If you’re screening calls from debt collectors and dodging late payment notices, just know that you’re not alone. According to a recent survey conducted by Rand Corporation, about 30 percent of households across all income levels have difficulty paying their bills, and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, paired with rising inflation, is only making it worse.
While a late payment here and there can be (somewhat) easy to recover from, falling months behind on bills can make it feel like you’re stuck in a hole you’ll never be able to dig your way out of. Regardless of how you got here – from an unexpected expense to an unworkable monthly budget – don’t give up. In this post, the Finance Opinion team will share their expert tips and strategies to help you start digging your way out of a financial rut.
Make a List, and Prioritize It
Before you can fix anything, you need to get organized. Start by making a list of the bills you’ve fallen behind on, and outline the amount you need to get caught up. Then, take that list and prioritize it by importance.
Important priorities include ensuring you have a place to stay, along with electricity and running water – the necessities. So, start your list by leading with your mortgage or rent payment, then utility bills, followed by the rest of your bills in order of amount or interest rate and/or late fees. From here, plug these amounts into your monthly budget so you know how much you’ll need to allocate to each bill to get caught up.
Don’t have a monthly budget? Check out these templates to help you get one set up ASAP.
Cut All Unnecessary Spending
While it’s certainly no fun to cut out “extra” expenses, it is an easy way to help you get caught up on bills you’ve fallen behind on. This means eliminating expenses like dining out, any form of entertainment, shopping, and even cable or streaming services. Be strict with yourself and buckle down on spending to save a few hundred dollars a month, which can go right toward bills until you’re back up to good standing.
Source Extra Streams of Income
Along with cutting back on extra spending, increasing your monthly income can help you get caught up on payments faster. Consider finding a part-time job that you can do on nights or weekends until you’re back on track, or sell items you no longer need on platforms like Facebook Marketplace. Every bit helps – just make sure you allocate every extra dollar earned toward your bills.
Call Your Creditors and Negotiate
Believe it or not, a lot of your bills and rates can be negotiated, and the worst that can happen is that your bill collector says “no.”
When negotiating a bill or asking for a better price, always be sure to speak to a live customer service representative. You can negotiate things like asking for a payment plan to get you back on track, which will minimize the risk of your account going into collections and hurting your credit score.
Borrowers can also ask to refinance loans – like mortgages or car loans – for a lower interest rate. To do this to your benefit, try to keep the loan length the same, and research and compare loan interest and terms on sites like Bankrate to ensure you’re getting a good rate.
Implement a Debt Repayment Plan – and Stick to It
Once you have your list of priorities in place and new rates negotiated, implement a debt repayment plan and stick with it. Expert-recommended strategies, like the Debt Snowball or Avalanche Method, can help you get debt-free, faster.
If you feel lost and unsure where to start, it may be a good idea to consult a financial advisor to help you get a handle on your finances and get back on track.
And remember – no matter how far behind you are, repaying bills on time ultimately saves you money in the long run on interest and late payment fees, and prevents you from damaging your credit. Find a budget and plan and stick to it, and you’ll be caught up in no time. We believe in you!
The opinions expressed in this post are for informational purposes only. To determine the best financing for your personal circumstances and goals, we advise you to consult with a licensed advisor.
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