Many folks have lost jobs in the last 5 years. Some have found work again but are making significantly less than they were before. Perhaps you have tried to do a budget, but there just isn’t enough money to pay all the bills.
Perhaps you had a major medical situation and your insurance didn’t cover as much as you hoped, or worse you didn’t have medical insurance at the time.
What do you do if you find yourself in a situation where you have tried diligently to cut back on your lifestyle but there still just isn’t enough money to make it from month to month?
So what do you do when there just isn’t enough money?
You’ve done your budget and you ran out of money before you ran out of bills. The answer at least in the short-term is you need to prioritize. What do you pay first?
The answer to that would be food. Most times we have at least enough money to put food on the table. Now, I’m not talking about filet mignon. I’m not talking about eating out. If you are struggling to this degree, you shouldn’t be seeing the inside of a restaurant unless you are working there. Maybe the best you can manage is ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese, but at least you and your family have food.
Next take what’s left and make sure you are current on your utilities. Again we are talking about necessities here. Electric, heat, water are necessities. The cable bill or the cell phone bill probably isn’t. So now you have at least some food in your stomach and you know they aren’t going to be turning off the lights or the heat.
Next up make sure your mortgage or rent is current. This is where you lay your head at night. This is what provides shelter for your family. You need to make sure this debt is current before any others.
Now make sure your car payments if you have them are current and you can buy gas. Now at least you know you can get around. You can get to work, etc.
A big caveat here is many times this is one of the areas where people get themselves in trouble. If you can’t pay your bills but you are paying $500 a month for your car payment then one of your first steps probably should be to sell the car. The goal here is transportation. If you are broke that can be accomplished with a $1,000 beater that you drive for a short while as you dig yourself out of your hole.
Lastly there is clothing. Truth is most of us have plenty of clothes in our closets so that we don’t really need to spend much here. But if you have a hole in your shoes or the kids are growing like weeds you might need to spend a little here occasionally.
So. Where does that leave us? I have food in my belly, a warm place to lay my head, and I know I have a way to get to work tomorrow. I now have strength to live and fight another day.
If I have anything left I tackle the rest of my bills to the best of my ability. There are a couple of possibilities. One option is I can take the money I have and dole it out proportionately. So let’s suppose I’m left with a $100 payment and a $50 payment, but all I have is $60 left. I could send $40 to the first company and $20 to the second company, as proportionally that would be a fair percentage of what I have left. This will not make your creditors happy but you are trying fairly to do the best you can do.
The other option is just pay what you can and the other bills simply don’t get paid this month. Will they be happy? No of course not. You may start getting calls from collectors. Your credit score will definitely take a hit. But at this point there isn’t much you can do about that because there simply isn’t enough money to cover everything.
Is there Biblical justification for this?
First off, if you have the money, then the Bible very plainly says you need to pay your bills. Psalm 37:21 says the wicked borrow and do not repay. But that’s not the case here. You want to pay your bills. There simply isn’t enough money. 1 Timothy 5:8 tells us:
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
I think this is a clear mandate that your first responsibility is to take care of your own family. One of the primary tactics of debt collectors is to create an emotional reaction in you that will cause you to pay your credit card bill before you pay your mortgage or feed your kids. This is not wise.
It is ok to first make sure your family’s basic needs are met and then worry about your other bills. Don’t allow anyone else to prioritize their bill over the needs of your family. You don’t want to be current on your credit card but being served foreclosure papers.
Where to go from here
So if you find yourself in this place where you’ve covered the four walls but don’t have enough to cover everything else, unless you expect a dramatic change in income soon, you need to take some other action.
- Pray. Your Heavenly Father loves you and owns it all. Ask Him for wisdom and for help.
- Cut your lifestyle further. If there is still any fat in the budget you need to cut it further. Here are some additional ways to save.
- Sell stuff. Look around the house. Most of us have stuff sitting around that we don’t really need. Have a garage sale. Put some things on E-bay or Craigslist.
- Work. Find some part-time jobs. Deliver some pizzas. Walk around the neighborhood and offer to mow lawns, shovel snow, wash windows, walk the dog. Do whatever you can temporarily to bring in some more income.
- Negotiate. Lastly, if you have debts that haven’t been paid for a few months, you may be able to negotiate a lump sum payment to settle the debt. Just be aware if you do this to make sure you get it in writing that this settles the debt in full and keep a copy of that along with a copy of your check forever.
These steps will help you either improve your income or reduce your expenses for a time until you can get yourself in a better position financially. In the mean time until you get there, never allow someone else to prioritize their bill over the welfare of your family.