Being behind on bills is tough. It’s also frustrating, annoying and can make you feel hopeless.

But instead of worrying, put a plan in place to get back in control and to make the situation less overwhelming.

Once you have a plan, start taking small steps, one at a time, and don’t quit until you have turned the entire situation around.

So let’s get started, putting a plan in place.

First things First

Create a list of every bill you owe. Take a clean sheet of paper and begin adding columns for four critical pieces of information.

Column 1: The name of the creditor

Column 2: The required minimum payment

Column 3: The full balance due (if applicable)

Column 4: The interest rate (if applicable)

Next and very important, beneath the name of the creditor, write down the phone number to reach customer service.

This is important because when you’re behind on bills, it is best to call your creditor to discuss the status of your account. You would be surprised how they might be able to share information that could help restore the health of your account.

Dodging and ignoring calls from creditors only makes the situation worst.

If you handle it, they will stop calling. Think about it, when someone owes you something, one of the worst things they can do is ignore you.  It makes you feel insignificant and undervalued and let’s be honest, no one wants to feel that way.

So calling your creditor to discuss your account in a calm and polite manner will go a long way.

What to Say When You Call Your Creditor

When you call your creditor, the objective is to state your intentions of bringing your account current. That’s all.

You want to be clear on the amount required to bring your account current and what dates work best for you. Now if you’re able to pay the full amount owed, great!

If you’re not able to bring the account current and you need time to earn or save what is required, just be honest and direct with the customer service representative.

Did you hear that…be direct. Not mean, rude, or disrespectful.

As a matter of fact, practice by saying the following:

“You know, I never intended to fall behind on my account. I accept responsibility for what has happened and now I would like to restore my account to  good standing. In order to do that, I need (state your time frame…1 week, 2 weeks, etc) to pay the past due amount. What can you do to update my account with this information and to reflect that I will pay this amount by (state the date)?”

And then, stop talking and wait for the associate to respond.

Hopefully they will accept your terms and update your account based on the conversation.

If they are unable or unwilling to accept this arrangement, ask to speak to a manager or someone who can assist you. You can also decide to end the call if you feel like you’re not getting what you want. 

Either way, remain calm and in control by focusing on your objective and not your emotions.

Should I Allow the Creditor to Draft My Account?

Here’s a MAJOR QUESTION…Should you allow a creditor to withdraw funds from your checking account in order to bring a past due account current? 

NO! Absolutely Not.

Be adamant that you will send the payment from your checking account using your bank’s bill pay services or some other means.

Granting someone approval to withdraw money from your account is rarely a good idea. It normally opens the door to regret and unintended consequences, so don’t do it.  

Creditors can sometimes say or do things they shouldn’t so it’s important to know your rights as a consumer. Check out Fair Debt Collection Practices for more information.  


Stick to Your Payment Schedule

Make sure you have enough money in your account to cover any payments you agree to. If something happens that prevents you from making the payment, call the creditor right away. Talk through the circumstances and do not end the call until you have settled on what works for you.

I can’t stress the importance of using your best communication skills. Yelling, sarcasm, rudeness and pettiness quickly lowers your negotiating power. Remain calm. Speak clearly and state your intentions.

If the associate is not able to assist you or won’t assist you, kindly ask to speak to a manager.

Keep escalating (calmly) until you speak to someone who has the authority to help you. If that person is not available today, call back tomorrow.

Getting on track requires a plan which places you in charge of the situation. Be clear about your goals and set a deadline to become current on any late bills.

Which Bills Should You Pay First? 

This can be tricky if you’re in a situation where several bills are behind. Some people are juggling late car payments, utilities and/or credit cards which can be very tough.

However just breeeeeeathe and get on a plan to walk through this until you’re on the other side.

While in our own personal financial storm, our first priority was our family. Paying our mortgage each month was our primary goal.

Then we prioritized our car payments (Lawd, what a mess we had created!) Then the utilities were next.

We needed a roof over us with working utilities and transportation to get back and forth to work.

We paid what we could on each bill and kept in touch with our creditors. We kept focused that this would not last forever and eventually things did get better until we were able to catch up every bill and pay most of them off.

So, the most important thing is to get started.

Paying bills is not fun like a shopping excursion or a relaxing vacation but paying bills is responsible and will drastically reduce your stress. So worry about the fun part later and for now, just believe that you can turn this around!