Home > Credit Tips with Tiff > Credit Tips with Tiff: I Can’t Afford to Pay the Bills

Comments 0 Comments

Dear Tiff,

I’ve got a lot of bills to pay and I just don’t know how to pay them all. Now I’ve gotten in the habit of avoiding the bills I get in the mail. I know this isn’t sustainable, but seeing how many bills I have without a plan to pay them is making me super anxious. What should I do when I can’t afford to pay my rent, utilities, credit card bills, student loan payments and medical bills—and still feed and clothe myself? Please help!

— Bills, Bills, Bills

Dear Bills,

First off, don’t ignore the problem by not opening mail and avoiding contact with the companies you need to make payments to. Trust me—this’ll only make it worse. As much as you might want to avoid the problem, you need to deal with it directly.

Make a list of who you owe, the amount owed and when the payment is due, and then prioritize the list. Because keeping a roof over your head is probably the most important and urgent issue, I recommend going to your landlord first to discuss a payment plan for your rent. If necessary, you may be able to negotiate a move-out plan to avoid an eviction being added to your credit report.

Then, contact every other company you owe to let them know they’re going to be paid late. They might have options for your situation, like a payment plan, forbearance, or loan restructure. Most creditors would prefer to be paid in part than not at all and many will be willing to work with you on your payments. But you do need to do the work of asking for this. They won’t reach out to you to see if you need help.

Some creditors are much more open to negotiation than you might think. If your medical bills are overwhelming, for example, call up their billing department and ask about their financial assistance options—most hospitals and doctor’s offices have these! If you can pay in cash, or pay a larger lump sum than the minimum payment, they may be willing to reduce the overall bill. Keep in mind that it’s easier to negotiate immediately. Don’t wait until you’re delinquent.

If a company won’t work with you and you still can’t make the full payment, I suggest paying what you can. If you don’t make a payment and avoid communicating with the company, there’s a good chance they will send you to collections or handle the situation by other legal means. This is something you definitely want to avoid. It’ll affect your credit report negatively and could end up costing you more in the end if collection or legal fees are accrued. Even if they say they can’t work out a payment plan with you, most companies will accept your partial payments and continue sending you bills—but once you miss a payment, they are more likely to move forward with legal recourse.

After you’ve tried to work out payment plans with your individual creditors, it’s time to look into other options for assistance. The United Way 2-1-1 Helpline can provide utilities assistance and financial support for housing. Check out their online resources or simply call 2-1-1 to be transferred to a local agency for help seeing what programs you may qualify for. Benefits.gov and USA.gov also provide information about government assistance programs that may be available to you. Many local church and charity organizations are also available to help individuals who need help paying their bills. There is help out there for you; you just have to look for it!

Now, here’s the trickier part: if you can’t pay your bills, this means you’re probably spending more than you are bringing in. As hard as it is, you really need to take a close look at your finances. How much money are you bringing in? Where’s your money going?

Start by seeing where you could cut expenses. I know this isn’t fun, and it isn’t fair, but try looking for cheaper alternatives wherever you can. Is there a cheaper cell phone plan you can sign up for? Can you make more food at home instead of going out? The key here is to consider what you can realistically give up or cut back on, without cutting out those things you need to survive. If eating out is necessary so that you can make it to your job on time, that’s not the thing to cut out of your budget.

If you’re still short after cutting expenses from your budget, look for ways to bring in more money. You could look for a second job during your off hours. Another great option is a side hustle. Try Uber, Postmates or Care.com. These jobs can be done when you have free time or on a more regular basis.

If a side hustle isn’t your thing or a second job isn’t an option, look for items you can sell around your house that you aren’t using. There are tons of apps and websites that bring buyers and sellers together, such as Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, Mercari, Poshmark, eBay—and many, many more!

As you continue to get back on track, continue looking for ways to negotiate future bills, cut expenses, and increase your income.

Good luck!


 

Do you want Tiff to give your her credit tips? Email us at tipswithtiff@credit.com!

Disclaimer: Credit Tips with Tiff provides credit tips and suggestions for you to make the most of your money. Given the quantity of questions we receive daily, we are able to answer onlyselect questions. Your email is not guaranteed a response. We reserve the right to edit and publish questions. If your question is chosen, your identity will remain anonymous. We are not financial experts. If you are in need of specific financial help, please seek the advice of a professional.

 

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.



Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team