Even with the best-laid plans, financial setbacks can happen. If an illness, injury or job loss causes you to face a financial crisis, do not assume that things will improve quickly. Living as though nothing has changed is the number one mistake people make during challenging times. Instead, create a realistic plan to get you through the hard times, and determine a reasonable amount to pay to your creditors each month.
Once you have a plan, mail a letter to each of your creditors explaining your situation and how you plan to repay your debt. Tell them that you are unable, not unwilling, to repay. Remember that it is always best to contact your creditors before they have to contact you.
Next, sit down with your family and discuss ways to cut costs. It is important that all members understand the situation, and the goals you’re working towards. Here are six quick cost-cutting measures offered by the experts at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of San Diego, a division of Money Management International:
Change your routine. Dining in and avoiding convenience foods can save you a lot of money very quickly. For example, if you eat lunch out three days a week, brown bagging instead could save you $1,000 or more each year.
Be a smart shopper. Always shop with a list and take cash so that you can’t overspend. Use coupons only if you planned to purchase the item anyway. Buying in bulk can save you money if you are sure you’ll use the item in quantity.
Kick a habit. Save some money and accomplish one of your life goals at the same time. For example, if you smoke one pack of cigarettes each day, quitting could save you more than $100 a month.
Pay your bills on time. Late fees and over-the-limit charges can quickly add up to a debt problem. In addition, many creditors are raising rates and even closing accounts as penalties for late payments.
Evaluate insurance needs. Research your health insurance premiums and co-payments. Explore the difference in cost between using doctors in the network and those outside it. Also, consider paying other insurance premiums annually or semi-annually; the cost is usually cheaper than paying monthly.
“In addition to your personal efforts, don’t be shy about seeking the help you need,” said Pamela Flemions, area director community and education relations for CCCS of San Diego. “Contact your local city offices about benefits such as unemployment pay, food vouchers, and utility discount programs. You can also seek assistance from your local church or United Way.”
Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS) is a non-profit, full-service credit-counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, counseling and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958.