Living on a Budget, Saving Money/Past Due Bills

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Question
Hi, Douglas, My name is Michele. I am currently on SSI due to a disability and a recent serious illness. I moved from upstate New York to New Jersey. I live alone. I was doing fine on my budget until I got letters in the mail saying that I have all of these past due bills such as old cellphone bill, old cable bill because I forgot to return equipment. old electric bill because after heating assistance is over you have a balance plus I am paying back a student loan that I took out two years ago. I want to improve my credit (it's not horrible but it's not stellar either ) It seems by making little payments on all of these 4 bills which probably total around $ 2,060. That does not seem like a lot to most people but for me it is. I have always paid my bills on time. So, Do I pay up one bill at a time ? Do I make small payments on all of them? I feel so stuck because It seems that when I pay up small amounts plus rent and food ( I am not eligible for any assistance like heating or food stamps ) which is fine with me. I just don't know how to get them taken care of and still have money left over? Plus, I would like to move soon to a better area. Please help me. I hope I explained my situation clearly. Thank you.
Sincerely,

Michele Griffin

Answer
Hi Michele,

First of all, I'm sorry for your disability and illness.  I'm sure your situation is not an easy one.

This is what I would do.  First, verify that the amounts that you owe are actually valid amounts - go through past bills to verify this, and look at your initial terms of service to verify as well.  Next, assuming that these charges are valid, I would individually call your old cellphone carrier, cable carrier, and electric carrier, and explain to them that you are on a very tight SSI budget, and that you would like to renegotiate your payment schedule with them for balances due, spread out over a period of time.  I would be willing to bet that they will all accept this proposal, since they would like to get their money, even if it's over an extended period of time.  Better for them to get something per month, than nothing at all.  Firmly reiterate to them that you are disabled and have an extremely limited budget, and that you have no other recourse for payment currently.

Regarding your student loan, I would attempt to pay that in full each and every month, since this may be the most stringent of all of your bills.   If you took the loan out from a banking institution however, you may want to consider calling them to renegotiate on your payment schedule, similar to steps taken above.

If you can successfully renegotiate on your payment schedule with each of these vendors, this will NOT effect your credit rating at all.  Also, I would defer on looking to move to a better area, which will probably increase your rent.  Work on paying back your debt first, before incurring any new (or increased) forms of debt.

I wish you all the best.

Sincerely,

Douglas Hayman

Living on a Budget, Saving Money

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Douglas Hayman

Expertise

I will gladly answer any and all questions relating to family, home, or household budgeting. I consider myself a pioneer and expert in the area of disciplined budgeting.

Experience

I routinely manage my home budget using my home-grown system. Additionally, in corporate America, I managed a multi-million dollar budget for a technical Fortune 100 Financial Services company for many years.

Publications
(1) "Reduce Your Monthly Budget By 20% Using Simple Budgeting Strategies" (2012) ISBN # 978-0-9081613-1-1 http://www.BudgetSurgeon.com (2) "How to Maximize Traffic to Your Website" (2007) - ISBN # 978-0-9801613-0-4 http://www.expss.com/ebooks/WebsiteTraffic.htm

Education/Credentials
B.A., Economics, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY M.S., Computer Science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY

Awards and Honors
B.A. with Honors, Economics, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY

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