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What to do when an unexpected bill arrives and you’re skint

Published 13 April 2015 by

When you’re literally skint, so have no money in the bank, very little or nothing in your purse or wallet and no access to any other cash, it can be very stressful. And according to research* carried out on our behalf, 2 in 3 Brits know what it’s like to be in this situation. If you are skint, what do you do if you’re hit with an unexpected bill? Here’s our advice:

What to do when an unexpected bill arrives

1. Don’t ignore the problem

If you’re skint and an unexpected bill lands on your doormat, you may feel tempted to just ignore it and hope that it goes away, but this is never the answer. The lender or company will just send another reminder, and if they don’t receive a response they’ll continue to contact you until they do. They may also add charges and interest to your account, so you could end up owing more than your original bill, meaning you’ll have to find even more spare cash. As a last resort, they might even end up instructing a debt collection agency to try to collect the debt or even take you to court. That’s why it’s best to tackle the situation head on.

2. Think twice before borrowing

Borrowing a few quid to “tide you over” might seem like an easy solution. But it may just make the problem worse. If you are already struggling to make ends make, think how much worse it could be when you have to repay the loan plus the interest that is due.

3. Rethink your budget

Do you have money in your account that’s earmarked for something else? If the unexpected bill is a priority bill (one that could have serious repercussions – for example your gas or electricity could be switched off as a result of not paying), it needs to be paid before something like a gym membership or magazine subscription. If this is the case, use that money to pay off your unexpected bill. If you’ve got a thinkmoney Personal Account, a Money Manager can go through your budget with you and look to free up some money that might be being held for bills and budget for them later.

Also, spend some time going through your budget and see if there are things you’re overspending on. Maybe you could switch and save on your electricity and gas, TV package or broadband deals?

4. Negotiate

If you really can’t pay then it is important to speak to your lender or the company that have sent you the bill and explain that you are struggling financially. Try to do this as soon as possible. They’re often a lot more understanding than you’d think and are legally obliged to treat you fairly. Offer to provide them with a copy of your budget and a breakdown of your income and outgoings. They may allow you to pay the bill over a number of months rather than demanding payment in full, making it more affordable for you.

5. Try to save

Although this won’t help you with the immediate problem, it could prepare you if the situation ever comes around again. When money is tight, the idea of putting money away might be the last thing on your mind but if you can save even just a couple of pounds a week, it all helps. It’s good to build up some savings that you can rely on in an emergency or when an unexpected bill arrives in the future. It could be as simple as having a savings pot on the sideboard that you can drop coins into whenever you can.