What to Do if You Can’t Pay Your May Bills
As we head into a new month of the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers will struggle to pay their May bills. For some, it’s the first time they have faced this type of financial hardship, and they may not know where to turn. Here’s what to do if you can’t pay some of your May bills.
Everyone is experiencing the effects of the pandemic to some degree, so it’s natural to think your creditors will automatically know that you’re struggling. But since it’s affecting people in different ways, you need to reach out to your creditors and service providers individually to let them know you’re unable to pay. Don’t assume they know you’re having a hard time. The sooner you reach out, the more options you’ll have available.
Dip Into Savings
If you have emergency savings, now is the time to dip into it to pay bills. But even if you haven’t been saving for emergencies and have been saving for something else, such as a vacation or new car, use those funds to pay for essentials like rent or mortgage, food and utility bills. It may feel discouraging to lose the savings progress you’ve made, but you can start building it back up when circumstances normalize.
Do Your Research
The CARES Act, along with many state and local governments, have put measures in place to protect consumers from eviction or utility shut-off during the pandemic. But they vary from location-to-location. Spend some time researching the relief available in your area. Once you know, you can adjust where your money goes. For example, if you are protected from eviction but not utility shut-off, focus on paying your utility bills first.
Take Advantage of Relief
Although it can feel overwhelming to navigate, there is help available if you can’t pay your May bills. Many credit card companies are offering deferred payments and waiving late fees for consumers affected by COVID-19 and the resulting financial hardships. Most have streamlined the application process to allow you to quickly apply online.
Payments on most federal student loans are suspended until September 30, 2002 and no interest will accrue during that time. If you haven’t already received communication from your loan servicer, contact them to find out if your student loans are covered by this relief.
Use Credit Cards Carefully
You may be able to pay certain bills, such as insurance premiums, with a credit card. If you decide to go this route, choose your card that has the lowest interest rate. You may also want to consider asking for a credit limit increase. This will help minimize the effects using more credit will have on your credit utilization ratio, one of the biggest factors in determining your credit score.
It’s always stressful to be under financial strain; even more so under the current circumstances. Remember the most important thing is your health and safety and that of your family and friends. This situation won’t last forever. When it’s over there will be time to regain your savings progress and rebuild your credit with credit counseling and possibly, a debt management plan.