It’s tough to make ends meet. That goes for any place and any time — and it goes double for today. Right now, in this day and age, in this economy, millions of Americans are struggling just to scrape by.
If this applies to you, the first thing you should do is not beat yourself up. Whether the circumstances were out of your control or your current situation was a product of your own mistakes, it doesn’t really matter. At this point, the only important thing is working toward fixing the issue.
It will definitely take hard work and discipline. But if you’ve fallen behind and found yourself in a hole, the following strategies are a few of the best ways to get back on track.
1. Assess the Damage
One big issue when people fall behind is that they are afraid to identify the precise nature of the problem. You may have a stack of bills and a bank account running on fumes. But it won’t actually feel real until you calculate exactly how far in the red you are. Well, that is no longer an option. You can’t live with your head in the sand. It’s time to own the situation, get out a calculator, and tally up the damage. The number might be scary. But you need to know where you stand. There will be no clear path to the other side until you know exactly what the situation is.
2. Pay the Most Urgent Bills
Certain bills are more important than others. You ideally would love to be current across the board. But if you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money. And while having the cable turned off is annoying, it’s better than losing water service. How do you know what to prioritize? Well, you need to eat. You need housing. You need heat, hot water, and gas. And you probably need your vehicle to get to work. After that, try not to miss payments that will ding your credit report if possible. But, in general, the hierarchy should come into focus after you list all of your due payments.
3. Ask for Some Compassion
Assistance might be out there if you just ask. Especially, if you haven’t missed payments in the past, sometimes all it takes is a call to customer service to earn yourself a little leniency. Whether it’s going on a payment plan or scheduling an upcoming payment for a certain date next month, a lot of companies are more willing to be flexible than you think. You may still incur a late fee or penalty. But proactive communication that leads to a note on your mobile carrier account can keep you in good standing long enough to stave off suspension.
4. Pause Student Loan Payments
If meeting a student loan obligation is your biggest issue, you might be in luck. See if your creditor is willing to offer a longer-term deferment or even forbearance. You definitely may have more luck with certain companies vs. others. But there is so much student debt out there now. And so many borrowers have entirely ghosted creditors on their obligations. So merely hearing from a person who is willing to pay — even it they temporarily cannot — is often a viable situation that lenders will help you work through. And the category of “economic hardship” may apply to your situation.
5. Use Credit Cards Wisely
It’s possible that too much debt is what got you into this problem. But just because you were unable to manage previous accounts, it doesn’t mean that credit itself to blame. Like many financial instruments, loans and credit cards are great tools. You just have to use them properly. If you’re in a position to get approved, it may make sense to apply for a credit card to help manage your bills for the short term. This won’t be a solution — and you have to use it responsibly rather than compounding any existing issues. But a credit card can offer breathing room as you sort out other issues. Plus, you may even pick up some decent perks or an enrollment reward in the process.
Getting Your Money Matters Back on Track
If you’ve come this far, you’ve already taken a significant step. You recognize you’re in a tough situation and you know you need to start working to get back on track. That already puts you ahead of many people who will remain unwilling to start fixing things until they are truly drowning.
And you have a few options to stop the bleeding. Start by assessing the damage, pay the most urgent overdue bills, ask companies for a bit of leniency, try to find some wiggle room on student loans, and employ credit smartly.
This combination won’t fix your underlying issues. You may have to find a cheaper place to live, cut other expenses, or find a higher-paying job to totally solve the problem. But going through this checklist can stave off the worst of it and allow you time to come up for air as you get back on track.
financially troubled couple -DepositPhotos