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I Need Help With Money!
Prevention is always better than cure. Management is always better than solution. Thus, before we get “I need help with money!” situations, it is best that we manage our utility bills while they are in order. By definition, a utility bill is an invoice received by a household for payment of metered usage of electricity, gas, or other utilities at a residence. With the growing demand, decrease in supply, and increase in poverty, some households find it hard to cope up with the payments for these basic home utilities. Thus, there are struggling households that need help paying utility bills. There are federal agencies and non-governmental groups that extend assistance to households that are struggling to keep up with their utility bills. Grants are also extended to families below the federal poverty guidelines. Assistance is commonly offered for payment of utility bills, including heating and cooling bills. Grants are offered in either crisis programs or assistance programs, which means that a family does not need to have an unpaid bill to avail of the assistance. Though these are supportive solutions when things go uncontrollable, it is still best to manage finances before they jumble up and take over our lives.
Financial Management: Avoiding “I need help with money!” Situations
One of the most important needs in life is money. Money can buy every comfort that we need. Thus, management of financial assets is very vital to achieving a comfortable life. Surveys have tracked eighteen financial-management behaviors, ranging from very basic money management skills (tracking expenses, paying bills on time) to more sophisticated ones (diversifying investments). Household financial management should hold not only for home utilities but this should also extend to savings and checking accounts to credit cards, mortgages, home equity loans, and investments. According to surveys, the households that succumb to financial grants and aids are those that do not follow recommended financial practices due to lack of knowledge about principles of financial management and financial matters. Below are simplified steps in how to manage household finances.
RECOGNITION: First Major Step in Household Financial Management
The first and most critical step in organizing one’s financial situation is recognizing needed finances and choosing to take steps to organize them. The ability to effectively manage household finances has little to do with the ability to understand stocks, economy, inflation and deflation rates, etc. While knowledge on the economic aspects may be helpful, understanding personal needs and expenditures is the most important part. According to most economic surveys, one’s behavior and ability to control expenditures are related to one’s financial problems.
BUDGET: Second Major Step in Household Financial Management
To budget is basically to plan on expenditures against the money that is expected to come in for the household. It is simply writing down all the expenses for the month and all the money that is coming for the month to see the difference. The difference will determine how you will control the spending and how to cope up ahead if there is a negative difference. While budgeting, it is also important to know how to priorities the needs over the wants and the most needed over those that are less needed.
The Rest of the Steps in Household Financial Management
The rest of the steps are as important to the first two but not as major as the first two. Once you have the first two done, the rest will be easy to follow.
- Step 3 – Follow the Budget
- Step 5 – Keep an Emergency Fund
- Step 6 – Pay Out the Debts
- Step 7 – Stay Our of Debts
- Step 8 – Save
- Step 9 – Invest
- Step 10 – Enjoy
With household financial management, one can keep off from “I need help with money!” situations.
In an ideal world, every one of us would have at least six months of living expenses in an emergency fund to cover our rent or mortgage, food, and other necessary expenses until the emergency is over.
In reality, even when we do save for a rainy day, sometimes the deluge is so strong it can overwhelm us. As emergency expenses drain our savings, we may find ourselves devastated and wondering how we can possibly recover.
Fortunately, resources are available for individuals and families who need emergency financial assistance. We’ve put together a list of those resources here, including free emergency fundraising on our site.
How to find help
While Americans often pride ourselves on our bootstrapping independence, a 2011 survey found that 64% of us don’t have enough cash on hand to handle so much as a $1,000 emergency.
If you haven’t saved for such an emergency, you may quickly find yourself in debt. Sure, you can turn to cash advances or credit cards—but these have downstream financial implications that can often set you up for more financial crises. Ultimately, high-interest rates and debt burdens only diminish your ability to deal with financial shocks.
To deal effectively with your emergency and recover from it, follow these four key steps.
1. Don’t panic
If you panic, you’re more likely to make bad financial decisions. So the first thing to do is breathe. Look at your situation from an objective point of view and try to think rationally about your next steps. If you’re still not sure what to do, get advice from someone who’s dealt successfully with a financial emergency like yours.
2. Know your priorities
While you probably prioritize your spending already, you’ll need to re-work that based on the emergency situation at hand. It’s called belt-tightening for a reason. Go through your budget item by item looking for ways you can cut expenses to an absolute minimum. Small cuts add up. Does your new budget reflect your new priorities?
3. Spend only on essentials
Your reprioritized budget can give you a clearer view of what you need and don’t need in your life. Spend only on necessities such as food, shelter, utilities, etc. It all adds up, so eliminating things that may seem like trivial expenses can actually have a huge impact in the end. Don’t spend money on things you don’t need until you’re out of your financial emergency. You may also need to forestall non-crucial payments to improve short-term cash flow.
4. Ask for help
Most important, reach out to others when you’re in this situation. It’s OK to ask for help when you need it, especially in a situation where you can’t face your expenses alone. Though many in your community of friends and family may not all be able to help you financially, they may be able to drive you to work or cook for you once in a while. They may also help you fundraise to get out of your financial troubles.
Keeping these four points in mind, here are some concrete financial resources available to US residents.
Government assistance programs
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
The federal government provides each state with grants to operate its TANF program, also known as welfare. TANF programs vary from state to state in terms of eligibility requirements and services. After you apply, you’ll receive a list of services that you qualify for, potentially including help with housing, food, childcare, and more.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
This federal program helps people heat their homes during winter and cool them in summer. Their aim is to reduce the number of struggling Americans who die every year from a simple lack of heating or air conditioning. LIHEAP can also help with low-cost repairs to heating and air conditioning systems if those repairs ultimately help lower your energy bill. (Your local utility company may also have reduced rates or other benefits for families in need—it’s worth a call to find out.)
State Housing Finance Agency
If you need emergency rent assistance, contact your state’s housing finance agency. States vary in terms of the type of support they offer, but their goal is to help people find affordable housing. Services can range from help with down payments for a new home to helping pay your mortgage so you can keep your home.
Nonprofits offering emergency financial assistance
When your finances are stretched thin and you need help with money, Modest Needs can provide short-term assistance. Its focus is on helping individuals and families that don’t apply for traditional types of social assistance but are still living paycheck to paycheck. If you’re eligible, you can apply for a grant with no strings attached.
If you have health insurance but find yourself unable to pay premiums or out-of-pocket medical costs, you can apply for assistance from this nonprofit. Eligibility criteria include income level, medical condition, and health insurance coverage status.
Free Gas USA
This nonprofit is responding to the rising cost of gasoline by awarding people gasoline-buying grants ranging from $50 to $1,200. The goal is to help individuals and families meet their basic transportation needs so they can continue to get to work, school, the doctor, and more.
What if you aren’t eligible for assistance programs?
Even though there’s help out there, government and nonprofit programs often have stringent eligibility criteria and long application processes—it can take months to receive support. Trying to get financial assistance immediately can be very frustrating. That’s one reason crowdfunding can be such an essential part of your recovery—it can help secure emergency funds fast.
Need help fast? Crowdfunding to the rescue
It might surprise you to learn that not all crowdfunding platforms offer instant access to the funds you raise (you can familiarize yourself with the different platforms using this list of top crowdfunding sites). At GoFundMe, not only do we provide immediate access to your funds, we also have a 0% platform fee. That’s why our platform focuses turning compassion into action.
If you’re ready to start raising funds, you can get helpful advice with these fundraising tips and ideas. For more tips read Tips for Building a Healthy Emergency Fund.
Start a free fundraiser
I recently came to a startling realization – even though I’m making more money than I have ever earned before in my life, I’m not making nearly as much financial progress as I’d like.
Sure I’ve put a little “extra” (above my monthly budgeted amount) toward my debt and/or savings, but I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be at this point in my journey.
I started living on a budget to pay down debt and build savings in January 2014 and I’m nearly 2 years into this journey without much to show for it. I’ve paid off a few small balances on credit cards, but I’ve also made some money (and life) mistakes along the way.
As much as I love being single, one thing that really stinks about it is having no one to help me stay accountable to my budget and financial goals.
For these reasons, I decided it was finally time to seek some help with my finances. If you are in the same situation, here are a few things you can do to get help with your finances.
When you’re married or in a serious relationship, you have some built-in accountability for your finances and other life goals, but when you are single it can be hard to keep yourself accountable with no help. For that reason, I sought out an accountability partner to help me stay on-track with my financial goals.
I found a fellow personal finance blogger who was also needing some help reaching her financial goals and we decided to “team up” to make it happen. We email and text each other several times a week about our spending habits and whenever we are feeling tempted to spend money on things outside of our budgets.
Chris Peach Tip: A good accountability partner who someone who is good w/ money and someone you need to learn from – They’re usually not your shopping buddy!Click To Tweet
If that’s not enough for you to get your finances back on track, or you think you have some learning to do, consider taking a course to help kickstart you toward reaching your financial goals. Chris’ online course is an awesome way to learn about budgeting, saving, investing, and more. The first round of his course begins at the end of the month. You can learn more here.
Another way to help you get help with your finances is to hire a professional. You can hire a budgeting or debt coach to help you formulate a personalized plan for your budget and finances, or you can go a step further by hiring a Certified Financial Planner. Personally, this is the last step I would take if you are in debt. Hiring someone with knowledge is great, but it does cost more. This cost will slow down your debt progress somewhat, so if you can find help without spending much (or any) money, I’d definitely give that a try first.
Chris Peach Tip: If you’re looking for a professional to sit down with you and you don’t have the money to hire someone, look inside your local church. Many times the church will work with or know someone who can sit down with you at no charge to you.
Admitting that you need help with your finances should not make you feel ashamed. Many of us were simply not taught how to budget, save, or invest wisely and were left to make these decisions with little, or no, education. Some people are able to figure these things out for themselves, but others of us, like myself, need a little help and accountability to keep our finances on the right track.
Have you ever sought help for your finances?
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