Over 12 million people in the United States are unemployed. That number is probably underestimated as it does not include those who have simply given up looking for a job.
If you are one of them, or if you are simply strapped for cash due to fewer hours worked, no overtime, or other cutbacks or difficulties, you are not alone even though you may feel like you are.
Beware: good people in bad situations can unfortunately be easy prey for those who claim to help but are really out to exploit your misfortune. And one of the ways they do that is to claim that they can help you get a grant to pay bills.
The bad news is that there is no such thing as a government grant to pay bills. Period. Regardless of what you read or how good a promise sounds—wishing will not make it so. There is good news, however: there are legitimate ways to raise cash quickly to pay bills, spend less and reduce debt. And there are agencies and other organizations you can turn to in your quest for help.
To avoid this situation in the future, see if the new “MyRA” - new retirement plan proposed by President Obama - could help you start saving some money. Learn more about Obama's plan.
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First, there is no way to avoid the fact that the best way to stave off bankruptcy or outright destitution is to earn more, spend less and reduce debt. These are tall orders and solutions that typically take a while. But here we share some ideas, both about what to avoid and what to try:
What To Avoid
- First, avoid websites and organizations that claim they can get you a grant to pay bills. They will take your personal information and your money and you will never see a grant. If you want to know if you are entitled to any government benefits, you can fill out a very thorough questionnaire on benefits.gov – a description and instructions are included in our article on Grants for Widows With Children.
- Payday Loans: Legitimate storefront operations may have their place but unless you are a disciplined bill-payer and have a source of income, you should consider them a last resort. If you do take such a loan, pay it back as fast as possible and do not make it a habit!
- Online Lenders who stress their speed and claim that you don’t need references or even a decent credit score should also be avoided!
- Collections Agencies If you’ve got a bill that has gone to collections you should not ignore it — and not opening it will not make it go away. In fact, if the creditor has a strong case they may take you to court — and then you are in deeper trouble. But be sure any such bill is something that you actually owe before you prioritize paying it. If you don’t recognize the bill, or think there has been a mistake, definitely ask for proof. And past billing statements are not sufficient — the collections agency must prove that you actually do owe the creditor. If the payment owed is very old, check the laws in your state. There are actually some statute of limitations laws in some states that cancel out extremely old bills.
Quick Cash Possibilities To Look For
- Sometimes you just have to ask for it. It can be hard to swallow your pride but that may be your best option. If you are about to get evicted because you can't pay your rent, talk to your local Community Services Agency. They sometimes will provide cash for short term needs and help you get your life back together. The Salvation Army and Catholic Charities are another place to look. You might also check with a local church to see if they have a ministry that would help support you. Also see the article I Need Help and take advantage of the suggestions there.
- First, be sure you are paying what bills you can strategically. Are you now trying to deal with bills you can’t pay by ignoring them? Even just not opening them? That might delay your problems for a while but you could be putting yourself in serious danger of things like getting your service cut off or your car repossessed or even lawsuits and your wages being garnished. Instead, think about handling your bills strategically. Make sure the most important ones get dealt with first — like the ones that take care of your home and utilities. Check out sources of aid like ones you can find in low income help. And if you really can’t afford to live where you are it may be time to seriously consider moving.
- Sometimes you can get some short term help — that is, cash — for a critical need. There are Community Services Agencies all over the country and they provide a wide range of goods and services. Sometimes you are just in a really tough spot and risk losing your house or apartment if you can’t come up with a payment fast. If you’re honestly trying and just down on your luck, these agencies will (depending on the level of availability of their funds) make a payment for you. They may even go further and provide counseling and help finding another place to live if necessary. It’s not fun to ask but it may be necessary —- and they are there to help people because they care. Give it a try.
- Various sites on the internet offer platforms where you can try to “crowdfund” financial assistance from the public. One that is quite different is called “net wish.” We have not found any reviews either positive or negative but they might be worth a try. It claims it was founded by a wealthy businessman who simply wishes to help others totally anonymously. To request help you simply fill out a contact form with your name, email, and complete address. Then you type in your “netwish.” They provide a couple of samples of fulfilled nitwits so you have something to follow. They do not provide any cash payments. They provide support only through gift certificates or a prepaid credit card. They also promise to keep your information completely private. Be sure to provide accurate information as they might need to contact you. As we said, we cannot guarantee that this is legit but it appears that the risk is low and who knows, you might get some quick help.
- If you have a decent car and a good driving record, why not drive for Uber? They will even help you lease a car if you do't have one. The sign-up procedure is apparently pretty simple, and you can drive only the hours you want to – just turn the app on when you want fares and turn it off when you don't.
- Contact Your Creditor: You may be able to find direct assistance for certain types of bills. If you are afraid that your water or electircity may be shut off due to nonpayment, contact your utilities directly. Tell them your plight and ask for an extension or an outright waiver of your amount due.
- If you need assistance with healthcare issues,check out our Domain Discuss review of the new federal website healthcare.gov. Note in particular our section called Favorite Feature as it can help you find free or low-cost medical care and assistance in your area.
- If you are overwhelmed with existing Medical Bills, see if you can retain the services of a medical bill advocate. These folks specialize in finding errors in medical bills or insurance coverage (or non-coverage) and save you lots of money (15-35% of hospital bills have errors!). Many of them work on contingency, meaning they only get paid if they do in fact save you money. You can check out advocates near you by contacting Medical Billing Advocates or the Patient Advocate Foundation.
- Work with a credit consolidator and see if you can reduce your overall amount owed and combine all your debts into one regular payment in order to reduce your stress level.
- If you are a single mom having trouble making ends meet, see our advice and resources in Grants For Single Moms.
- Do a search for “unclaimed money” that may rightfully be yours – the government is holding over $30 billion such funds! It's easy and free - see our article about How To Find Unclaimed Money.
- If you have exhausted your hopes of finding a job, don’t give up! There are lots of traditional and non-traditional means of earning some cash out there these days. Consider some of these ideas:
- Offer a service to people in your area. Figure out what you can do that may be of value to others: do errands, walk dogs, be a handyman or woman, wash cars. Visit local churches and see if they have community bulletin boards where you can post your services. See if they might need some services themselves!
- Do you have extra stuff you’ve been meaning to get rid of? Try a traditional yard sale, or sell items on CraigsList or EBay.
- Go non-traditional and offer your services on the website fiverr.com. Read through other people’s offers to get ideas. Or check out the gigs on Amazon Mechanical Turks — typically tasks that are challenging for machines but that a person can do fairly easily.
- Get a part-time job that involves tips — then you don’t have to wait a week or two to see some cash.
- If you are crafty or artistic try selling items on Etsy. Highlight beautiful photographs on Pinterest to drive traffic to your store.
- Avoid getting into this predicament in the future by spending less and saving more. A great way to get started is to get educated by someone with your best interest at heart. You may have heard of Clark Howard — he is a very popular radio host who helps people spend smart and avoid getting ripped off so they can build a future for themselves and their familiies. He has a very highly rated book out called “Living Large in Lean Times” and we highly recommend it.
In addition to showing you how to find great deals and ways to save money he also provides trustworthy tips about finding lost or unclaimed cash in your name and legitimate work-at-home opportunities.