Over 60% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. This dismal fact explains why many consumers have a difficult time staying on top of bills. Any emergency expense can add stress to an already financially bleak picture. Effective money habits, government programs and other resources can provide some relief and help you stay in control of your bills. Keep reading to learn about strategies to handle multiple types of expenses.
Understand why you’re struggling to pay your bills
Understanding your financial health and how you got into this situation will help you discover a long-term solution. Taking out loans only provides short-term relief, and if you can’t make the loan payments, you will fall further behind on future expenses.
If you’re struggling with your rent or mortgage
You can get assistance from local, state and tribal governments. Rental assistance programs make rent and mortgage payments feel more doable. Renters looking at an eviction can consult the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Find Shelter tool to pinpoint emergency housing. You can also consider downsizing to a more affordable home or unit. Living further away from the city can help you find more attractive price points. You can also split rent payments with friends. If you own a home, you can list some of your rooms on Airbnb to generate income from your home.
If you’re struggling with utility bills
Homeowners and renters can reach out to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to get some relief. The government program can steer you in the right direction, but you can also monitor utility bills and look for opportunities to save. Making affordable improvements to your home can make your home more efficient and lower your bill in the process. Keeping your shades down, using appliances during off hours (i.e., morning and evening), running full loads in the dishwasher and keeping the lights off when you’re not using them will also lower your utility bills.
If you’re struggling with credit cards
It’s important to make progress with the credit card’s balance because interest can compound and make the debt worse. Monitoring your spending and using any remaining points for necessary purchases can minimize the damage.
You can use a debt consolidation loan to replace credit card debt with a new loan that has a lower interest rate. You can also open a new credit card with an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR). Using that card for purchases during the introductory period will prevent interest buildup. Making more than the minimum payment whenever possible is the best way to get out of credit card debt in the long term.
If you’re struggling with student loans
Trimming your expenses will help, but that approach isn’t feasible for consumers on shoestring budgets. You can refinance your student loan and increase the loan’s duration. While this strategy will keep you in debt longer, a refinance can reduce your monthly payments. You will get a new interest rate for your loan. The new rate can save you money if it’s lower than your current rate, but it may be difficult to find a lower rate in this economic cycle. You would have to get your student loan refinanced by a private lender. The government does not offer student loan refinancing.
If you’re struggling with numerous types of debt
Making the minimum payment is a great starting point, but chipping away at the principal will help you get out of debt sooner. If you have difficulty reducing the balance or making minimum payments, you can consider debt consolidation. Using lower-interest debt to pay off high-interest debt will reduce the interest burden on your debt. Refinancing your debt to extend the loan’s term will keep you in debt longer, but it will lower your monthly payments and make the debt feel more manageable.
If you’re struggling to buy food
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program helps low-income families afford food. While it’s a great starting point for qualifying consumers, you should take a closer look at your food bill. Snack food like a chocolate bar or bag of chips rarely provides sufficient nourishment and still commands high prices. You shouldn’t get rid of the essentials, but trimming your grocery bill can lead to healthier habits and more money in your pocket.
If you’re struggling with your phone bill
The Federal Lifeline Program pays phone bills for qualifying families. Some families get discounts, while others get their entire phone lines covered. You can lower your current bill by modifying your insurance policy and avoiding new smartphone models. You don’t have to replace your phone every 12 to 24 months. When you have to replace your smartphone, don’t buy the latest version. Most smartphones have the same basic features.
If you’re struggling with medical bills
Medical bills are some of the most challenging expenses because of the high price points and how some circumstances can make these bills feel neverending. The government has several programs that can assist with your medical bills, such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare and Medicaid.
If you’re struggling because you lost your income
Losing income is stressful because expenses initially remain the same. You can review your budget to see what you need and what to remove. While a personal loan can help with immediate expenses, incurring more debt with less available income to repay the debt can create a larger problem in the future. The best solution is to replace the income as quickly as possible. Side hustles give you a quick path to earning additional money. You can use your additional time to apply for new jobs or start a business.
If you’re struggling because of another emergency
You may have to pick up an extra side hustle or work overtime to make ends meet. Reviewing your budget and getting rid of unnecessary expenses will also help. More consumers are getting defensive as inflation increases the prices of goods and services.
Making Bill Payments Easier
Bill payments can add up, and a few emergency costs can derail many consumers who are trying to stay at breakeven. Federal programs can provide immediate relief, but long-term relief comes from increasing your income and minimizing your expenses. You can capitalize on available programs now and strengthen your financial health so you can more easily overcome future challenges.
I can’t pay my bills. What should I do?
Consumers who have difficulty covering bills can explore federal programs, reduce expenses and look at additional income opportunities.
What happens if you never pay your credit card?
If you never pay your credit card, your credit score will get decimated. A debt collection agency will reach out and request that you pay the debt.
What should you do if you can’t make your minimum payment?
If you cannot make the minimum payment, contact your credit card company and explain your situation. You can also get creative with reducing expenses and working a short-term side hustle to cover the difference.