Are unpaid bills causing you sleepless nights? It’s a worrying time when you’re flat broke, but if you’re willing to make a few sacrifices, your finances could improve. This article provides tips on how to pay off bills with no money and how to start changing your financial situation too.
Prioritize your bills
If you know you definitely can’t cover all of your bills, make sure you pay the strictly necessary ones first. These are the bills that keep a roof above your head. Your mortgage or rent is crucial to pay on time, along with property taxes and your utility bills (energy and water). You’ll also still need to eat too, although you should try to save money in this area by shopping for cheaper groceries.
Other bills that you should pay off if you can include your cell phone and internet bills as well as your federal student loan if you have one, as your credit rating will suffer if you default. With federal student loans, you’ll have a 270 day grace period in which to pay before your debt defaults and a collection agency gets involved.
Less critical bills might include gym memberships and TV subscriptions such as Netflix (luxury expenditure).
If you’re struggling to pay your essential bills, speak to your service providers and explain that you’re experiencing difficulties. They could be obliged to help you and may suggest a temporary lower repayment plan, while you get your finances under control.
Avoid further debt when you’re broke
It’s tempting to look at getting a credit card or loan to cover your expenses while things are tough. Try to avoid this if you can – remember all debt needs to be paid back at some point.
When you’re broke, your debt can become a heavy burden and make your situation even more problematic, especially if you’re paying high rates of interest. By paying off your debt, your financial situation will begin to improve, and you’ll find yourself with more disposable income.
Firstly, make sure you’re paying the lowest interest rates possible – this may mean refinancing some of your debt. The less interest you pay, the faster you can clear your debt. Then do the following:
Budget and save
The first steps to debt freedom involve creating a budget and sticking to it. You may have to forgo luxuries for a while and try to save money in each category of your budget. For example, to slash your grocery bill, follow these tips:
- Create a menu plan before shopping and only buy what you
- Avoid buying branded items.
- Use grocery coupons.
- Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables (which are cheaper than those out of season).
- Use dollar stores where possible.
Account for every dollar you have and consider using a free budgeting app like the Mint app to keep an eye on your spending. Alternatively, you may find that an envelope budgeting system helps you stick to your budget. Take out the amount of cash you’ve budgeted for each category and separate it into envelopes for groceries, childcare, rent, etc. Then only spend what you’ve put aside.
Once you start saving money, you may have a little cash left over for debt payoff. If you can overpay your debt every month, you’ll soon discover that your financial situation is set to improve.
Giving yourself a pay rise isn’t as hard as it sounds. There are plenty of ways to earn extra cash, and it can be as simple as taking on more hours at your day job or finding a second job. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Sell unwanted items on eBay or run a yard sale.
- Offer local services to your neighbors such as dog walking, mowing lawns, or house sitting.
- If you have a spare room, consider getting a lodger.
- Join Fiverr and offer your services for $5 plus for each gig.
- Check out Uber or DoorDash to earn money driving in your spare time.
As well as earning extra money, there are some other ways you can put a dent in your debt:
1. Use a debt payoff strategy
It’s possible to attack debt in two ways; pay the debt with the highest rate of interest first, or concentrate on eliminating the smallest debt first, followed by the next smallest one, and so forth (this is known as the Debt Snowball Method).
Some people claim that the Debt Snowball Method is more effective because it’s incredibly motivating to see a debt eliminated, even if it’s just for a small amount.
Whichever method you choose, stick to your strategy and measure your progress each month. Reward yourself with a (budgeted-for) treat every time you reach a new milestone!
2. Collect loose change
It’s amazing how a few cents or dollars here and there can soon add up. Start a loose change jar and every time you find yourself with a pocketful of change, save it. After a while, you may be able to add an extra payment towards your debt. Alternatively, invest your digital change by using an app like Acorns. You can make withdrawals whenever you like.
3. Use a rewards credit card
There are different rewards cards available which offer cashback on everyday purchases. If used wisely, this type of card could help you increase your income.
Be careful not to get into more debt, as that would defeat the purpose! Only use the card for everyday purchases that you would be spending on anyway and make sure to pay these purchases off in full every month.
As an example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase, plus a $150 bonus once you’ve spent $500 within your first 3 months of opening an account.
This card has a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months too which could come in handy if you need to refinance your debt to a lower interest rate. A 5% balance transfer fee applies and the interest rate increases to a variable APR of between 16.74-25.49% one the introductory period ends.
Credit cards can be dangerous as they provide a revolving line of credit in return for a relatively small minimum monthly payment (compared to the amount you can borrow).
It can be all too easy to get into trouble with credit cards. To limit the chances of this happening, avoid maxing out your credit limit and aim to reduce your debt until you can afford to pay off your credit card balance in full each month. Doing this can significantly boost your credit score.
If you have no money to clear your credit card debt, use the tips and strategies suggested throughout this article to help you make some headway.
Ultimately, the way to pay off your debt when you’re broke is to change your behavior around spending money and debt accumulation. Think of debt as being money that you haven’t earned yet. It might make you think twice about your financial habits.
*All facts and figures detailed above are correct at the time of publishing.