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.
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!
Quick Cash Possibilities To Look For
- 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.