Help Paying the Bills

The most common concern an unemployed person has is how am I going to pay to my bills without a job? This is a very critical issue and the answer is – strategically. If you have not done so yet create a list of every bill you pay monthly and the exact amount owed each month, don’t guesstimate this.

Now separate each bill into two categories: Must Pay (rent, mortgage, and electricity), Disposable (cell phone, cable, entertainment). Now add all the money that you will have available each month such unemployment benefits, severance, etc. If you have enough to cover the cost of your lifestyle you’re lucky.

But if you’re like most of us you’ll have a considerable shortfall between the amount you need and the amount you’ll have available. Below are some ways to help you make the ends meet. Let’s focus on reducing the biggest money wasters first.

Disposable Bills

Cell Phones

These are all the bills that are not food (food = groceries, not McDonald’s), and shelter oriented. Cell phones are common and convenient but they are not necessities. This should be the first service you cancel if you can avoid an early termination fee.

I know most people say they need their phones ‘in case of emergency’ but the cell phone companies are not earning billions of dollars a year in emergency related calls so stop kidding yourself. Also, most cell phones dial out to 911 whether they’re in service or not. Consider getting a prepaid plan where you only pay for the minutes you use that way you’ll be covered in case of the rare emergency.

If not, then switch to a lower level plan and cut back the extra services such as text and internet plans. Check out the government sponsored free cell phone program Safelink to see if you qualify. There are income restrictions and the minutes are extremely low but free. You know, just enough to cover that “emergency” every cell phone customer fears so much.


Cable TV has got to go. I saw the saddest scene while walking through my neighborhood recently. Someone was being evicted and all of their belongings were placed on the sidewalk. It was a bad situation all around. One of the things that I noticed was there were three cable boxes placed on top of a dresser on the sidewalk. I went from feeling sad to being really confused.

Cable is one of the first things that must go in difficult times. Don’t waste any of your limited funds on something as unnecessary as cable. If you’re worried about the shock to your system from not having 200 useless channels that you only watch five of, then consider subscribing to Netflix or Blockbuster Online.

You’ll have greater control over what you see and when you see it for a fraction of the ridiculous rates that cable companies charge. They even allow you to stream movies online now. Or you can imagine how the shock to your lifestyle will be after all your belongings are on the street and you still have your precious cable box.


Don’t confuse wasting money on lunch dates, happy hours, and social mixers as networking. You’re likely just wasting time and money. Going out to dinner and the movies isn’t therapy either. Sure you want to get out every now and then but keep these expenses to a minimum.

Networking is building a group of people around you for mutually beneficial reasons and the only cost is usually the time it takes to create a valuable network. If you find yourself racking up expenses ‘networking’ then you should revamp your game plan before your finances run out.

Credit cards and other loans

Call your credit card companies as soon as you become unemployed and try to work out a more favorable repayment plan or even a deferment like student loan lenders often grant. The goal is to reduce your burden before you get to the breaking point. There are more options available the sooner you reach out for assistance.

With our super consumer mindsets and supercharged interest rates it’s easy for the balances of our credit card debt to zoom out of control. If you’re thinking about bankruptcy or debt consolidation, check out DebtGoal first. Bankruptcy will wreck your credit and there are hundreds of fly by night debt consolidation companies eagerly waiting to rip you off. With DebtGoal you create a plan with tools and help from a vibrant community of people just like you helping themselves become debt free.

Financial Help For The Unemployed


Contact your local Human Services department. Human Services should have a Homeless Prevention Program like the one in Washington, DC that offers assistance getting your back rent current and first month’s rent and security deposit assistance if you need to move soon. If your local Human Services office doesn’t have a similar program they should at least be able to point you in the direction of some local charities that may be able to help.


The Federal Government has put considerable pressure on the banking system to bail out the American taxpayer in need of assistance after the American tax payer funded the major banks’ bailout. In turn many lenders are offering loan modifications to home owners in financial trouble. Whether you got caught up in the “creative financing” craze that popped the housing bubble or suffering through a longer than expected period of unemployment you should explore what options your lender has available to you before you lose your house.

Call the Homeownership Preservation Foundation at 888-995-HOPE for free (meaning free now, free later, and free always) advice from a professional consultant committed to helping you keep your home. Someone is available to answer your questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Food and Utilities – (Groceries, Electricity, Gas, Heat and Water)

Many cities and towns have passed laws making it easier for unemployed people to keep these essentials during these tough financial times. Call each utility company and inquire about any assistance programs they have available. A great source of help here is the Catholic Charities organization. Despite the name Catholic Charities helps all people regardless of religious affiliation. Join the Unemployed Help email list for more free tips and advice.


  1. The Department of Human Services has a few little things that they do not want you to know.
    If you are in need of help in paying your rent you will get nothing until you can show that you have income to pay the rent. If you can not afford to pay your rent, they will not help you. They will tell you to move out of your home and into a shelter. There are exceptions, like if you are a refugee, have several children, or if you are DEAD.
    They even have a limit to the amount that they will pay to help with the utilites.
    This is the way that this government treats american citizens. I do not know about you but I think that it is time for some one new to set the rules and help those who need help the most.
    I see people, including children, living on the street and sleeping under freeway overpasses.
    Their reasoning for this is “that is how the rules are written”

    • Leslie Drew says:

      It’s clear you are frustrated. I spoke with a local Human Services representative recently. She told me that they do reject some people based on different criteria. One of the things they look for is if they get you current if you will be able to stay afloat or if you will quickly fall behind again. Their reasoning is that if you’ll just fall behind in your rent payments and face eviction anyway that you might as well deal with the inevitable sooner rather than later since they have limited funds to give out. That’s rough. I would think that they would give you a lifeline and maybe things turn around before you get evicted but I guess not. If you send me an email through the contact form with some of your info I’ll see if I can send you some more specific tips to help you out.

  2. Sorry I don’t agree that the phone is a luxury especially since that is how potential employers contact you.

    • Leslie Drew says:

      As I state in the article the phone itself is not a luxury. The monthly bill instead of a pay as you go plan is though. Which is why I suggest trading down to a pay as you go option or at least the cheapest monthly plan your cell phone carrier offers.

  3. Samantha Lowell says:

    Good thing you cleared yourself there Leslie. I do agree that pay as you go plan can give us problems financially especially when were paying too much utilities and mortgage.

  4. Hortencia Bustamante says:

    I would like to know how can i get help with my energy, water, cable bill
    thank you,


    • Leslie Drew says:

      I list options for getting help with each one of those bills in the post, especially cable.

    • Hortencia, Re: energy assistance (lights/heat) at the local dept of welfare office there are programs called LIHEAP (Low Income Heating/Energy Assistance Program) for heating. call your power company to find out if they have a program to help manage your usage/bill for electric.

  5. It sickens me that, I have a college degree and cannot get a job in the town i live in nor around me, I lost my job in march 2012, i get $320.00 per week, one week is my car payment one week is insurance, one week is rent, and one week is utilities, i can’t even eat.
    I can’t afford to move, i have exhausted my savings helping others, WHAT DO I DO?

    • Leslie Drew says:

      Just having a college a degree doesn’t guarantee that you will get a job in the town you live or anywhere else. It all depends on the field your degree is in and what the demand is for that field in your area.

      Here is a link the the US Bureau of Labor Statistics where you can sort through industry specific information such as highest paying jobs, fastest growing, and most new jobs. You can also see where those jobs are located.

      Bottom line is that depending on your field of choice you might not be able to afford to NOT move.

      Three things you can try to get things moving:

      1. Apply to Temporary Agencies for placement in Temp to Hire positions.

      2. Join a professional organization or society for your career path. These organizations often have local chapters that maintain job leads and specific advice for that area.

      3. Target jobs outside of your degree field that require similar skills

  6. Dear Leslie,

    I lost my job in March 2012,

    I have the unique situation in that I do not get unemployment due to I was classified as an independent contractor and not an employee. So I get zero help.

    I just “inherited” a house with a mortgage. And do not know how I will pay the next one. I have made only $ 20.00 through an outsourcing company and sold about $38 dollars on Ebay last month.

    Is there any help for the unemployed to pay bills even a loan to pay bills?

    • Leslie Drew says:

      I am not aware of any loans available to people without an income. As far as the inherited house, you could look into either selling it or possibly renting it out. In the meantime, you should contact your lender to find out if they have any assistance available to homeowners having financial difficulties.

      Check with your state’s local unemployment office not just the website. Back when you had to actually visit the unemployment office local charities and organizations would post fliers there advertising helpful services they offered the unemployed. Besides that, talking directly to a person that works with the unemployed in your area might provide you with more specific help for your unique situation.


  1. [...] When I was unemployed  I was forced to “forget” some bills myself. I’m sure you have some bills you would like to also forget. When you are in a financial pinch you’re forced to make some tough financial decisions. [...]

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