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When you can’t afford to pay the utilities

When you can't afford to pay the utilities

I don’t consider myself a financial expert or budget guru. My budget and financial advice comes from someone that has been there. I know what it’s like to get a shut off notice in the mail. I also know the feeling of seeing little to no money in my bank account and wondering how I’m going to make it until the next payday. So I may not be able to solve your financial problems, but I can offer some simple tips that will hopefully help guide you in the right direction.

When you can’t afford to pay the utilities

1. Evaluate your utilities.

I know it can be overwhelming when every utility bill is due (or past due) at the same time. Evaluate and list your utilities in order of priority by asking yourself the following:

Is my health and safety dependent on this utility?

  • If yes, then it should be listed at the top of your list.
  • If no, consider whether or not you could live without this utility (i.e. internet).
  • If you can live without it, get rid of it immediately and apply the funds towards your other bills.

2. Contact the utility company.

Ignoring your bills is not going to make them go away nor will it help your current situation. Most utility companies can provide you with payment arrangements or even allow you to skip a payment depending on your current financial situation. Generally, if someone in the household is elderly, disabled or has a serious illness, you may ask for an extension on your bill due date. However, this may require you to provide documentation from a doctor’s office. Utilities companies are not out to get you (even if it seems that way!). Shutting you off is not to their benefit, so make sure you call them and find out what you can do to get caught up.

3. Seek help.

I know this is not always easy to do, but if you find yourself in a very tough financial situation you need to seek help. Your best source is going to be the utility company. Not only will they know who you can contact, they may also have an application that they could mail you directly to get the process started. Eligible low-income customers may seek help from financial assistance programs such as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). You may also contact your local United Way agency or similar organization to find out where you can get financial help. Most will require you provide proof of income, household size and other household information.

4. Get creative.

My family has been through its share of financial bumps. When money was tight and we were faced with a situation where a bill was due or an unexpected expense would arise, we got creative to come up with the funds. It could be from selling something of value we knew we could live without to cutting back drastically on other expenses to cover essentials. They say “necessity is the mother of invention” and I completely agree. When times get tough instead of falling into a pit of despair, try to figure out how you can make your situation better and prevent it from happening again. Can you lower your food expenses? Or simply budget better?

I truly believe that setting up a budget and re-evaluating it each month is key to staying on top of your finances.  If you don’t know where to start my friend Jessi of The Budget Mama has a free eBook to help you get started. Simply click here to go to her site and download.

I know it’s not easy being in a rough financial spot. However, it’s never too late to turn your situation around and my prayer is that you’re able to find the help you need. Please feel free to leave any questions you may have below and I’ll be glad to help as much as I can.

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  1. Your’s is one of the few blogs that shares such helpful ideas for when money is beyond tight! Thank you for encouraging me! Sending many blessings your way!

  2. Thank you for sharing this. It has been a few years since we have been in that position, but I remember it. And I don’t want to go back. I hope this post helps people!

  3. Julie says:

    Thank you for these tips Jesenia! I have been there. I just left my full time job to be a stay at home mom because price of day care was more than I was making. I have definitely been creative trying to make a few extra dollars in the past month. My added advice to that would be to make stuff people love (like that artisan bread co-workers love or Christmas dresses) it may not be a get rich quick scheme but in the long run it may be your way to work from home!

  4. Cat says:

    God bless you! My family has struggled off and on for the past 3 years or so and while I am happy to say that I know we are going to be okay- a plan is a beautiful thing full of hope- we have hit the place you are describing several times over the years. It is scary, frustrating, and I have found it to be lonely. You don’t want to bring friends and family down by complaining or make them think that you are asking for money, so you bear it silently, maybe blushing ever so slightly when a friend asks what you are planning for your child’s upcoming birthday. I am so encouraged to see this post (I came from Pinterest). It isn’t an easy topic to write about and I know that I am not the only one feeling less alone because you took the subject on! The advice is solid. To those of you who are in the trenches presently, if you follow this great advice and keep your head up, you can move forward! The only thing that I would add is that we cut the cable at least five years ago and hihhly recommend that people prioritize their (probably less expensive internet) above cable as so much entertainment and news can be accessed for free online. Thank you again for this article.

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  7. Tiffany says:

    All very good pieces of advice! Budgeting works different for each person (I have to do weekly instead of monthly), but it is critical in making sure utilities get paid. Without fail, I struggle to pay my bills when I didn’t create a plan. Great post!

    • Jesenia Montanez says:

      Hi Tiffany. I agree, budgeting can be different for everyone and at the least, one should be created. I find that knowing ahead what needs to be paid helps me stay on track. Thanks for visiting!

  8. Great tips! I have been through this myself and it is the most stressful way to live. Your tips and advice are spot on, I know they will help others and I only wish you had posted it years ago when I needed it!

    • Jesenia Montanez says:

      Thanks Cortney. 🙂 I appreciate your supportive words and can only hope that someone out there currently going through this, will benefit somehow.

  9. Thank you for the link back! I love this post – such great tips. 🙂

    • Jesenia Montanez says:

      Hi Jessi! Thank you for sharing such a great free resource. 🙂