NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Tax season is upon us, but that's not such a bad thing for Americans receiving a big, fat refund check from Uncle Sam. According to the IRS, more than 48 million tax refunds had been issued by the end of February and as of February 28, the average refund this year is $3,034, up 3% compared to the average refund amount for the same time last year.

Of course, tax refunds are not a gift from the IRS—you're simply getting back your own money that you've loaned to the government interest-free throughout the year . Still, refund checks can seem like a generous boost to your finances when they finally arrive in the mail. Not quite sure how you'll spend your tax refund? You might want to take inspiration from the seven everyday Americans MainStreet spoke with recently. From home improvement projects to family vacations, here's how they're putting their refund checks to good use this year.

Name: Matt Becker
Location: Boston
Occupation: Founder of Mom and Dad Money

"I actually lost my previous job in November. Me, my wife and our two sons are living off our savings right now as I get my fee-only financial planning practice going. Normally our tax refund goes into one of our savings buckets, but this year it's being used to increase the amount of time we have to get my business up and running. Our refund should provide us with just over a half month's worth of personal living expenses, which gives us a little bit more of a cushion as I try to get my business off the ground."

Name: Kimberly Gauthier
Location: Marysville, Wash.
Occupation: Blogger for Keep the Tail Wagging

"This year, I had two plans for my refund—to replace the flooring in two rooms of our home and the other half went to my savings account.

"I thought about paying down a credit card, paying off my car loan or splurging at the mall, but given the economy, saving the refund sounded like the best idea. Although they say our economy is turning around, I'm still seeing people losing their jobs.

"Replacing the flooring was just good sense. We have four dogs, and dogs plus carpeting equals a wet dog smell all year long. We opted for a tile that looks like hardwoods—it's gorgeous and has texture to keep it from being slippery for the dogs to walk on like traditional tile. Instead of paying for regular carpet cleaning, our house will be easier to clean, leaving me with more time to do important things: walking our dogs, working out and building my freelance writing business."

Name: Seshat Walker
Location: Washington, D.C.
Occupation: Creative strategist