Unemployed Bill Crisis

Gary Foreman

My husband has been out of work for 5 months and the income he did bring in when he was working was double what I currently bring in. Needless to say, my checks and the unemployment is not paying the bills. I am starting to panic because bill collectors are calling daily. I cannot tell them when I can make payments so they continuously call at home and work. I feel like I am going to lose my mind because of this!


I am making sure that my house payment is paid, utilities, car insurance, but everything else is getting severely behind. What do I do? Do we have any way of getting out of this mess? Any rights?
SS in WA

Sounds like SS is in a tight spot. We'll spare SS the obvious advice of cutting unnecessary costs. Let's rather focus on how to handle the mountain of bills.

First, it's important to get some breathing room. SS won't make good decisions if she's losing her mind! Begin by asking the collection agencies to stop calling you. Do it in writing. Use a postal method that proves that your correspondence was received. Bill collectors are required by federal law to stop calling you if you ask them.

Second, estimate how long the situation will last. Are you looking for a one month solution? Or one that will work for one year? Estimating will mean honestly evaluating hubby's job prospects. Is it realistic to expect him to find a similar paying job in your community? If not, you'll need to make some decisions. Would SS be willing to move to another area and give up her job to replace his lost income? In any case, you'll need some estimate of when income should increase.


This may be a good time to evaluate a change in career paths. Sometimes happiness is found in a lower-paying, but less stressful career.

Third, SS will want to inventory their bills. How much does it cost each month for the basic necessities? Thankfully, it appears their current income covers the basics.

She'll want to look at her bills with an eye towards reducing or eliminating them. Start with the biggest ones: the mortgage and any car payments.

SS should check to see if they have credit insurance that could make payments until hubby is employed again. Many consumers forget that they even have it. A simple call to your creditor can tell.

Consider refinancing your home. Not just for a lower rate of interest, but also to stretch out the term of the loan. The longer the loan the lower the monthly payment.


SS may also want to use the equity in her home to pay off some debts. Especially ones like credit cards that are charging very high rates of interest.

Try to negotiate a new loan on your car. Either your current lender or another may be willing to allow you to finance the car over a longer period of time.

SS may find that it's best to either sell or even let one car be voluntarily repossessed. A repo could leave her owing money after the car is sold, but at least the monthly payments and cost of insurance would disappear.

Now on the smaller monthly bills. SS needs to make a list of all of the bills with the monthly minimums and the interest rate being charged.

Contact the people that you owe money. Begin with the biggest bills. Explain the circumstances and offer to pay what you can. Before you contact them know how much you can realistically afford to pay each month. Do not make promises that you won't be able to keep.

SS may find that even after talking to her creditors that she can't cover all the monthly minimums. That leaves her with a few choices. One, pay some minimums and let other accounts go unpaid until after hubby returns to work.

A second option would be to work with a debt management firm. Often they can get creditors to reduce minimums and interest rates. Usually late fees will be waived. Talk to a couple of companies before choosing one. Ask them to explain what they can do for you and what you'll be charged for the service.

A final option is to declare bankruptcy. If job prospects are poor and you simply can't keep up with the minimum payments a bankruptcy could be inevitable.

All of these choices will leave marks on your credit history. That can't be helped when you fail to pay bills. It may take up to 10 years before your record is completely clean. But the road to recovery will begin as soon as you take control of the situation and begin making payments at an agreed rate.

Let's all hope that SS's husband finds a great job real soon.

About The Author:

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website stretcher.com and ezine subscribe@stretcher.com. Copyright 2003 Dollar Stretcher, Inc. All rights reserved.

May 20, 20030 found this helpful

Try calling the nonprofit organization CCCS. Consumer Credit Counseling Services. They evaluate your bills, call the companies to reduce your finance charges etc. They have helped people for years to get out of this same perdicament. We have been there and I can tell you that there is an end to the dark tunnel. Also, you need not feel ashamed. Get as much emotional support as you can. Maybe he can start doing odd jobs for cash. Best of luck.

ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
July 1, 20050 found this helpful

call all the bill collectors, at least the ones that haven't called you yet. Tell them you need to make special arrangements with then. If you send them all $5.00 a month, they have to except it. Really.

ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
August 10, 20050 found this helpful

I agree definitely call the people you owe it is hard but if you don't call and try to work with them they will think you are hiding from them and trying to get out of paying your debt. Also have your husband call or go to the unemployment office to see what kind of services are available to him. In my state there are programs to help get schooling to find a better job and depending on how he lost his job he may get a lot more programs like if his job was cut and sent over seas. I am in the same boat and just about to get laid off myself for this very reason. Don't be too proud to check into public assistance thats what we pay taxes for! Good Luck

ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

Add your voice! Click below to comment. ThriftyFun is powered by your wisdom!

May 15, 2003
White Low Flow Toilet
Saving Money on Your Sewer Bill
Saving Money on Your Electric Bill, Money and Light Bulb on Top of Electric Bill
Saving Money on Your Electric Bill
Insulating Your Home, Insulation Ready to Be Installed
Insulating Your Home
An upclose photo of a laptop keyboard.
Saving Money on Your Internet Bill
Halloween Ideas!
Ask a Question
Share a Post
You are viewing the desktop version of this page: View Mobile Site
© 1997-2016 by Cumuli, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Published by . Page generated on October 19, 2016 at 4:24:50 PM on in 3 seconds. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of ThriftyFun's Disclaimer and Privacy Policy. If you have any problems or suggestions feel free to Contact Us.
Loading Something Awesome!