Can’t Pay Your Bills? Here’s What to Do

Daniel Penzing
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Read our tips to make sure your basics are covered when times get tough.

It’s an all-too-common story … you get hit with a late fee because you didn’t pay your bill on time. You send in your payment, and it gets late again. The cycle continues until one day, you wake up and realize that the amount you owe is actually more than the amount you can afford to pay. Maybe your car is in need of repair, or maybe your doctor’s appointment is going to cost you more out of pocket than you had budgeted. Whatever the reason behind your situation, we can help you assess your situation, get back on the right track, and put yourself back in the driver’s seat.

What to do if you can't pay your rent?

If you're in this situation, the first thing you need to do is sit down calmly and figure out your options. Don’t make any rash decisions and definitely don’t panic. It’s important to remember that even if you end up being evicted, you can rectify the situation later.

Before you make any rash decisions, you need to figure out what happened. You must be honest with yourself and ask why you didn’t have the money in the first place. If you understand why this happened, you can take the proper steps to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again.

Understand the Consequences of Not Paying Your Bills

When you can’t pay your bills, your credit could be severely impacted. For many people, this could mean that they pay a higher interest rate on their loans or credit cards. Additionally, if you’re unable to repay your debt, your creditors can take further action like take you to court to recoup the money they’re owed.

If you can’t repay your bills, it can be hard to get out of the resulting financial predicament, but learning about your rights and taking action is the first step. You will also want to contact everyone who is owed money. Communicate with them about the situation. Discuss setting up payment plans and tell them the best way to contact you if they need to.

You will want to get a comprehensive credit report that shows all of your credit accounts and balances. You might also want to contact your creditors to see if they can work with you in creating a repayment plan.

Get on a Budget

Just because you can’t pay your bills doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to stay organized. Once you’ve paid for the essentials – food, shelter, gas – set a budget for yourself and stick to it. It might be helpful to write out what you’re spending your money on. Then you’ll be able to see if there’s anything you can cut out.

If you’re in a position where you can’t pay your bills, you will need to make some hard choices. You’ll want to start by cutting back on luxuries. This might include getting rid of cellphones, canceling cable or internet, or selling any special equipment or personal items you can’t live without. Lighten the load and make your way back to solvency.

Prioritize Essentials — Cover Your Four Walls

If you get behind on paying your electric bill, you can get reconnected quickly by paying what you owe and paying your future bills on time.

When your mower breaks and you need to fix it fast or you can’t afford groceries or you get hit hard by rising health care costs, paying the light bill is easy to put off until next month.

But if you don’t pay your utility bills, you face substantial consequences—from fines to shut-off notices to eviction. Residents of public housing or Section 8 housing can get evicted for unpaid bills, even if they’re waiting to pay the bills or are going to be getting the money that day.

If you’re having trouble paying bills, the first step is to prioritize what’s most important. It’s easiest to protect your four walls:

Homeowners and renters can keep their utilities on if they pay their property taxes and keep their rent up-to-date.

If you’re in an emergency situation and need help to pay your utilities, ask your utility company or the local public assistance office for details.


This is a given, but your needs for food and water before you know what’s going to happen are still priority number one. Of course, if your grocery bill is going to prevent you from buying other essentials, don’t buy extra food.


If you are facing an eviction, you may be without a roof over your head as well as without power, water, and running water. This puts you in a tough situation, and it’s important to know what your rights are.

Check with your local housing authority to find out how they can help. If you have little money, you can apply for public assistance in some places.

The Salvation Army has a network of shelters spread across the U.S. These shelters are shelters, not hotels, and are intended for short-term stays while homelessness is being addressed.

You can look them up online or call them to find out what is available in your area.

It’s important to note that these shelters are for homeless people, and it is not a good idea to use them unless you’re falling into homelessness.

If you have a place to live, never use a shelter without needing to. You’re going to make it harder on the people who need and deserve these shelters.

This includes those who are in danger of losing their house, someone who is out of work and behind on their bills, or the elderly who are in need of a break from the responsibility for awhile.


If you can’t pay the bill, your primary concern is going to be the utilities. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to minimize the disruption and make the burden easier to endure.

First, you should talk to the utility company. After all, they don’t want you to default on the bill and may be willing to help you out. Most companies will work with you if you contact them before the bill is due. If you do get behind, you can ask for a payment plan that may reduce the cost.

Another option is to contact people that you know and ask them for help. You can simply ask them to pay the bill, or you can offer to do something in return. The important thing is to prevent disconnection.

If things get worse and you decide that disconnection is unavoidable, call the company to ask what you need to do to prevent disconnection. Keep in mind, though, that you may not have much time to make the payment.

In many cases, you can last a day or two by paying the bill late. You can also ask for a payment extension and hope that it’s granted. In some cases, you may be able to pay the bill by scratching it off and rendering it invalid.


Frankly, a lot of people faced with this situation will be in a state of shock, especially if it is the first time. As you probably know, when you’re behind on your payments, you risk having your accounts transferred to the collection agency, where your nonpayment will only become more costly. And we’re not talking only about the financial consequences of failing to make payments.

The damage to your credit report will also be on the rise, which will have a negative impact on your chances of a valuable mortgage or a favorable interest rate, for example.

If you are among the millions of people struggling to make your monthly payments, the best approach is to contact the creditors ASAP. Firstly, you’ll get an answer to the question of whether or not you can get some relief. Of course, if you’re honest in telling them everything, be prepared for the fact that they can freeze your credit and make it impossible for you to use any major credit cards or take out new loans. This is the risk we are talking about and it is important to be aware of it.

Earn Some Extra Cash

If you find yourself in a crunch and in need of some cash quickly, there are plenty of ways to earn extra money. You just have to get with the times and be willing to do whatever it takes to pay the bills.

Contact Your Creditors

The first thing to do when you can’t pay is to contact all your creditors and explain the situation. Let them know what is going on and ask for an extension. This is an important step and will get you off on the right foot. The creditor doesn’t want bad news, and it is important to set an example for the future.

There is a difference between a good payer who will go out of business and a good payer that used to be a good payer but is having a temporary cash flow problem. Let them know what is going on, get flexibility, and do what you can to make things right. Creditor are more willing to work with you than you might think. They are also moving in a direction that many people are looking to go with their own payments. Credit Card Debt Consolidation is a growing market but almost all of the consolidation companies will not take a business or commercial account for debt consolidation.

Plan to Reduce These Situations in the Future

A lot of people find that unexpected things happen, and they unwittingly fall behind on some bills. Then they find it even more difficult to get caught up in the cycle of debt because they aren’t aware of the options available to them.

When you manage to catch up, take inventory of your situation. You should make a history of your current monthly income sources.

0It would be great if you could just analyze the events that led to your being behind on your payments.

For example, if you had to have an emergency dental care, that one time expense can throw off your budgeting.

One of the best ways to get out of a tough situation is to schedule it in before it becomes a problem.

Any time you are expecting to get an unusually large amount of income or if you are expecting to have a large expense, find a way to budget it in your month beforehand.

This way, you can have an additional cushion to help you if something goes wrong or if unexpected expenses arise.

It is an extremely good idea to talk to your creditors and alert them to your situation.

They may offer you some options that they are legally required to offer.

For example, they may allow you to skip some payments or to make a partial payment each month instead of a full payment.