What to Do When You Can’t Pay Your Bills

Are you wondering what options you have when you can’t pay your bills on time? Keep reading for some real-life tips that can get you back on track.

There comes a time for many of us when we fall short money-wise. Whether you’re in the middle of a career change, have a low-profit month in your business, or got hit with a surprise financial emergency, we’ve all had times when you just can’t pay your bills. 

Below we cover the best ideas for how to pay your bills when your monthly income just doesn’t cover it.

Woman at home, using a calculator to determine budget for unpaid bills

Start with a SIMPLE Plan

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when the bills are stacking, and creditors are calling daily. Years ago, when we decided to live on one income so I could be home with our babies, it was a major reality check. There were times we didn’t have enough money to pay our heating expenses, never mind anything else. How did we get through it? 

We started with a simple yet realistic plan. We began with a list of all of our bills, which included those uncomfortable conversations with one another about unnecessary expenses (–ahem–TARGET). After listing every single expense, we prioritized them, which helped make paying our bills less daunting. 

Prioritize Your Bills 

Prioritizing which bills must be paid first each month will put some order to the debt crisis you’re facing and eliminate some of the overwhelm. When we prioritized our bills, it put everything into perspective and allowed us to balance our money a bit better. 

Even in the middle of the month when the bills were ALREADY overdue, seeing them clearly on paper gave some order to chaos. Here are some of our monthly must-pay bills we listed out that are usually on top for individuals: 

  • Mortgage or Rent
  • Utilities 
  • Insurance (health insurance, car insurance, etc.)
  • Groceries 

After making a list of your must-pay bills, it’s time to investigate options one by one. There are many programs that can help you lower or delay your payments until you get everything in order. Here are a few you’ll want to check out: 

  • Mortgage Deferment: Many banks offer assistance to homeowners who are finding it hard to pay their mortgage. Contact your lender before you get too far behind and ask about deferment or temporarily lowering your payments. Giving your lender a “heads up” can help you avoid late fees and, worse, foreclosure. 
  • Utilities: Many companies are offering delayed payments and even lowering bills monthly right now. Call your power company to take advantage of the programs they have. 
  • Insurance: Many states have state-run health insurance programs that offer reduced or free health insurance. Call to see if you qualify for one of these programs. 

You can also find support through many programs offered at 211.org. This general database can point you in the direction of assistance for rental payments, food, and other necessities.

Covering Everything Else

From the cable bill to student loans, there are programs out there to help you lower or even temporarily stop payments on bills. 

Taking advantage of one or more of these programs will not only give your wallet some much-needed breathing room but will also lessen the stress that comes with overdue expenses. Take advantage of these programs, as most of them have an expiration date. 

  • Federal Student Loan Relief: Offers deferment of student loans based on financial need.
  • Credit Card Relief: Don’t let your credit card bills fall by the wayside and destroy your credit score. Many credit card companies offer consolidation so you can easily place all of your debt onto one easy payment. 
  • Health Care Bills: Even if you have health insurance, some expenses aren’t covered. Instead of letting these copays, prescriptions, and other out-of-pocket costs add up, call your medical provider and ask if they have programs for repayment. This will help you gain some control over the bills and keep your credit score from tanking while in repayment. 

Bring Cash in Everyday (Yes, You Absolutely Can!)

Looking to make more money but can’t imagine how to fit in another job in your already stacked schedule? Many companies saw the benefits of offering work at home job opportunities long before COVID had its say and those positions just keep growing and growing. 

Whether you’re looking to replace your full-time income or just add some cushion cash to help pay your bills, below we outline some of the easiest ways to make money, all from the comfort of home. 

1. Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk)

If you have an Amazon account, you can easily sign up to be an Amazon MTurk. This online marketplace features micro-tasks that are quick enough to fit in between your busy schedule. Pay is generally scaled based on the length and nature of the task, and while the payout is on the smaller side, it definitely adds up over time.

If you like the idea of completing short tasks to help pay your bills, then check out this list of short-task companies here

2. Sell Your Stuff

Have a closet filled with unused clothes, toys, shoes, games, and other items? It’s time to clean the house and make some money doing so. Selling online has never been easier; simply get out your smartphone and snap! It’s so simple, in fact, that I just made $200 selling off some of my old teaching equipment in a matter of days! Gather up those unused items, and you’ll be able to pay down some lingering bills. 

Get your smartphone and start paying your bills using some of these online selling platforms now: 

Woman at home, using a calculator to determine budget for unpaid bills

3. Sell Photos Online

Have a smartphone and love to take pictures? Why not use those images to start paying for some of your bills? If you find yourself taking pictures of just about everything and want to make some side money doing what you love, then selling images online is perfect for you! Tons of online marketplaces will pay you for your photos, and below are just a few you can start with.

As always, do your due diligence in reading the policies and agreements with each company. Most companies have specific contracts that you’re bound to in respect to selling rights and the rights they have regarding the images you provide to them. 

When You Can’t Pay Your Bills Conclusion

There might be times when you can’t pay your bills, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of your financial future or your credit score. Coming up with a plan, inserting additional income, and taking advantage of available programs will help you not only pay your bills but also relieve the additional stress and overwhelm that comes along with it.

By using these tools, you’ll be able to get back to paying your bills quicker than you realize, and that alone will help you to keep your credit history in tip-top shape for when you’re ready to start making other purchases in the future. 

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