7 smart ways to use your tax refund

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Taxpayers wait up to a year for their refunds and with tax season upon us, many often have a good idea of what they want to do with their refund, but some are undecided on how to put their dollars to good use.

"There are so many options, depending on where you are in your life," said R.D. "Smitty" Smith, 509th Force Support Squadron community readiness consultant. "Each situation is on a case-by-case basis, so there is no 'one way' we can advise customers on how to spend or save their funds wisely."

The Airmen and Family Readiness Center staff offers the following tips:

Eliminate debt
-Pay off credit cards and revisit past bills. Consultants at the A&FRC are available to customers. "If you have a heavy debt load, you may want to put it towards eliminating debt," Smitty said. "We have tools and calculators to help."

Create an emergency fund
-Reserve funds for a rainy day. "Sometimes unexpected occasions arise and it's a good idea to have a back-up system," said Heather Wojciuch, 509th FSS community readiness technician. "For example, if the washer stops working or the car breaks down. You'll be glad you planned ahead."

Spend wisely

-Sometimes you just want to splurge a little, but spend wisely. "If you can afford to, then purchase that something special you've been eyeing, but I recommend not going over board and winding up in financial trouble," Smitty said.

Make a home investment
-Home owners may want to channel refunds towards home expenses, making sure the money is applied to the principle of the mortgage said Smitty.

Plan for your future
-It's never too early to start a retirement fund.
-Start an education fund for military dependants.
-Education opens doors. "Today's job market competition is stiff, the more education you have, the more employment opportunities will be available and that means better job opportunities," Smitty said.

Prevent holiday financial stress
-Instead of paying a large amount during the holiday months, plan ahead which will eliminate stress during the season according to Smitty.

Start a good ol' fashioned savings plan
-Discuss options with a financial planner to determine which savings plan works best. "Nowadays, people are really looking more at saving verses spending," Smitty said. Smitty recommends to hold back on purchases and onto refunds because the economy is not so stable.

"There are several individual aspects on how people prioritize finances and how they spend and/or save their refunds," Mrs. Wojciuch said. "Age and dependant status have a lot to do with it. The A&FRC can guide you through questions and provide the tools you need."

For more information and to seek financial guidance on how to save or spend their refund, can contact the A&FRC at (660) 687-7132. Consultations are free.

Eligible members, who need assistance preparing their taxes, can contact the Whiteman Tax Office. The tax office is now open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon. - Fri., in the Deployment Center Building 705, room 306. For more information contact (660) 687-6739.