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How to cope with an unexpected bill

How to cope with an unexpected bill

When you get a bill that's unexpected or surprisingly large, it can feel overwhelming. If this happens there are a few things you can do to minimise the impact.

Step 1: Assess your budget

Are there any areas of your spending you can cut back to cover the payment? If you’re able to put enough money aside by reducing something, for example how often you dine out, then that could be the most simple solution.

If you don’t have a budget, now could be a good time to build one so you can do the above and also help you manage bill payments in the future.

Step 2: Ask for an extension on the payment

Some billers will allow you to set up a payment plan so you can break the bill up into chunks that you repay over time. Give the biller a call and see if this is an option. Remember that this will drag the repayment out and if you can, it’s best to clear the bill as soon as possible.

Moving forward you may be able to negotiate with billers like electricity companies to do ‘bill smoothing’ – this is where you make more regular payments to avoid one large one every couple of months.

Step 3: Apply for assistance

If it’s a telephone, electricity, water or gas bill you may be able to apply for a rebate or voucher from the Australian Government. Get more information on who to call to find out if you can apply.

Step 4: Apply for a loan

Depending on your circumstances you may be able to apply for a loan through the Australian Government that offers low or no interest.

You may also be able to use a credit card or personal loan to cover the payment. Keep in mind that you’ll have to make ongoing repayments on this debt so this will have to be factored into your budget for the next couple of months. You’ll likely be charged interest on this debt so it’s best to try one of the methods above if you can.

Where to go if you need support

If the steps above aren’t enough to make ends meet, look for assistance where possible. The Department of Human Services can help you find out what services are available for you.

If you’re a CommBank customer, you can call us on 13 3095 or request financial assistance in NetBank if you are behind, or think you are likely to fall behind, in paying what you owe. See more about our support options – including our Financial Assistance Solutions teams who are here to support you in getting back on your feet in times of financial difficulty.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice.