Home » Resources » Managing Debt » How to Handle Bills in an Emergency Life is full of many surprises – some incredible, and some incredibly challenging. If you’ve found yourself in an emergency situation and are unsure if you can pay all of your bills, you’ve come to the right place. The guidance you’ll find within this article will not only help you minimize the negative impact of your challenging circumstances, but it could also help you get back on your feet a bit faster. Assess your circumstances When an unexpected emergency occurs and your ability to pay bills is impacted, the first thing you should do is take some time to assess your current circumstances. Before you can come up with a game plan, you need to analyze what the root cause of the emergency is. Whether it’s the loss of a job, a health incident, or a major expense you were unprepared to handle, the solutions you seek out will be specific to whatever emergency occurred. A word of advice: During an emergency, it’s natural to be panicked and highly stressed. With that said, try your best to remind yourself that being overly panicked will not make the emergency easier to deal with – in fact, it could cause you to make rash or impulsive decisions that make the situation worse. So, what should you do? Take a deep breath, center yourself, and have faith that you’ll find a solution. If nothing else, a calm mind and a positive mentality will help you identify potential resolutions more easily. Devise a game plan After you’ve evaluated the circumstances that have caused the emergency, it’s time to start creating your game plan. In this plan, you should: Identify how much money you have saved if you have savings Estimate how long those savings can support you in your current situation Make a list of all bills you’re responsible for paying each month If possible, predict how long the emergency situation will impact your finances Find ways to reduce expenses and/or make more money Identify possible resources you can reach out to for support After completing your game plan, you’ll have a better idea of the steps you can take to effectively handle your bills during this emergency situation. We’re going to expand on some of these aspects in the rest of the article, so keep reading to get the full story. Prioritize and reduce your expenses where you can When you’re in a position where you can’t pay some or all of your bills, you generally have three options: make more money, reduce expenses or both. Reducing expenses can be a fast way to free up extra cash, so we’ll start there. Begin by examining the list of bills you created for your game plan. Which of these costs are wants, and which are needs? This will certainly be an uncomfortable exercise, but now you’ll have to decide what you can do without until the emergency is resolved. Depending on the severity of your situation, things like music and movie streaming services, eating out frequently, cable television, and other “nice to haves” should be the first to go. If cutting these costs out of your budget is enough to get you on track, great! If not, you’re going to have to make some more tough decisions. Regardless of your emergency, access to food and shelter should always be your #1 priority. Cut costs anywhere you can to ensure that you have enough money to pay for your mortgage, utilities, and a few meals a day; losing your home will only make it harder for you to get back on your feet. If covering only the bare necessities is the route you plan to take, how should you let companies know you’ll be unable to make payments? We’ll cover that next. Give companies expecting payments a call If you have to skip out on some monthly payments due to your emergency, it’s a wise decision to proactively contact the companies you owe money to before your payments are due. They may be more willing to work out a deal if you come to them early – after all, they’d rather get some money than none at all. Can’t make your monthly payment on your credit cards or loans? Some lenders offer payment programs that let you make a lower payment for a few months, while others offer payment holidays, which allow you to skip a monthly payment or two until you get back on track. Taking advantage of these programs could be the key to helping you regain financial footing. To learn what options are available to you, give companies expecting payments from you a call – preferably before your payments are due. The sooner you let them know, the more likely they’ll be able to help you out. Make or find more money As we mentioned earlier, if you’re in a position where you can’t pay your bills, you typically have three options: reduce expenses, make more money, or both. Hopefully, you’ve already determined which of your expenses can be reduced and found some extra cash there, but for a speedy recovery, you’re going to want to increase your income as well. If your emergency situation was caused by a job loss, apply for as many jobs as you can, both inside and outside of your preferred industry. Now is not the time to pass up opportunities – it’s time to get money in your pocket. With that said, the job market isn’t always booming, so here are a few other ways you can make or find money when you need it most. Seek work with ridesharing or delivery service companies Sell unneeded possessions through a yard sale or online marketplace Ask friends and family for financial support Seek outside assistance Fortunately for those of us who find ourselves in financial emergencies, there are resources out there who can help. If you’re in need of guidance on how to navigate your situation, seek assistance with a nonprofit credit counseling service. These services connect you with a credit counselor who will explain what you need to focus on, what resources are available to you, and how those resources can be effectively used to overcome your circumstances. On top of that, your counselor can teach you how to budget, how to manage debt effectively, and other useful money management tips. While a credit counselor will be able to help you more directly by learning the details of your emergency situation, here are a few other resources that could make a difference. Need access to fresh food? Locate a food bank near you. Need help paying your mortgage? See what options are available for you. Need assistance paying off medical debt? Take a look at this list of charities that can help. Our article “5 Tips to Save Money During A Medical Emergency” could also be of value to you. Navigating emergency situations can be draining, anxiety-inducing, and frustrating, but there are steps you can take to make them more manageable. We’re wishing you the best of luck – now go get cracking on that game plan.