Neal McKeever
Neal McKeever
If you’re reading this because you still haven’t filed your taxes, consider yourself in good company.

Or at least plenty of company.

Nearly a third of Americans procrastinate until the last minute to file their taxes, and Oregon is #8 in the list of states with the most offenders per capita. (Nevada is #1, followed by Hawaii, Georgia, Alaska and California.)

Neal McKeever, assistant director of education at Save First Financial Wellness, a department of Catholic Charities, said if you’re in that number go ahead and get your taxes filed — or get an extension — but don’t stop there.

It’s a good time to review your budget and your relationship with money, he advised.

But first the taxes.

McKeever’s tips include seeking out help. “AARP has an army of volunteers who provide free assistance,” he noted. “Their entire existence is taxes.”

Those volunteers are available through to the bitter end, which is Monday, April 18, this year.

Get an extension if you run into complications at this point. Extensions are easier to file than you may think.

You’ll need to estimate your tax obligation and pay it — or set up a payment plan. “It’s not going to go away,” said McKeever. “It’s better to communicate with the IRS, same as it’s better to communicate when you’re late on a bill. Be proactive.”

Drop off your extension or your return at the post office by Monday, April 18.

Feel good about your anticipated return but also about any payment. You’re supporting your community, paying for our troops, for veterans, for schools and healthcare.

You’ve also followed what St. Paul said we should all do: Pay up. “Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.” (Rom. 13:7)

Now comes your transformation from procrastinator to budgeter.

McKeever said too many people think that budgeting is only for rich people. In fact, budgeting is how many well-off people get there — and a lack of budgeting is how trust-funders can end up with nothing.

McKeever worked in a prison facility for years. “Those clients made $50-70 a month and they typically had the same attitude, that they had too little money to budget.”

McKeever asked them to think about what they would do when they were released, and how $1,000 would mean the difference between having a phone or not, or affording to travel to family who could help.

People can begin budgeting, he said, by changing their behavior.

“Make budgeting a habit, make it more of a treat,” he suggested. “Put out a nice charcuterie tray and a glass of wine for the process or reward yourself after getting it done.”

Make it a monthly date to go over finances. “Once you make it a habit it becomes a lot easier,” McKeever said.

McKeever has some reassuring words for procrastinators. “It isn’t the worst thing,” he said.

And, as he tells his clients, don’t be too hard on yourself, either about procrastinating about those taxes or about changing your budgeting habits. “The stricter you are, the less success you’re likely to have,” McKeever said. “It’s like dieting, or learning a second language. It takes time.”