We have all been there. One month goes by, the bills are unpaid and you think to yourself, “It’ll be fine if I pay it all off next month.” Then next month rolls around, and after paying for rent, getting groceries, and taking care of your family, there are no more funds left to pay for utility bills.
This can turn into a vicious downward spiral and end up becoming a major concern for many people. At some point, however, you have to stop and realize that instead of continuously ignoring the problem, it might be time to ask for help.
There is of course always the option of asking friends and family to provide financial support for a while; but if you don’t have that option or simply don’t want to burden anyone else with your problems, there are other ways you can get help paying for your utility bills.
Ask Your Utility Providers
Since utilities are one of the most essential elements in pretty much everyone’s life, many utility companies are built around the idea that customers need to be able to go on with their lives while trying to pay off their bills. The truth is that a majority of people have no bad intentions when missing payment deadlines, they simply don’t have the money.
That’s why most utility companies offer payment plans and deadline extensions. They key here is to act fast and early on. The bigger the problem, the harder it becomes to ask your utility providers for help.
As soon as you know that you won’t be able to pay your bills in full for a few months, immediately reach out to customer service or log onto your online payment account to research your options. The earlier you act, the better your chances of getting assistance.
All fifty U.S. states offer energy assistance programs to households that meet their low-income requirements. California’s “Home Energy Assistance Program” (HEAP), for example, provides free assistance “towards paying your natural gas or electric utility bills.”
Another example is Alabama’s “Low-Income High Energy Assistance Program” (LIHEAP), which assists low-income Alabama residents with funding provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
If you do not meet the requirements for statewide assistance programs, check out local organizations and donor groups, such as SDG&E’s “Neighbor to Neighbor” program in Southern California, which provides “up to $200 towards your SDG&E bill for customers experiencing temporary financial hardship.” The fund is sponsored by SDG&E shareholders and employees.
The “Good Samaritan Initiative” – made available by all utility companies in cities within Illinois – is another great example. It helps families get their utility services restored by “paying 20 percent or $250 of the remaining balance on an unpaid utility bill.”
Last but not least, with the growing popularity of online “crowdfunding” platforms, the Internet now provides a way to connect with people from virtually everywhere around the world to ask for help in raising money. While the programs listed above come with strict requirements and geographical limitations, online crowdfunding has almost no restrictions.
Sites like GoFundMe.com and GiveForward.com make it very easy to set up an account and launch a campaign that allows you to tell your story and connect with people who understand your situation and might donate to help you out.
Regardless of what you decide might be the best way to reach out when you need help paying for utility bills, it is always important to figure out a tangible solution early on – before it’s too late! Act when you still have options and you will surely find a way to make ends meet.
One Last Tip
Instead of waiting for the next utility bill to catch you by surprise, you can be proactive and start thinking about ways you could reduce your overall energy use to lower your bills. Companies like Homeselfe can help you do that by evaluating your household’s energy efficiency with a simple mobile app.