I need help paying my bills

If you’ve got a hidden pile of unopened bills stashed away because you’re too scared to look at them, it’s nothing to be ashamed of – but you do need to tackle the problem. It may not feel like it now but it’s totally possible to start paying off your debts and getting back on track. Here are our top tips to tackle the problem.

two people on laptop looking worried

Phone someone you trust

As much as you may want to cope by yourself, the first port of call should probably be a close friend or family member. If you ask for a loan rather than a handout and show you’re willing to get your finances in order after this, they may help you out. Check out our article on borrowing from friends for more advice.

If you can’t pay your rent, discuss the problems with your landlord/housing agency

Unfortunately, you can’t just stop paying your landlord if you don’t have the money. If you are upfront about your cash flow problems – especially if they are short-term – they may be more understanding about giving you extra time to pay the rent. Try to approach the conversation armed with some ideas or a realistic payment plan to get your rent fully paid up – this will show you’re keen to find a solution and may mean your landlord will deal with you more sympathetically.

Prioritise all your outgoings

Make sure you have a roof over your head and food to eat and then work out what else you can afford. For example, nights out or clothes. A debt charity, such as National Debtline, will help you prioritise your expenditure and get you back on track.

Contact your suppliers (electricity, gas, phone company, council tax etc) and explain your situation

They are legally bound to help you find a way to pay off your debts.

Contact your creditors in writing

This may involve sending your creditors a proposed repayment scheme – a debt charity will be able to help you draw one up. If one of the reasons you’re avoiding looking at your stack of bills is a fear of being taken to court, don’t panic.  Even if you DO get a court order, the court will only order you to make repayments that you will be able to afford.

If you are a student, apply for an Access payment

While an Access payment can take some time to come through, once they have accepted your claim you can tell your landlord, which will hopefully get them off your case for a while. Most universities also have an accommodation fund for those of you whose rent is higher than average. Ask your academic registry for more information.

Find out if you can get help with your rent

You may be entitled to some form of housing benefit, or Local Housing Allowance if you rent from a private landlord (unfortunately this is not available if you live with a close relative or you are a full-time student, unless you’re disabled or have children).

Speak to your bank

If you’re entitled to some of the above funds you could go to your bank with written confirmation and they may give you a temporary overdraft extension to cover you until they arrive. They’re more likely to be flexible if you’re upfront and honest.

Try not to: 

  • Panic

Looking after yourself is so important, especially in stressful situations where you need some control. Try to stay calm and work out a plan of action. If you’re struggling under the pressure then speak to a trusted friend or call the Money for Life helpline on 0808 801 0666 for support and advice.

  • Expect friends or flatmates to bail you out

If you’re only a little behind, your mates may offer to help you out but making a habit of this is a sign you need to tackle your money problems head on.

Feeling calmer? Now stop it happening again…

By getting your finances in some sort of order you’re likely to feel a great weight lifted off your chest. This doesn’t mean you need to have miraculously cleared all debts within the month – it may take quite a while to pay it all off.

To keep the sense of control you’ve fought so hard for, look over your budget, set some goals (eg, ‘I will keep my phone bill under £20 a month from now on’) and put together a plan of how to tackle your money problems over a longer period.

Your credit score – why it’s important to pay bills promptly 

Defaults and delays in payments with everything from council tax to credit cards will be noted on what’s called your credit file. When you apply for new credit, lenders use the information held to assess how reliable you are as a payee. That’s why it’s important to protect your credit file by making bill payments in full and on time. Failure to pay could make it hard to borrow in the future, get a credit card or open a bank account.

One of my housemates hasn’t paid a bill – will it affect my credit score..?

While you should always pay your way with bills in a house-share situation, it’s important to realise that failure to pay will only affect you personally if the bill/bills are in your name.

More information