By Diann Douglas
Now that summer vacations are over and the kids are back in school, some families may realize they have extra bills to pay. With summer trips and back to school shopping, overspending may have occurred, and the consequences can be disastrous. If your family is one of those who over spent this summer and now can’t pay the bills, there are some things you can do.
First, if you find that you can’t pay your bills; discuss the problem with your family. They helped create the problem and can be a vital part of the solution. Stress family cooperation, including sacrifices for a few months. Delay buying items or services that are not essential and control spending.
Involve all of your family members. Have each person list all required expenses, per day, per week, and for each month; then add them for a total. The next step is to make a weekly or monthly spending plan including all living costs and bills. Young children may not understand family finances, but they can understand that you have to eat at home and not go to the movies for a few months to get some bills paid off. Make time to do some fun activities at home, like a ball game in the back yard or making a picnic lunch instead of going to a restaurant.
Once you develop a spending plan, compare it with your family’s income. If there is enough income to cover expenses, your problem is money control, and you will need to keep close check on spending. If you don’t have enough income to cover expenses, look for ways to cut expenses.
Get your family to help with reducing expenses. Consider a month of low-cost living; buy only items and services that cannot be postponed until next month. Cut back on flexible expenses, such as groceries or electricity to reduce bills. Everyone can turn off the lights when they leave a room or trim the grocery bill by eliminating high cost snacks and convenience foods. Take lunch to work each day and save the money you would spend eating out, then direct that money to help pay bills.
Explore possibilities of increasing income at least until the financial hardship is over. Some family members may be able to find temporary, part- time employment. Taking on lawn work or babysitting jobs can earn extra money. Another great way to generate funds is to clean out closets and have a garage sale.
After working these strategies, if you still can’t pay your bills on time, talk to your creditors. Tell them your problem and what you plan to do to solve it. Don’t be late with payments or skip one. Creditors are more understanding when you make the initial contact, so don’t stick your head in the sand and ignore their calls.
If you have talked with your family, made an income and spending plan, talked to your creditors and still can’t make necessary payments, you may want to talk with a non-profit consumer counseling service. Madison County Extension Service can assist you with developing a family spending plan or a debt repayment plan. Taking charge of your money will empower you to get your finances into better shape.
For more information on managing money, contact the Madison County Extension Service.The University of Florida Extension – Madison County is an Equal Employment Opportunity Affirmative Action Employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin.