. If you’re getting the average tax return back, or a little more, then this laser printer investment might eventually pay off as you make and sell items. For example, you can print on leather, hard surfaces and wood.

You can use designs created for you by Glowforge and customize them or create your own designs from scratch. You can even create unique pieces of chocolate from this system. Anything organic can be cut with the lasers.

While it’s a bit of an investment, designers can also utilize this equipment to make products and sell them, which means it could pay for itself over time.

Price: $2,995.00

Available: from Glowforge

5. Slate

Courtesy of ISKN

If you are a designer who likes to sketch on good old fashioned paper, you’ll love this little gadget. It is very affordable and will take only a fraction of your return, leaving you with enough to invest or save. You don’t need a touchscreen tablet at all to use this device. Instead, sketch on paper as you normally would.

The images you sketch are recorded in the pen itself. Those digital files can then be uploaded to Illustrator or PhotoShop. You also have an option for layer control.

Price: $199.00

Available: from iskn


6. ioSafe

Courtesy of ioSafe

Your designs are the lifeblood of your business. You probably already understand the importance of backing up your designs, but the ioSafe allows you to secure them even further with its fireproof, waterproof box.

Even if there is a disaster, your files will be safe. The system also is a cloud, so if you have to evacuate and leave the ioSafe behind, you can still access your files remotely. Although this gadget won’t help you create designs, it will keep your work safe. Sometimes, peace of mind is the best investment you can make.

Price: $ varies

Available from ioSafe

7. Pip

Courtesy of Pip

Pip is a device that measures your stress levels through your fingertips. Since big projects can increase stress levels exponentially, figuring out ways to manage that stress can keep you focused and on track.

Pip is small but powerful — it allows you to use biofeedback to reduce heart rate and manage stress levels. It’s far more than just a pocket-sized device, though. Pip also features a companion app that will allow you to visualize your stress levels, and use apps to manage that stress and overcome it.

Used as part of an overall wellness program, Pip can improve your health. Better health means better ability to focus on the task at hand. Your work will improve as your health improves.

Price: $179

Available from Pip


Tax refund time is a good opportunity to invest a little money in yourself and your work as a designer. Spend some of your tax check or spend a lot. Whether you choose to buy costly equipment that will take your biz to the next level or make a smaller purchase that is just plain fun is entirely up to you.


About the author

Lexie Lu

Hello! My name is Lexie and I have a fervor for design, writing, and coffee. I graduated with a dual major in Creative Writing and Commercial Design, and through those grueling study hours (facilitated by coffee, of course) I always found time to write for myself.

My posts feature design trends throughout all industries and show how the field is always changing. There’s never a dull moment in the design world!

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