5 Things to Do When You Can’t Pay a Bill

How to Handle the Burden of Collections

Nobody likes to miss a bill. But maybe a medical emergency occurred and now the bills are stacking up. Maybe your house caught on fire and insurance didn’t cover everything. Or maybe you made a few bad financial decisions, like buying a new car that is way out of your budget or racking up credit card debt. Whatever the reason, the burden of a bill you can’t pay looms over you. And you are not sure what to do next.

If you find yourself in this situation, let me suggest five things to do when you cant pay a bill:

  1. Make contact. You need to have a conversation with your creditor. The worst thing you can do is wait until they contact you. Let them know that you are aware that your bill not been paid. It communicates to the creditor that you understand your responsibility in this. You would want the same done for you.
  1. Be honest. No, your dog didn’t chew up the bill. Do not try to make up an elaborate story regarding the missed payment. First of all, it won’t get you out of paying your bill. Second, it is sinful. It will take you down a path you don’t want to walk. Be upfront with your creditors. You don’t have to give them every detail of your story. Just don’t lie.
  1. Talk terms. Ask your creditors if you can set up a payment plan. If there is significant interest on the owed amount, see if you can get a reduction. It is important that you create a feasible plan. You do not want to call again to re-plan the plan.
  1. Stay in regular communication. Make sure they are receiving whatever payments you are able to make. Also, make sure that they are still abiding by the repayment terms you set. This communicates to the creditors that you are serious about paying your debt off and, hopefully, will reduce any aggressive communication from them.
  1. Report any harassment. Sometimes, creditors can get nasty. Fortunately, the law is on your side. Collection agencies cannot harass or oppress you or anyone you know over your debt. If the communications do get abusive, contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at 1-(855)-411-CFPB or online here.

I hope you never have to experience this. But the reality is that several will. If you are in a place where you can’t pay a bill, don’t panic. Contact the creditor, be honest, set repayment terms, stay in communication, and report any harassment. Avoid unnecessary expenditures and try to get on track as soon as possible. Hopefully, the burden of an unpaid bill will be quickly removed.

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2 thoughts on “5 Things to Do When You Can’t Pay a Bill

  1. I work in a position of collections, and I agree with all the suggestions you listed. I always advise my clients to keep in contact with me regarding their circumstances in regards to how it will affect their payments. I am more than willing to set up payment arrangements because it helps our office to not send the account to collections as well.

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Monica. If you have any additional suggestions, feel free to share them!