This Year is Tough. Here’s How to Deal With an Unexpected Bill

A couple sit down on their floor and go over their finances. The photo represents what to do when you have unexpected bills.
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At this point, we’ve all heard the statistics.

In 2019, approximately 40% of adults said they would have a hard time covering an unexpected $400 bill, according to data from the Federal Reserve. About 12% said they simply would be unable to pay it.

But what about this year? 2020 has been more difficult than ever for many Americans, so now what happens if we get hit with an unexpected car repair, medical bill or even pet emergency?

Here are a few options that could help you avoid sinking deeper into debt.

1. Negotiate a Payment Plan

If you get hit with an unexpected medical bill or need to put an unexpected expense on your credit card, it’s worth calling up these places to see if they can create a repayment plan that fits your current financial needs. You could negotiate things like the option to delay payments or lower your monthly minimums.

This isn’t always guaranteed to work, but it’s worth a shot, especially because more companies are understanding of the current circumstances.

2. Escape credit card debt immediately

If you’ve been hit with an unexpected expense and had no choice but to put in on a credit card, it might be worth looking into refinancing or consolidating your debt with a personal loan.

A lot of credit cards come with high interest rates — sometimes north of 20% — which can make paying off your balance feel like you’re financially treading water. If you refinance these with a personal loan, your interest rates could drop a whole lot lower.

If you’re not sure where to start, a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 2.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne won’t make you stand in line or call your bank, either. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could help you pay off your debt years faster.

3. Stick closely to a budget

It’s not easy, but sometimes the most effective way to deal with an unexpected expense or debt is to make a strict budget.

The 50/30/20 method is probably the least intimidating way to start.

It’s pretty simple: 50% of your monthly take-home pay goes to your essentials (think: rent, groceries, minimum debt payments, etc.), 30% goes to your personal spending (like Netflix and getting your hair done), and the last 20% goes to your financial goals.

You might have to play around with the ratios at first to find the right balance, especially with an unexpected expense, but making sure you account for that last 20% can help you pay off your debt faster.

You can also use this method to help build an emergency fund for the next unforeseen expense.