Not everyone is lucky.
A Long Time Reader Writes:
I am an older single female, living alone in a small, yet expensive apartment. I am on disability leave from work and don’t get enough to live on, and make too much to qualify for food stamps. I am on budget for the electric bill, and I have bundled my phone, cable and DSL which is a good thing (really.). Here is what I have totally, for month to month (19th to 19th):
- Rent: $795.00
- Lights: $82.00
- Phone/Cable/DSL: $175.00 (this is the highest so far due to the overseas/long distance calls I needed to make)
- Prescriptions & Doctor Visits (Monthly): $198.00
Just with the above, I’m already in the hole about $75. I bundled the cable with the DSL and phone because it literally is cheaper than all three separately. DSL is $30. Cable alone was almost $300. Phone varied, but it could be as high as $180 a month. I’ve ‘dumbed-down’ my cable. I don’t have any movie channels, and it’s the basic with 200 other channels. The lower tiers don’t have the channels I watch in the middle of the night or any other time when I can’t sleep and I can’t find anything I really want to watch on tv and my package is going up $30 on June 1st.
I also need to pay for a cleaning lady once a month and that in itself is expensive. Where do groceries and laundry quarters come in?
I have no savings and nothing left in my checking account til the 19th. Help.
YIIIIIIIKEEEEEEES. Cut, cut, cut is what you need to do. Here’s what I mean:
My electricity bill is $55 and there are actually 4 people + baby Sara in our two bedroom apartment (it was $25 when it was only the two of us). Is there a way to lower this? Use more natural air, turn off lights whenever you can, unplug anything that uses electricity whenever you don’t use it (except the fridge of course). I know it’s difficult to think of these small habits when there seems to be a much bigger problem at hand but small steps help in a big way through time too. Taking responsibility starts now.
My electricity company also has a lower rate program for people who have lower income. Since you are on disability, maybe you can call them and see if you can lower your bills. That goes with all the utilities company. Call each one and see if you can get some help.
All Those Broadband Expenses
The phone/cable/DSL bill is pretty high. You didn’t state where you which countries you were calling, but look into a service called vonage (vonage.com) or even use skype (skype.com) to make your phone calls. Where are you calling to? Skype.com can make computer to computer calls for free no matter where the destination is, and they have a very good rate for making calls from the computer to people’s phones. There are also other services out there that uses the internet to make calls too. You should look into this. I’m certain that with some minor adjustments, you can save $100 or more a month here.
How much is your cable right now? Can you use dish network? I see commercials for like $15 for the first 6 or 12 months. All those companies have specials for the first few months of signing up with them. It may be a hassle, but you can always keep switching every few months to get a better rate. Also, calling the companies almost always get you a few new discounts too.
Another thing with cable. Can you get Netflix instead of paying $50 – $100 on cable? It’s not the same, but once you get used to it, I’m sure time passes just as well with a $8.99 Netflix subscription than a $100 cable channel. You can always get local news through free broadcast to supplement your movies selection.
If you use Skype for calls, Netflix for movies and just have your DSL, I bet your $175 bill becomes more like $40 since you can cut out cable and phone all together. It will take some adjustments (like you said, you may not be able to watch that favorite show in the middle of the night), but for $135 every month and if it means food on the table, I urge you to change your habits.
Talk to your doctor about your prescription and visits. Maybe they can even lower your co-pay or setup an interest free payment plan. Everything is negotiable. The hospital where Emma delivered would give anyone a 10% discount as long as they called and offered to pay over the phone. Guess what we did every time we got a bill from them?
If you take the time to explain your situation to your doctor’s billing department, I’m sure something can be worked out.
Rental Assistance Program
I heard that there are many non-profit organizations that will help pay your rent. I did a quick search online, and found a few in my area. However, I have no experiences with any of them so I don’t want to mislead you by posting names. What I would do is go to your community center and ask for to see if you can find more information. Libraries and the city hall may also be good places to look this information up.
This reader’s situation clearly needs your immediately help. Please offer suggestions, encouragement or anything you could think of to help her get through this difficult time and please be nice. Bills are due now. Can you think of anything that can ease the tension? Do you have any experience with the rental assistance programs I mentioned and can offer more information?
Your thoughts are very deeply appreciated.