It’s that time of year where you’ve moved beyond the optimistic idealism you had when you made your New Year’s Resolution and have realized that we’re nearly halfway through 2017. If you completed your taxes on time, and you are expecting to receive a refund, you have plenty of choices to make about what to do to make the most of your refund. Here are a few ideas to help you turn your annual tax return into more than an opportunity for an impulse buy.

For many people, receiving a tax refund is an infusion of cash into an account that may not always be flush with money. This often leads to impulse spending to make up for all the hard work or extra tight budgeting that went on the previous year. While this infusion of extra money may entice you to splurge on one thing or another, using the extra cash to establish a better long term financial outlook, instead, can lead to even more opportunities to improve your quality of life.

One thing a tax refund can be used for is saving to purchase a home. While renting a home or apartment can have its benefits, there are few better ways to invest money to enrich personal equity than owning property. Monthly mortgage payments are oftentimes less expensive than rent in many markets. Building your personal equity while you are also building a family is one of the cornerstones in a sound foundation for families to build their futures upon.

Speaking of building families and futures, another bit of sound financial advice is to invest money in your children and their education. Each state has programs that allow for a variety of options to start saving money for college tuition at a very young age, and usually with positive tax savings, meaning your money will go further now than it will when your children are actually college age and looking for schools to attend.

Life is full of unexpected expenses so use this money to create an emergency fund. The financial experts say you should have at least six to eight months of expenses saved as an emergency fund. The emergency fund should be just that, and not something to dip into for a want, it must be a real need. In today’s economy, it can often take months for a displaced worker to find a new job, and the emergency fund will help relieve the financial burden until the cash flow can be restored.

It’s never too early to start planning for your future. Another option is to create or contribute to a retirement savings plan. Get more out of your refund money by putting it into an IRA. As of 2017, you can contribute up to $5,500 or, if you are over the age of 50 you can contribute up to $6,500 tax-free or tax-deferred. The earlier you contribute to a retirement savings plan, the more money you will accrue.

These are just a couple suggestions on ways to make your income tax refund stretch further and help you build a brighter financial future.

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