Let's face it, tax filing time is not normally a time of laughter and mirth. In my house, it is a few tense hours of gathering all the necessary documents (none of which seem to come in a timely manner), then a few more hours of frustration while typing everything into the latest tax software. It then ends sometimes with glee (there is a return) or worse (we owe)! If you are lucky enough to be getting a refund on your taxes here are some of my suggestions to make it last.
First of all, even before you file your taxes, decide what you HAVE to do with the refund. This will allow you to set aside some for lingering bills, high interest debt, little Suzie's dentist appointment, whatever financial issue is most significant to you. Remember the importance of having an emergency fund in the event something should happen to your main source of income. A tax refund is a great way to get a jumpstart on this emergency fund, which ideally should be enough to cover three to six months worth of your committed expenses. That credit card bill with an 18% interest rate? Pay that! It may not seem like a fun way to spend your refund, but think about how great you will feel NOT giving your money away on an interest payment each month.
Once your obligations are taken care of, you can treat yourself to something fun while still saving by taking advantage of discounted — and sometimes free — opportunities for military families. I've outlined some below.
Blue Star Museums
This program offers free admission of active duty members and their families to more than 1,800 museums across the country from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
National Park Pass
Free annual passes to enter national parks to active duty military members and their families.
Your local MWR offers discounted programs and services, including a long list of leisure and recreational programs, activities and events.
A simple internet search "(place your city/town name here) calendar of events" will reveal locally sponsored (often free) activities. You can also check your local newspaper and chamber of commerce websites for list of local parades, festivals, conventions and events.
I encourage you all to think about how you spend your tax refund, preferably before you splurge on something frivolous. "Treat" your family by starting a security fund, paying off debts and participating in discounted or free activities!
Please share in the comments how you make your tax refund last.
Tax tips for military families