Christmas Bills, Holiday Bills, Kwanzaa Bills, And Chanukah Bills Are Coming. Here is What to Do When It’s Time to Pay Them And You Can’t.

Every single year a new crop of unprepared consumers gets blindsided by the post holiday bills which begin to arrive after the middle of January. It is a predictable phenomena. Credit counselors and debt counselors get really slow before the holidays and then slammed when those post holiday bills roll in.

And even though many promised to not overspend this year, they did and even though people spent less due to economic worries, some still spent more than they can repay now, for a wide variety of reasons. So what do you do when the holiday decorations are packed away but the depressing bills arrive and you realize that you can’t pay them? Here is a step-by-step plan on what you do.

Don’t Panic

Yes, I completely understand that it is easy to say not to panic, but it is really good advice. The moment the holidays bills land in your mailbox and your first instinct is that you don’t want to look at them, please look at them. Not opening the bills does not alter the situation at all. The only thing that accomplishes is reducing the amount of time you have to deal with the situation due to procrastination.

If you can’t pay the bill in full, you just can’t. It is what it is. If you haven’t been behind in your bills before you are going to panic, or feel depressed, ashamed or scared. You just are. But those emotions are your feelings and certainly not how others are going to judge you. I’m sure not.

From the creditor point of view you are nothing but a number on a screen. Your creditors don’t have time to make judgments about your morality or integrity, they’ve got millions and millions of people that are behind on their bills also. They could really care less about those issues but they love to use them as collection jabs at you because they know you’ll react when they push those buttons. When the bill panic waves over you it will feel as if you are the only person in the world with that problem but you’re not.

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Deep Breathing Really Helps

So when the panic and anxiety hit the best thing to do is the simplest, just breathe. Honestly, taking deep breaths, breathe in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds and exhale for five seconds, really reduces your stress. The stress and panic are intensified by you not taking in enough oxygen and hyperventilating. Practicing this breathing technique will help to minimize those anxious feelings.

Don’t Over Promise and Under Deliver

The minute a collector calls and asks politely where the payment is, your first reaction is promise the payment they are asking for and that is probably the worst thing you can do. You perception is that by telling them what they want to hear that it will make everything better. It will until the payment you promised is missed or late because it was really not affordable for you. When you don’t keep up with your payment promises then you become unreliable and a liar from a collector point of view. That just inflames them. It is much better to be honest about what you can afford from the start than to make the situation worse by agreeing to an unrealistic promise.

In order to get a grip on what you can really afford, don’t make a budget, make a spending plan. A spending plan is based on your real income and expenses and not a wish list on how you would like to spend your money, like a budget. An online tool I like for this is Mvelopes.

Calling Your Creditors Before You Fall Behind Is a Waste of Time

Even though you are in a panic when you realize you can’t pay those bills, a common instinct is to want to call your creditors and let them know you are headed for trouble, they don’t care. As long as you are current on your bills the creditors don’t offer any real beneficial terms to help you dig yourself out of the hole you are in.

Seek Help

If you are just a bit short on your bills but can pay about 80% of what it owed, click here for credit counseling information. A debt management company may be able to arrange a payment plan you can meet. If your life circumstances have drastically changed and you just can’t afford to pay your bills, go talk to a bankruptcy attorney. Bankruptcy might be right for you and the sooner you file bankruptcy, the sooner you can get on with your life.

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I’m Always Here For You

When I was living through my financial problems I could not sleep, I was anxious, depressed, lost and confused. The calls from the collectors freaked me out and I just didn’t know what to do. But over the years I’ve worked with so many people in the same situation that it no longer phases me in the least and I’ve learned to see the situation from the outside. It is what it is and that’s all that it is, just bills you can’t pay and emotional misfortune.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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