OMG I Can’t Pay My Bills: 27 Tips for Getting Help When You’re in Trouble – Lifotravel

We aren’t all financially comfortable with a sizeable nest egg to fall back on. Sometimes, many of us find our saves struggling and panicking. Have you ever sat and stared at your bank account and a stack of unopened mail and said, “I can’t pay my bills?” It’s stressful, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Many of us have been in that exact same position. Let’s look at the best tips for getting out of financial trouble. 

1. Research Where Can You Turn To Get Help With Money

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Assuming you have exhausted the simple resources like you asking your friends, neighbors, and family, and it just wasn’t in the cards, where do you go next?

Putting aside the time frame and urgency issue, start by looking online for local resources and ways to get help through free grants or other assistance. This is a good place to start and you might be surprised at how much assistance you can get in the short term.

2. Don’t Ignore Your Creditors

Woman ignoring her financial problemsWoman ignoring her financial problems
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Often when people don’t have the money to pay their bills, they stop opening their mail. They just can’t bear to look at the balance they owe, but knowing where you stand is important. Ignoring your bills and creditors will ultimately worsen things when your services are shut off, or your debts get sent to collections.

Instead, contact your creditors and explain your situation. Let them know if there are extenuating circumstances like temporary unemployment, unexpected medical bills, or something similar. Tell them that you want to pay your bills, but you need a little flexibility right now, like a lower minimum payment, an extended due date, or a reduced interest rate.

Creditors would rather have some of what you owe than none, so they may be willing to negotiate the terms. This is true whether it’s student loans, credit cards, or other types of debt.

3. Sell Your Stuff

sell unwanted goods for extra cashsell unwanted goods for extra cash
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It’s time to hustle and find some additional money. Sell your junk. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Your old music CDs, video games, books, clothes, etc., can get you some fast cash.

Even items that don’t work can have value…as many people will purchase electronic or mechanical items for parts. It’s true that this isn’t a sustainable long-term solution, but it does help you dig out of this current financial mess. 

4. Ask for a Raise

Woman asking for a raise, with one finger raised in the air.Woman asking for a raise, with one finger raised in the air.
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Ask your boss for a raise if you think you really deserve one. Make sure you point out all the contributions you’ve made and the reasons you’re worth more. It doesn’t hurt to ask; it will at least give you some feedback on whether you’re progressing at work and will see more money soon.

5. Start a Side Hustle

Person working at their laptop, starting a side hustle to make extra cash.Person working at their laptop, starting a side hustle to make extra cash.
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Get a second job or a side hustle to earn additional money. Even a part-time gig at a fast food restaurant 10 hours a week will earn you several hundred a month and maybe some free food. Or work for yourself by babysitting, dog walking, selling crafts, or one of the hundreds of other ways you can make a little extra dough. 

When you find that additional income, make sure it goes toward paying off your bills and doesn’t get squandered. Some side hustles take time to get rolling, but it gives you a longer-term solution to your financial woes. 

6. Track Expenses and Start Budgeting

making a budget to manage expensesmaking a budget to manage expenses
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Do you know where your money goes? Do you have a budget? If not, track your expenses to see your monthly spending. If you already have a budget, you may not be managing it well. Your income can only go so far, and when overspending on credit cards or other debt payments, disaster approaches.

You may find that you’re spending all or even more than you’re making. Perhaps your income is irregular, like earned on commission, tips, bonuses, or overtime. Any of these factors can make your finances difficult to manage.

Which, in turn, can damage your credit rating. Your credit score can affect many areas of your life, including your employment chances.

You may not be in the right job and are not getting paid what you think you deserve right now. Or you may have run up debt on things that aren’t necessities in life, and now you’re paying it off at something like 23% interest. The first step is to make a real budget and aggressively reduce your expenses to give yourself a chance to get back on track.

7. Ditch The Credit Cards

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Eliminate using all credit cards until you can pay them off in full. After that, only use credit cards when it figures into your monthly income plan, or don’t use them at all. (If you do wind up using a credit card, make sure it has no annual fee, a good rewards program, and a low interest rate.)

8. Reduce Utility Bills

woman worried about utility billswoman worried about utility bills
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Save on your utilities; wear a sweater in winter and open the windows in summer to save on energy costs if you’re paying for them.

9. Save on Transportation Costs

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That car you drive at $300-$400+ per month may also have to go. Do some research to see if you could trade in your car or find a less expensive option. Right now, reliable transportation is more important than fancy.

And while you’re at it, shop around on your car insurance to see where you can save.

10. Save Money on Groceries

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Find ways to reduce your grocery bill. Shop the sales, use coupons, plan your meals, and make smart choices to reduce your food budget while still eating healthy.

11. Get Help With Critical Expenses

get help paying billsget help paying bills
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When you’ve fallen upon hard financial times and need help, paying for monthly expenses like food and utilities is often your first and biggest concern. Many public assistance programs are in place to help struggling people. 

For utilities, programs work like loans, which you will at some point have to repay. However, there are many others that are gifted as grants through various organizations.

All states in the U.S. offer some form of utility relief program as well as food programs such as food banks, and of course, there is the federal SNAP program, formerly known as ‘food stamps.’

12. Low-Income Resources

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There are local, state, and federal resources that can help eligible low-income individuals struggling to pay their utility bills. Most of these assistance programs are temporary and meant to help you out of a tough situation and back onto solid financial footing. However, some programs are offered as grants which means they never have to be repaid.

There are wide ranges of trusted financial opportunities, including assistance for personal bills, transportation, and medical needs offered as benefits or grants.


learning thermostat to reduce energy costslearning thermostat to reduce energy costs
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The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) block grant is funded by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and provides two basic types of services.

Eligible low-income households receive financial assistance to offset the costs of heating and/or cooling dwellings and/or have their dwellings weatherized to make them more energy efficient, via local governmental and nonprofit organizations.

The LIHEAP funds can be expedited to households facing immediate shut off of their electric or utility service. It may even provide grants within 24 business hours in some cases.

14. Other Assistance Programs

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Many states offer additional assistance programs, in addition to LIHEAP, that can help you and your family. They also help you save energy and reduce your electric bill through easy and sometimes free energy-saving methods. Contact your state websites to find where help is offered.

15. HRRP

old rusty air conditioning unitold rusty air conditioning unit
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The Heating Repair & Replacement Program is another federal government-funded program that is offered in your local community. It may be called slightly different names in each state but functions similarly in most parts of the country. It is often used in conjunction with the weatherization program.

16. Weatherization Assistance Program

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This program offers weather stripping, wall and attic insulation, minor home repairs, and furnace tune-ups. There may be other related energy-saving measures that will help people lower their electric bills and save money. It can provide for the repair or replacement of heating units, appliances, furnaces, and other home upgrades.

17. Free Air Conditioner

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Free air conditioning units and window fans are available during the summer months. The assistance is usually provided as part of LIHEAP, or charities such as the Salvation Army provide them to low-income families. The free air conditioning units are often combined with emergency utility bill assistance to help keep a struggling family cool.

Many states, particularly those in the south and west, provide financial assistance during the summer to pay cooling and electric bills. Emergency cash assistance, grants, and more, such as free box fans or air conditioning units, may be offered.

18. Get Your Electricity Back On

Person screwing in a lightbulbPerson screwing in a lightbulb
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If your electricity has been shut off, it can be difficult for you to reconnect in a timely manner. You can use assistance programs to get your power turned back on. The programs are offered at the federal and state levels for aid with electric, utility, water, or heating bills.

You can even receive grant money to pay electric or energy bills, apply for emergency hardship funds, and get assistance paying any deposit to reconnect utility service.

If you use oil for heating, you can also qualify for free or low-cost fuel. The same is true for homes that are heated by firewood. Government programs and charities will help low-income households that use this as a heat source.

Finally, when difficulty arises, it’s fairly common to get a utility company to offer you a payment plan to prevent shutting off service to you.

19. Balanced Payment Plans

working out a balanced payment planworking out a balanced payment plan
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These are offered by many utility companies as a way to help pay and manage your bills. These plans provide the customer a way of paying their electric bill at a monthly flat rate year-round so families can budget for the seasonal spikes in their heating or cooling costs.

The payments you need to make do not dramatically increase during the winter or summer months. For example, if your annual electric bill is $1,800, you may pay a flat fee of $150 per month rather than a higher amount in the summer or winter.

20. Contact Your Utility Company

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A struggling customer should always contact their utility company to find out about any programs they offer. Call the customer service number on your bill. They even may cancel the charges you owe if you are income-qualified.

21. Get a Home Energy Audit

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Utility companies will offer HEAs as a free service or provide it for a very low fee. These audits will help homeowners identify where improvements or updates can be made to reduce energy usage. Some utility companies will even contribute towards the expense of fixing the home if you meet the income criteria.

22. LIHWAP (Low Income Household Water Assistance Program)

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Many companies offer payment plans, rebates, or financial help with your water bill. They also receive grants from charities that allow them to provide free audits to help reduce your usage.

23. Dollar Energy Fund

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The Dollar Energy Fund is a charitable program that has existed for almost 30 years and relies on donations. Hundreds of thousands of people have received grants for paying their utilities from this fund. 

The Dollar Energy Fund is available in the following states:

  • WV
  • TN
  • PA
  • OH
  • MD
  • CA
  • TN
  • CT
  • TX
  • KY
  • VA

24. Operation Roundup

woman having to pay billswoman having to pay bills
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This assistance program, offered by many utility companies, provides cash grants to help pay utility, heating, and other bills. You can also get help with rent, medical expenses, or food. Operation Round Up is also provided by many small utility company cooperatives.

25. Telephone and Internet

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Low-income families can receive discounts on their monthly phone bills from Lifeline, free cellular phones, or even savings on their high-speed cable internet connection. Some of these services are combined with other electric bill programs as well.

26. Free Legal Assistance

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Most states have non-profit law firms that can advise low-to-moderate-income individuals, the elderly, and the disabled on their legal rights regarding utility service disconnections. Priority is given to the elderly and people with medical conditions. Lawyers can provide free legal advice to help individuals keep their power on.

27. Solve The Long Term Problem

person with savings in a piggybankperson with savings in a piggybank
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To make sure you can pay your bills in the future and even start to set aside some savings (especially that all-important emergency fund), you need to live within your means. Simply enough, you either need to earn more, spend less, or, most likely, do both.

If your earnings fall short, consider your current circumstances to determine where you can improve.

Do you need more education?

Can you get additional training to supplement your skills at work?

If you’ve settled for a dead-end job, it may be time to start looking for another opportunity while you’re still employed. It’s always easier to find work when you’ve still got a job.

But don’t ignore the other half of the equation. Reducing your expenses should be an ongoing effort. The lower your spending, the more flexibility and security you will have.

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