Struggling to get ahead when you are behind on bills? You are not alone.
In fact, according to CBS, 70% of Americans say they are struggling financially. Many families are living paycheck to paycheck and are just trying to catch up on bills.
When debt and bills add up, it can feel like you’re not going to ever dig your way out of it. It can be frustrating, overwhelming, and chances are you don’t even know where to begin. I’m guessing the overdraft fees and late fees aren’t helping much.
If you have found yourself behind on bills or debt payments, then just know that it’s possible to recover and catch up on bills quickly! I’ve listed out 8 steps that you need to take to get back on track with your bills.
Step 1: Determine who you owe and get organized
To catch up on bills when you fall behind, you HAVE to get a clear picture of your current financial situation. You’ll only be able to take back control of your finances if you’re willing to face your money truth.
Even though this can be scary, it’s important that you don’t hide from your truth. Take a deep breath, give yourself the pep talk you need, and take this first step toward financial freedom.
Grab the stacks of bills off the kitchen counter and go through every single one of them. Make a pile of every notice so that you can add that bill to your list. The goal is to determine every single bill that you are behind on.
Not sure which bills you’re behind on? No problem! Pulling your credit report and going through it will help you identify any bills you’ve missed.
The main thing is that you finally face the truth and you list out every single person or company that you owe money to. Once you’ve determined which bill you’re behind on, add it to your Past Due Bills Plan. You can grab that FREE printable HERE.
After you’ve printed off your free Past Due Bills Spreadsheet, it’s time to start contacting the companies that are on your list.
Step 2: Contact each company to negotiate
Although this step might seem tedious, it’s VERY important if you want to catch up on bills quickly.
Sit down and call every single company on your list. Your goal should be to negotiate with these companies to get caught up on your bills or set a payment plan in place.
Feeling nervous? That’s totally normal! Just remember that the people on the other line are in this job to help you find a way to pay your bills back. Ultimately, they would rather work with you and not against you.
When you call a company about an overdue bill, be sure to talk to them about:
- Your normal minimum monthly payment
- How much you are overdue
- A plan you can both put in place to help you get caught up with your bills
There are many ways that companies might be willing to work with you. Be sure to ask them if they are willing to lower your monthly payments, waive your late fees, reduce your interest rate, or create a payment plan.
Below is a simple script you can use to help make these phone calls easier for you.
“Hi, my name is ___________ and I’m currently behind on my bill. I’m calling because I’d like to get caught up as soon as possible. Can we work together to find a solution so that I can get back on track quickly?
Be sure to take notes as you talk with the company. Write down the number you called, who you talked to, as well as the day/time you spoke with them.
If the person you are speaking with tells you that they can’t help you, then ask them to redirect you to someone that can help you.
And just a heads up: this might be a long process. You might be told that they are not willing to work with you. If this happens, then end the conversation and try again a few days later.
Remember to be kind and patient. The first person you talk to might not be able to help you. But if you are kind and courteous, they are likely to pass you on to someone who can help out.
Step 3: Prioritize who you will pay first
Some companies are going to be more willing to work with you than others. For those that are not willing to negotiate or are being difficult, then pay them first.
The ultimate goal is to lower your stress, and sometimes that means you have to get rid of the companies or collectors that are threatening you.
Step 4: Create a budget for yourself
If you want to make progress with your finances and catch up on bills quickly, then you’ll need to learn how to write a budget for yourself that you can stick to.
Your budget will consist of your fixed expenses and variable expenses.
Fixed expenses are the expenses that do not change from month to month. Your rent/mortgage, car payment, internet bill, and Netflix are all examples of fixed expenses.
These are the expenses that you don’t tend to overspend on. I’m guessing you aren’t tempted to overspend on your internet bill each month!
Variable expenses are the expenses that will change from month to month. Groceries, electricity, clothing, and gifts are all examples of variable expenses. These are the expenses that make it easier to overspend!
The goal is to write a budget either each month or for each paycheck you receive.
Because your spending changes often, your budget will change as well. For instance, you might have to budget to buy a birthday gift one month but not another.
To help you stick to your budget each month, you’ll want to start tracking your expenses. There are many ways to track your expenses and spending. The goal is to find what works for you!
Between apps, printables, and computer programs you’ll want to find a way that you can stick to for the long run. Our family has used Quicken to track expenses for 10 years, and it’s made a major difference when it comes to money! Get started with Quicken here.
Want to learn more about budgeting? Check out these articles that will help!
Step 5: Stop using credit cards or borrowing money
According to Nerd Wallet’s study, credit card debt has increased more than 7% in the past year for households across the nation.
As tempting as it can be to use your credit card each day, your ultimate goal right now is to get ahead when you are behind on bills. Using credit cards or borrowing money at this time won’t help you get to your goal and catch up on bills that are past due.
If you struggle with using credit cards, then keep them at home and out of reach. Remove your credit card or debit card number from any online websites where you tend to overspend.
Step 6: Find ways to spend less
One way to catch up on bills quickly is to send more money to your past due bills. An easy way to do this is to find simple ways to spend less each month.
Chances are you’ll be able to find extra money in your budget each month if you’re willing to cut back on spending and expenses. The more determined you are, the more you’ll be willing to cut back!
To help you determine which expenses you can cut back on, print off your last 3 month’s worth of bank statements or credit card statements. Grab a highlighter and highlight every single subscription or extra expense.
Ask yourself if you’re willing to cut that subscription or expense out of your budget for the time being. Remember, you can always add it back in later once you’re caught up on bills!
For example, you might consider cutting the following expenses out of your budget completely. You could also simply cut back on spending in the following categories:
- Beauty (hair, nails, etc.)
- Internet (call to get your bill lowered)
- Streaming Services (Netflix, Hulu, YoutubeTV, etc.)
- Entertainment money (movies, going out, etc).
Want to learn more about cutting items out of your budget? Read 8 Things To Cut From Your Budget Today.
Step 7: Build up an emergency fund
Life has a way of being completely unpredictable. And building up an emergency savings fund takes what life throws at you and makes it more of an annoyance and less of an emergency.
There will be times in your life when a car breaks down, you lose your job, or you encounter an unexpected medical expense. And when that happens, it’s nice to have an emergency fund to lean on instead of a credit card.
Although some people might tell you that you only need $1,000 in your emergency fund, it’s better to have between 3-6 months’ worth of expenses tucked away. Remember that a single month of expenses doesn’t necessarily equal the amount you bring home each month.
Try to set aside some money in savings each month to slowly build up your emergency fund. You won’t regret it when the time comes to use it!
Step 8: Stick to the plan
Getting back on track with your bills will take time. This is a process. Be patient and stick to the plan that you set. Over time you’ll start to see the progress that you’re making! As you get caught up on your overdue bills, celebrate by checking off that bill from your free printable.
Remember that if you’re willing to do the work, you WILL see results! The more you practice making your finances a priority, the easier it will be to write a budget each month, track your expenses, and get caught up on overdue bills!
Bonus: Increase Your Income
Want to really catch up on bills quickly? Then increasing your income is the way to go. The more money you make, the sooner you can get caught up on your bills if you’re behind. Any extra money you earn can go toward your overdue bills.
You don’t have to search for a new job or ask for a promotion to increase your income. Below are 5 ways you can earn extra money without completely changing your job.
- Ask for more hours. If you’re paid hourly, then tell your boss that you’d like to take on any extra hours. You already know you can do the job, so why not work a little bit more to earn money?
- Watch dogs for money. If you love dogs, then sign up to work for Rover. You can choose to watch dogs during the day or even overnight. This is an easy way to earn extra cash and meet new pups along the way!
- Complete a survey on Swagbucks. This might be the easiest way to earn money! By completing surveys online, you can earn Swagbucks that you can then redeem for gift cards. The best part is that Swagbucks allows you to redeem for Paypal gift cards which can be sent straight to your bank account!
- Use Rakuten before you shop online. If you’re buying anything online, be sure to shop through Rakuten first. You’ll earn cashback on your online purchases. You can then use that money to send to your overdue bills. Just be sure to not buy anything that’s not in your budget! Sign up for Rakuten here and get $10!
- Turn your hobby into money! If you’re the creative type, then why not create and sell your items? You might be surprised by how much money you can make by simply selling on Etsy (plus, it’s super easy to set up a shop)!
Need even more side hustle ideas? Check out the Best Side Hustle Ideas to try this year!
Remember, it might not be easy to catch up on bills, but it IS possible!