Unemployed and can’t pay bills? 7 Options

I Lost My Job and Can't Pay Bills

If you’re sitting at home thinking to yourself, “I lost my job and can’t pay bills,” you are not alone. Unfortunately, many Americans lose their jobs every day. As of August 2023, the unemployment rate in the US rose to 3.8 percent.

Losing your job, especially in a tough economy, is not only stressful and anxiety-inducing; it puts you into survival mode. After all, your job is how you keep a roof over your head, put food on the table, and provide for your family. When it comes to bills, most of us have rent, utility bills, loan payments, student loans, credit card debt, and more.

 If you’re struggling with these bill payments, there are solutions out there. Even if those solutions, like making a monthly payment while unemployed, seem impossible. Sadly, many Americans are dealing with this same financial situation.

Regardless of how you lose your job, you no longer have an income and now have to explore other options for paying your bills. But before your mind starts to spin into despair, recognize that you do have options during tough financial times. And it’s still possible to meet your multiple monthly payment plans.

Luckily, CreditNinja is here to help you deal with job loss. The following article provides actionable options for getting your bills paid during turbulent times. If you’re in need of emergency loans with no job, we’re here to help.

What Are My Options If I Lost My Job and Can’t Pay Bills?

Understandably so, your options might seem slim at first. Maybe you thought to ask a friend to spot you. You can ask your parents, or someone you trust, for financial advice. Perhaps you’ve thought of selling or pawning everything you own. 

Sure, these things can work and they may be genuine options, but in the long run they aren’t sustainable. Luckily, we’ve got some tips below to help you get through the tough times. There are plenty of options to help you, including quick cash loans and bad credit loans.

Option 1: Dive Into Your Savings & Prioritize Your Bills

The upside to this seemingly grim situation is that you used to have an income, which means you might have saved some money. A savings account is a centralized location where you can store funds to be used for a later time. Many people set up savings accounts when they are opening a checking account. 

Checking accounts are typically opened at either a large bank or credit union. They exist as centralized locations to store funds you can use immediately. You may have used direct deposit at your previous job, which allows your paychecks to be deposited directly into your checking account.

Now, we know setting yourself up for later can mean several things. Maybe, in addition to opening a traditional savings account, you might have also been contributing to a 401k. And a matching program may have even been provided by your previous employer. 

A 401k is an account specifically set up to invest and save for retirement. In any other scenario, leaving your investments to grow is ideal, but you do have the option to pull from those accounts if the need arises.

Now, this doesn’t mean you now have a chunk of cash to blow; you’ve got to be intentional behind your spending, obviously. This is why your next steps are to prioritize your bills. You can start by asking yourself: what do I need on a daily basis?

This list would probably consist of items like food, a place to live, running water, electricity, gas. Then you ask yourself: what do I need on a weekly basis? This list would likely consist of things like car fuel, transportation, internet bills, etc. Then, what do I need on a monthly basis? Once you recognize your bills, you can begin to cut down on the things that you might not need so urgently. 

Prioritizing your bills and itemizing your spending is a way to stay on top of the money you need to spend and potentially a way to save any extra spending for things you don’t need immediately.

Option 2: Qualifying for Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits may seem like they’re automatically provided for someone the second they lose their job. But it is important to realize that you must qualify for unemployment within your state. 

There are several things to consider when looking into qualifying for unemployment benefits in order to cover expenses.

One thing to consider is the manner in which you lost your job. If you are unemployed because of company decisions that you are not at fault for, you may be in the running for eligibility. An example of job loss outside of your control is company downsizing. When a company is downsizing, this means they are cutting the cost of, well, everything in the company to support it staying afloat through a period of business and financial hardship.

Downsizing, in turn, means there will be a lack of available work, and employees are likely to be laid off. When this happens, you may be entitled to severance pay. This means you can keep benefits like health insurance for a little longer.

Another thing to consider when evaluating eligibility for unemployment benefits is if you meet specific wage and work requirements.

This means you must determine whether or not you earned an ample amount of wages during a specific time period of work. This time period is referred to as a base period. This time period is judged off when you worked in relation to when your unemployment claim was filed.

Something to note is that a majority of states offer unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks (this equates to about half of a year). COVID-19 economic situations have definitely pushed this standard. This means some benefits are able to extend for longer periods of time. That’s more time to make your minimum payments and potentially pay off more of that credit card.

In addition, the federal government has announced that the CARES act has expanded its reach during the pandemic to provide unemployment insurance. This means that more people will qualify for benefits.

Whether you’re approved for unemployment benefits will depend on the criteria in your specific state. 

Option 3: Find More Affordable Living and Refinance Loans

Paying your bills after losing your job is not easy. But failing to pay your mortgage can lead to even larger consequences. 

If you own a home, you can contact the mortgage company and try to negotiate a new payment plan. Your mortgage company might direct you to specific city or state hardship programs. These programs may help you to keep your home and refinance your monthly payment. They may also be able to help you with selling your home. 

If you rent, you do have plenty of options. One of these options would be looking for a sub-lease and moving into a more affordable apartment. 

In addition to seeking more affordable housing, you may want to chat with a credit or budget counselor. A budget counselor is a professional that is qualified to provide you with financial advice and potential solutions.

Many times, a budget counselor is appointed by the government to assist those who have been struggling with personal debt for long periods of time. This person has the ability to greatly assist with any recent changes in your budget to accommodate for less income and other financial issues. 

For your auto loans, you have the opportunity to minimize your car payments or change the cadence or amount that you need to pay. Keep in mind that in the long run, this may increase your interest over time, but at least you have a solid short-term solution that can allow you to tap into your emergency budget.

Option 4: Get a Side Hustle 

An option that people often forget about or even take for granted is their use of talents or skills. You may call it a hobby, but your hobby could potentially assist you in paying your bills. A side hustle is a part-time job or business someone maintains in addition to their regular job.

If you’re a photographer, start monetizing your work and advertising your services by social media or even word of mouth. You can do the same if you’re a performer by offering your services for live events. If you paint, consider starting your own website or blog, and selling your works. 

Before you know it, you can go from making money here and there to covering your minimum payments and bills. You might even see your credit score rise along the way. 

Something to consider is that these abilities don’t have to be necessarily artistic. Say you were a software engineer, and you still have all the skills and knowledge for it, but simply no company. You can offer your services privately—This is called freelance work. 

Many times, not only do people who begin freelancing do it on the side of their full-time jobs, but sometimes it becomes so successful that eventually they make it their full-time jobs. 

Option 5: Join a Delivery or Rideshare App

Speaking of side-hustles and supplemental income, there is an option that is not only accessible but can be very stable and flexible with your own schedule: rideshare or delivery services. 

To become a rideshare driver, all you need is a valid driver’s license, a clean record, and a vehicle. 

If you already commuted to work via car, you’ve got the vehicle part covered. In certain cities, you may not even need a car to apply for delivery jobs. You can use a bike or even get around on foot. The point here is that there are more options for earning money; you just need to decide what works best for you and your current situation.

The amazing thing is, with supplemental income being obtained this way, you may be able to sustain it until you find a new full-time job. By that time, you may be getting used to the idea of having the extra cash whenever you need it or whenever you are able to perform the tasks.

At that point, you may be able to continue utilizing this side-hustle as a way to contribute to your emergency savings for the future.

Option 6: Depend on Existing Credit Cards for a Bit (Cautiously)

This may not be on anyone’s list of preferred options, but we’d like to propose a more balanced approach to depending on existing credit cards—with clear limitations, of course. 

When you first opened a credit card, you were likely told to only use the card for emergencies and to then pay it back immediately, which is great advice. Then you probably got used to the idea of having access to funds before payday. So you tell yourself that you’ll buy the pants you saw on the mannequin at the cute boutique around the corner, then pay it back with your next paycheck. Before you know it, your outstanding balance was far more than you planned for. 

These situations can quickly snowball into more and more purchases until you’re in debt and your credit card balances are alarmingly close to their limits. This is exactly what not to do.

If you have no other choice but to use your credit card, it may be a better option than a payday or title loan. But do your best to keep your balance low and pay it off as soon as you can. 

Option 7: Explore Debt Settlement Options

It’s important to know the difference between debt consolidation vs debt settlement. A debt settlement program is a financial service to help reduce debt by negotiating with creditors on your behalf.

When you contact a settlement company, their primary objective is to reduce your overall debt as quickly as possible. They can usually help you with various types of debt including credit cards, outstanding loans, and more. 

The first thing they’ll do is to start reaching out to creditors on your behalf. They will attempt to negotiate things like payment plans, or reduced overall balances. The result, if successful, is a reduced debt and likely lower payments at a slower cadence. 

Don’t forget that by the end of this settlement, you will also likely be charged for the services provided. 

A great thing about exploring this option is that you will not be alone in decision making and you will be receiving plenty of help. That said, there are risks, of course.

These risks could include your creditors or lenders not being willing to negotiate with the settlement company at all. It could also result in more debt as a result of a poor settlement. And, because you would likely be asked not to make any credit payments during the settlement period, this may negatively impact your credit score. 

CreditNinja: Tips for Unemployed Individuals That Can’t Pay Bills

At CreditNinja, we know that losing your job is definitely a stressful situation. But there are people out there that want to help, and many others going through the same thing. It all comes down to how you budget money on a low income.

The important thing to remember is to create a plan, stay calm, and research all your potential solutions. Explore the options we’ve listed above while you continue your job search. And if you need a little more financial relief to get back on your feet, consider applying for a CreditNinja personal loan

We offer loans in various cities and states. For example, you could get a personal loan in St. Louis, MO! Apply online today to see if you qualify for an unsecured installment loan. 


  1. United States Unemployment Rate │ Trading Economics  
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