A survival guide for when you can't pay your bills

We mightn’t like them, but every living adult has them and they need to be paid. Bills! They’re sometimes the pits. What happens then when you — for whatever reason — don’t have the money available to cover the costs?

1. Don’t shut yourself off

If you realise you aren’t going to be able to make your bill payment, be honest about it. Don’t try avoiding the reminder notices, the warnings or the natural fear about not being in the black. By shutting yourself off to the truth, you’re only avoiding the issue.

2. Gather all your bills together

To come up with a solution to this problem you need to know what you’re dealing with. List everything from electricity to mobile phones; anything you pay a bill for. By looking at the amount in whole you’ll determine just how much you have to pay, but don’t stress about the overall amount.

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3. Call those service companies

You want to be upfront with each service provider you owe money to, so give them a call. Discuss your situation with them and ask about options available to you that might assist in getting the bill paid. This includes extensions and payment plans. Get it all down in writing and come to an agreement that works best for you.

4. Look for ways to make extra money

We’re not suggesting you rush out and sell your soul to the devil to get a bit of extra money, but it might be worthwhile having a look around the home for things you could afford to live without (especially if you’re up to your neck in debt). If you have a particular set of skills, you might be able to use them to make some extra money. Are you good at ironing? Do you like gardening? Have you got a craft or other hobby that could be turning into an income stream?

5. Learn to prioritise your payments

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While you’re getting up to date, and even after you’ve achieved this goal, it’s crucial to look at your bills and ensure they are paid in the right order. Determine what is due and when, and reconsider any unnecessary expenses. Obviously things like water and sewerage, rates or rent, and electricity are critical to everyday life, but you also need to consider any loan repayments (car and/or house), credit cards and other debts.

6. Rework your budget

It’s stressful not being able to pay a bill, but one way to avoid it happening again is to go back to your budget and revise. If you didn’t have a budget, now is the right time to set one up — you obviously need it. If you did have one, then it isn’t working and you need to take into account what you need to survive (food, utilities, etc.) and try to set aside money on a weekly basis to ensure you have something in reserve should you need it.

Have you ever struggled to meet your financial responsibilities? What tips do you have when it comes to budgeting?


Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and for information purposes only. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not financial product advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any financial decision you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from an independent licensed financial services professional.