I am having problems paying my bills. It seems I get one paid and another one jumps up and wants me to pay it next. I don’t know what to do. I told my parents I could live on my own—I have a roommate—but now I’m not so sure I can do it. I work full-time and go to school part-time and it just seems like I don’t have time to do anything and now this is happening. I am trying my best. I have resorted to boxed macaroni and cheese but still I find my money doesn’t go as far as it should, especially for those emergencies that come up. What should I do?
Stop worrying and take a bill inventory. Write down all of the bills you pay on a monthly basis (including grocery trips). Estimate what you pay out yearly for emergencies—like car repairs, sick visits to the doctor, etc. and divide that by 12. You now have a monthly average of emergency expenses that you know must be in the bank. If you owe on credit cards, make sure you add this as part of your bill inventory. Credit cards are the worst things on the planet unless you can pay off the bill in a month, and many college students abuse them because they seem to be any easy way out when that dreaded bill comes.
After you make the list, write down what you bring in. You said that you don’t have enough money to pay all the bills that come in, (especially the emergencies) and if this is true you will see it in black and white on your piece of paper. If you find that the amount you bring in monthly is greater than the inventory, great. You may actually make enough to live on your own. But something has happened during the month to leave you short.
You have either forgotten to include certain things like clothing expenses or you are being frivolous without knowing it; perhaps stopping at the gas station for a Coke when you fill up on gas, or going out to eat more than you remembered.
I find that I spend money without thinking of how it will add up. I think, “This one little thing won’t make a difference.” But it does; especially when you’re on a budget.
If you find that even after paring down and trying to work with a budget doesn’t work, you may decide that having a car isn’t as necessary as you think—that the bus, though more inconvenient—will save you from car repairs and filling up the gas tank. You may find that letting go of these two bills will free you up enough for you to remain on your own. You may choose to sell your car in favor of a less expensive one, one less glamorous surely, but one sufficient enough to get you to school and back. It may be that you decide to move back home for a time until you can get back on your feet. You may even decide to talk with your roommate about your problem. It may be that your roommate knows something about your financial habits that you completely forgot about.
Whatever you do, don’t use your credit cards for buying your groceries or paying your bills. This will only push you deeper in that all too common sinkhole called debt. Set aside some money. Spend less than you earn. Do whatever you need to do to get back on track.