When You Can’t Pay Your Bills…

Image result for sticking your head in the sand

You may be tempted to bury your head in the sand!  If so, you’re not alone.

If you’re like many Americans, you may be struggling to make ends meet.  It can be overwhelming to have more bills than you have money.  If there’s just not enough to go around, you may be tempted to ignore bills or credit charges.  In addition to the stress and financial losses, late payments can affect access to future credit for many years.  In this module you’ll learn more about what to do when you can’t pay your bills.

Overdue Bills

First – don’t ignore them. Although tearing up letters, bills, and financial statements might feel good, it’s not going to help you solve the real problem. In fact, it will make matters worse. If you look to the internet for help, it can be overwhelming. Where do you start?  How do you know which bills to pay first when all the bills are overdue? What options do you have? We’ve put together some information in the links below to help get you back on track. Remember, there are no “quick fixes,” but there are some great resources available to help you take back control. Start with taking the first step!

Second – contact your creditors so they know you are keeping track and doing the best you can. There’s information below about prioritizing which bills are most important to you, along with a sample letter that you can use to send to your creditors. Watch this UW Mindful Money Moment video for tips on working with creditors.

Quiz: When You Can’t Pay your Bills   Take this 10-question tutorial/quiz to test your knowledge about what to do when you can’t pay your bills. You can take this quiz as many times as you want. To learn more about this topic (before or after you take the quiz), scroll down to the list of learning resources below.

Let’s learn more…

What can happen if you don’t pay your bills

Where to start if you can’t pay your bills

Deciding which debts to pay first

Quick facts on debt collection, judgments, garnishment, and reposession

Sample Letter for Creditors

Managing Your Personal Finances in Tough Times

UW Mindful Money Moment Video: Dealing with a Drop in Income

Want to learn even more?

Power Pay – If you want the tools to develop a personalized, self-directed debt elimination plan.

National Foundation for Credit Counselors – If you are going through a financial crisis and would like to talk with an authorized non-profit financial counselor. NFCC-affiliated organizations typically charge for their services on a sliding income-based fee scale and offer services such as setting up a Debt Management Plan (DMP) or negotiating with creditors on behalf of consumers.

If you are ready to learn even more, you may find this information from the University Illinois helpful as well: Debt Management and Using your Money Wisely. While you’re there, check out the other money management resources.


Need local resources?

When money is tight, you may qualify for extra help for food, childcare, and healthcare. It’s worth the time to check and see. These sites will help you get started…Resources for Foodshare or Badgercare  and 211 Get connected, Get answers – free and confidential service to help you find the resources you need. 

Certificate of Completion

If you’d like to certify that you’ve completed this module, be sure to contact a UW Extension Financial Educator to find out about program requirements.