Page 4 The INDEPENDENT, April 21 , 2011 Don’t blow your tax refund, you can put it to many smart uses by Jason Alderman (www.prac ticalmoneyskills.com) Each spring, millions of Americans look forward to re- ceiving a hefty income tax re- fund. And it truly is “hefty” with the average federal refund in 2010 hovering around $3,000. That’s a lot of money to be giv- ing the government through what is essentially a year-long, interest-free loan. If you regularly receive large refunds, you’re probably having too much tax withheld from your paycheck. Instead, you might want to withhold less and put the money to work for you, by either saving or investing a comparable amount each month, or using it to pay down debt. Your goal should be to re- ceive little or no refund at the end of the year. Ask your employer for a new W-4 form and recalculate your withholding allowance using the IRS Withholding Calculator available at www.irs.gov. This is also a good idea whenever your pay or family situation changes significantly (e.g., pay increase, marriage, divorce, new child, etc.) Just be careful, because if too little is deducted, you might end up owing more tax next April, and possibly even interest or penalty fees. IRS Publication 919 can help guide you through the decision- making process. Some people received larg- er-than-normal tax refunds in 2009 and 2010 thanks to the Making Work Pay credit, which expired December 31, 2010. In its place, most taxpayers will see a 2 percent reduction in the amount withheld for Social Se- curity in 2011 paychecks. Another change this year was a Treasury Department pi- lot program that offered 600,000 randomly selected low- and moderate-income families an opportunity to have their tax refunds direct- deposit- ed into a prepaid debit card is- sued through Bonneville Bank. The pilot explored ways to save the government money (direct deposits cost 1/10th as much to process as paper checks) as well as to give people with no bank account easier and more cost-effective access to their tax refunds. Here are ways to put your re- fund to good use: • Pay down debt. By increas- ing your payment amount on outstanding loan or credit card balances you can significantly lower the total amount of inter- est paid. Say you’re paying $80 a month on a $2,000 credit card balance at 18 percent interest. By doubling your payment to $160, you’ll reduce the payoff time from 32 months to 14, and shave $295 off the total amount of interest paid. • Start an emergency fund. To protect your family against the impact of a layoff or other unexpected financial crisis (such as a medical emergency, car accident or theft), set aside enough cash to cover at least six months of living expenses. • Save for retirement. If your debt and emergency savings are under control, add to your IRA or 401(k) accounts, particu- larly if your employer matches contributions – a 50 percent match corresponds to a 50 per- cent rate of return. • Invest in yourself. Enroll in college courses or vocational training to ensure you have ad- ditional skills to fall back on should you lose your job or want to change careers. • Invest in your family’s fu- ture. Another good use for your refund is to set up a 529 Quali- fied State Tuition Plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account to fund your children’s or grandchildren’s education – all while ensuring your contribu- tions will grow tax-free until withdrawn. Vernonia Easter Egg Hunt • 10 am, Saturday, April 23 • Hawkins Park Community Calendar VERNONIA Alcoholics Anonymous Mondays 6:30 p.m., 410 North Street Alcoholics Anonymous Thursdays (Big Book Study) 7:00 p.m., 410 North Street American Legion Post #119 2nd Tuesday 7:00 p.m., 627 Adams Avenue Booster Club 2nd Wednesday 7:00 p.m., VHS Library Boy Scout Troop 201 Tuesdays 7:00 p.m., Scout Cabin Boy Scout Troop 860 Wednesdays 7:00 p.m., LDS Church Cemetery Beautification Comm. 2nd Thursday 6:30 p.m., Library CERT 4th Wednesday For Info Call 503-429-3018 Chamber of Commerce 2nd Wednesday For Info Call 503-429-6081 Community Coalition 2nd Monday 12:30 p.m. School District Ofc. Cub Scout Pack 201 Scout Cabin For Info Call 503-429-4250 Friends of the Library 1st Tuesday 7:00 p.m., Vernonia Library Girl Scouts, Neighborhood 4-2 For Info Call 503-819-0143 Izaak Walton League 3rd Thursday For location call 503-429-7193 Kiwanis Club 2nd & 4th Tuesdays 6:30 p.m., New Hong Kong Lions Club 1st & 3rd Tuesdays 6:30 p.m., New Hong Kong Municipal Airport Committee 1t Wednesday 6:30 p.m., City Hall Pioneer Museum For Info Call 503-429-3713 Public Works Committee 4th Tuesday 7:00 p.m., City Hall Vernonia Cares Directors For Info call 503-429-1414 Vernonia City Council 1st & 3rd Mondays 7:00 p.m., City Hall Vernonia Community PTA 2nd Wednesday 7:00 p.m., WGS Library Vernonia Garden Club 2nd Tuesday 1:30 p.m., Vernonia Library Vernonia Grange 3rd Monday 7:00 p.m., Grange Hall Vernonia Health Center 3rd Thursday 6:30 p.m., 510 Bridge St. Vernonia Learning Center 1st Wednesday 6:00 p.m., VLC Vernonia Parks Committee 3rd Wednesday 6:30 p.m., City Hall Vernonia Planning Comm. 1st & 3rd Thursdays 7:00 p.m., City Hall Vernonia Pride 2nd Thursday 1:00 p.m., City Hall Vernonia Ridge Riders Last Thursday 7:00 p.m., Senior Center Vernonia RFPD Board 2nd Tuesday 6:00 p.m., Fire Station Vernonia School Board 2nd Thursday 6:00 p.m., District Office Vernonia Sr. Center Board 2nd Friday 10:00 a.m., Senior Center Vernonia Transfer Station 2nd & 4th Saturdays, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Behind VHS Vern. Volunteer Ambulance Assoc. 1st Tuesday 7:00 p.m., Fire Station Vernonia Volunteer Firefighters 2nd Monday 7:00 p.m., Fire Station WOEC Directors 3rd Tuesday 7:00 p.m., WOEC MIST-BIRKENFELD M-BRFPD Board Business Mtg. 2nd Tuesday M-BRFPD Board Workshop 4th Tuesday M-B Ambulance Drill 1st & 2nd Thursdays M-B Fire Drill 1st & 2nd Wednesdays M-B Helping Circle 2nd Monday M-B SAR Drill 3rd Wednesday M-B Volunteer Assoc. 1st Tuesday Natal Grange 2nd Wednesday T.O.P.S. Mondays Upr Nehalem Watershed Council For date call 429-0869 BANKS Alcoholics Anonymous Alcoholics Anonymous American Legion Post #90 Banks City Council Banks Fire District #13 Banks Library Commission Banks Planning Commission Banks School Board Banks Youth Group Chamber of Commerce CPO 14 Everybody’s Hometown Band Friends of the Library Lions Club Sunset Park Assoc. T.O.P.S. Friday Wednesday 2nd Tuesday 2nd Tuesday 2nd Wednesday 3rd Tuesday Last Tuesday 2nd Monday Sunday, Wednesday 1st Thursday 3rd Monday Tuesdays 2nd Tuesday 1st & 3rd Mondays 3rd Wednesday Wednesday 7:00 p.m., Main Fire Station 7:00 p.m., Main Fire Station 7:00 p.m., Main Fire Station 7:00 p.m., Main Fire Station 7:00 p.m., Main Fire Station 7:00 p.m., Main Fire Station 7:00 p.m., Main Fire Station 7:30 p.m., Natal Grange Hall 9:00 a.m., Main Fire Station 7:00 p.m., Main Fire Station 7:30 p.m., Methodist Church 7:30 p.m., Methodist Church 7:30 p.m., Main Street Post 7:30 p.m., City Hall 7:00 p.m., Station 13 7:00 p.m., City Library 7:00 p.m., City Hall 7:30 p.m., Jr. High Library 7:00 p.m., UMC Youth Bldg. 12:30 p.m., Fire District Office 7:00 p.m., City Library 7:00 p.m., BHS Music Room 7:00 p.m., City Library 7:00 p.m., Brown Derby 8:00 p.m., Gun Club 7:00 p.m., Administration Bldg. COLUMBIA COUNTY (All meet in St. Helens unless otherwise noted.) Board of Commissioners Wednesday 10:00 a.m., Courthouse Citizens for Senior Justice 2nd Tuesday 7:00 p.m., Sunset Park Church Columbia Comm Mental Health 1st Tuesday 5”30 p.m., 58646 McNulty Way Columbia Soil & Water District 3rd Wednesday 7:30 p.m., NRCS , 2514 Sykes County Fair Board 2nd Monday 6:00 p.m., Fairgrounds 4-H Bldg. County Parks Commission 3rd Tuesday Times vary, 1054 Oregon St. Mental Health Advisory Comm. Quarterly For Info call 503-397-7211 Comm. on Children & Families 3rd Thursday 5:30 p.m. OSU Ext., 505 N. Hwy. 30 Local Alcohol & Drug Plann. Comm. Quarterly For Info call 503-397-7211 Organizations and meeting dates not listed may be included by calling 429-9410 or by mail to The INDEPENDENT, 725 Bridge Street, Vernonia, OR 97064.