Do you need help knowing what to do if you can’t pay a bill?
We talk through how to handle being unable to pay a bill.

Last updated: 23/07/2020 | Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

What if you can’t pay a bill?

Being in financial difficulty is always going to be hard to cope with, and when you can’t pay a bill it is tempting to ignore it and hope that the problem goes away. However, this is possibly the worst thing you can do. In this guide we’ll take you through the steps you need to take if you find yourself struggling with a bill you can’t pay.

In This Guide:

What are the first steps?

The first three most important things are to:

  • Contact the company who sent you the bill
  • Prioritise
  • Sort out a budget

Contacting the company as soon as you realise you are in trouble will mean that they are much more likely to be understanding. They may even extend the amount of time you have to pay the bill.

Once you find yourself in an unfavourable financial position, prioritising essentials such as food, shelter and heating is necessary. Anything that isn’t essential to living is a luxury and these shouldn’t be a priority.

Budgeting is an important skill that will help you to balance your money and find areas where money can be saved. It also shows you exactly how much money is coming in vs how much you are spending. The most important thing to remember when drawing up a budget is to be honest with yourself. You also need to be realistic so that your targets can be achieved.

Should you keep paying?

Even if you’re struggling, paying something is better than nothing.

It doesn’t always matter if you can’t pay the full amount. Creditors like to see that you are trying and that you’re committed to paying the bill despite your financial struggle. This may make them more sympathetic and extend the amount of time you have to pay off the debt.

By continuing to pay, you will also reduce the amount you have to pay in interest as it will reduce the outstanding balance. So, giving something is better than nothing.

Is there any help?

You can find help from a number of organisations who offer debt management to help you with your debt and finances for free.

It is wise to get in contact with charities such as StepChange and Debtline if you realise you are struggling with paying with a bill.

Advice to stay clear of future problems

Saving money is a really good way to easily increase the amount you have to pay off important bills. Make sure you have done your research into insurance and utilities so that you have the best deal and aren’t being ripped off.

Budgeting helps you to see exactly where your money is going and if you realise there are things you can live without, save that money and use it for more important issues - like debts.

Avoid taking out more loans

Although taking out a loan that covers the bill(s) you are unable to pay may seem like a quick and easy option, in the long term it will only make your financial situation more complex.

You will find that you can lose control of your finances quickly and get caught up in the short-term security. The best option is to talk to a debt counsellor who can guide you through and help you take control.