In today’s society where nearly a third of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, it’s easier than one would think to fall behind on bills. Getting behind just one month on your monthly bills can cause a spiral effect with incredibly difficult consequences.
Once a person is behind on bills and the creditor calls start flooding in, how do they catch up? What’s the solution? Here’s a tried and true process for getting caught up when you’re behind on your bills and unsure how to proceed.
1. Make a list of who you owe
Write down who you owe, how much you owe them, and the exact dollar amount you are behind. Also write down what the current minimum monthly payment is. This will provide you with a clear idea of where you are and can help you formulate a plan to move forward.
2. Create a budget
Budgets are vitally important to a healthy and secure financial picture. Some people view budgets as restrictive, but a sound budget actually gives you the freedom to spend your money in a way that will help you get back on track with your bills. A budget will then help you work toward reaching all of your financial goals.
Make sure that you create a line-item budget listing all monthly expenses and on which date of the month they’re due. This will help you to prioritize spending in a way that ensures everything going forward gets paid on time.
3. Track your spending
A budget is useless if you’re not sticking with it. Tracking your daily spending (perhaps with an app) will help you ensure you’re spending within the proper amounts you’ve budgeted for each budget line item that is fluid – such as groceries, gasoline, entertainment, eating out, etc. Using the cash envelope system can also help ensure you’re staying on track with spending.
4. Work to decrease expenses
While you’re behind on your bills, unnecessary expenses need to take a back seat. Drop the gym membership, cut cable and eliminate eating out. Ditching unnecessary expenses until you’re back in the black with your money is crucial. You might not necessarily need to cut these expenses totally; some companies will let you suspend services for a month or two and then pick up back where you left off.
5. Make a plan to get caught up
That plan will differ depending on your individual situation. Take all extra monies you have from budgeting and cutting expenses, and put them in a separate account to use to get caught up on bills.
Most people find it easier to pay the smallest overdue bills first and get them out of the way. If you’re behind on bigger bills, it may take some time to catch up on them.
When dealing with those bigger bills, call your creditors first. Most companies are happy to work out a payment plan to help you get caught up. Explain your situation and tell them how much you can afford to pay them each month. Even utility and other companies will most likely work out a payment plan with you if they know it means they’ll get their money. Determine what you can afford and send it in a timely manner each month until you’re caught up.
6. Pay the squeaky wheels first
If you’ve got a company that’s being difficult or doesn’t want to work out a payment plan, pay them first if possible. The goal in doing so is to lower your stress level and to help protect your credit from threatening companies or collectors.
7. Increase your income
You may be in a situation where you need to increase your income in order to get caught up on your bills. If budgeting and cutting expenses doesn’t provide enough extra income for you to work on getting caught up on bills quickly, it might be time to pick up a side hustle.
Some options for extra income can include:
- Drive for a rideshare company like Uber or Lyft. They often have bonuses for signing up and it’s easy to do in your spare time.
- Asking for overtime hours at your current job.
- Searching online for virtual assistant, customer service or other online jobs.
- Starting your own small business, such as pet walking, babysitting or lawn maintenance.
Make a list of your talents and interests and then make a second list of jobs or businesses that will help you make money with those talents and interests. If you choose to start a business, begin advertising your services with family, friends and in prominent places. Then get to work earning some extra cash in your spare time!
8. Don’t give up
Getting caught up on your bills may take some time, but it will be worth the effort. Don’t let discouragement, unexpected expenses or other roadblocks deter you from getting and staying current.
Once you’re caught up, you can begin establishing powerful financial goals and then allocating the money you were spending on getting your finances back in order on reaching your financial goals.
From that point, debt freedom and financial freedom are truly possible financial dreams.
Read more: 5 basic money rules you can live by forever