I’m going to give you the best piece of Adult Life Is Hard advice I’ve ever learned:
Talk to people when things go to shit.
I don’t just mean get it off your chest, although that’s good. I mean: Something’s wrong with your paycheck/you lost your job/you had unexpected emergency car repairs and now you’re broke so your credit card payment is late. Like, not just 15 days late. We’re talking, shit got crazy and now you’re 90 days late with compounded interest and late fees and the Minimum Payment Due is, like, $390, and you’ve got about $3.90 in your bank account. Call the credit card company.
I know it’s scary. I know you feel like you’re going to get in trouble, like you’re gong to get yelled at or scolded for not having your life together. But the credit card company isn’t your parents; they’re just interested in getting money from you. And you can’t squeeze blood from a stone or money from someone who doesn’t have any. So what you do is you call them. You explain you’re experiencing temporary financial hardships, and you’re currently unable to bring your account up to date, but you don’t want to just let it get worse. Can you maybe talk to someone about a payment plan so you can work something out? Nine times out of ten you’ll be able to negotiate something so that at least it’s not just taking a constant, giant shit on your credit score.
- Can’t pay your power bill? Call the power company.
- Can’t pay your full rent? Talk to your landlord.
- Had to go to the hospital without insurance and have giant medical bills looming in your place? Call the hospital and ask if they have someone who helps people with financial hardships. Many do.
- Got super sick and missed half a semester of class because flu/pneumonia/auto-immune problems/depressive episode? Talk to your professor. If that doesn’t help, talk to your advisor.
You may not be able to fix everything, but you’ll likely be able to make improvements. At the very least, it’s possible that they have a list of people you can contact to help you with things. (Also, don’t be afraid to google things like, “I can’t pay my power bill [state you live in]” because you’d be surprised at what turns up on Google!) But the thing is, people in these positions gain nothing if you fail. There’s no emotional satisfaction for them if your attempts at having your life together completely bite the dust. In fact, they stand to benefit if things work out for you! And chances are, they’ll be completely happy to take $20 a month from you over getting $0 a month from you, your account will be considered current because you’ve talked to them and made an agreement, you won’t get reported to a collections agency, and your credit score won’t completely tank.
Here’s some helpful tips to keep in mind:
1. Be polite. Don’t demand things; request them. Let me tell you about how customer service people hold your life in their hands and how many extra miles they’ll go for someone who is nice to them.
2. Stick to the facts, and keep them minimal unless asked for them. Chances are they’re not really interested in the details. “We had several family emergencies in a row, and now I’m having trouble making the payments” is better than “Well, two months ago my husband wrecked his bike, and then he had a reaction to the muscle relaxer they gave him, and then our dog swallowed a shoestring and we had to take him to the emergency clinic, and just last week MY car broke down, and now my account’s in the negatives and I don’t know how I’m gonna get it back out.” The person you’re talking to is aware shit happens to everyone; they don’t need the details to prove you’re somehow “worthy” of being helped. They may ask you for details at a certain point if they have to fill out any kind of request form, but let them do that.
3. Ask questions. “Is there anything we can do about X?” “Would it be possible to move my payment date to Y day instead so it’s not coming out of the same paycheck as my rent?” The answer may be “no.” That’s not a failure on your part. But a good customer service person may have an alternate solution.
Anyway! I hope that helps! Don’t just assume the answer is “no” before you’ve even begun. There is more help out there than you ever imagined.
Hey guys, this is an old post, but it’s still relevant, and I thought I’d re-up it for living in COVID times when a lot of people are losing income. Don’t be afraid to toss that in when you call to ask for help! “I’ve experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19″ is gonna be all you need to say for most places, because wow let me tell you how much this is the case. A lot of places are setting up COVID-19 specific relief policies, so this may be even easier than normal.
Good luck, stay safe, stay inside if you can, and wash your hands. <3