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4 steps if you need help paying bills

Most people struggle with paying bills at some point in their life. The important thing is to address the issue and communicate with the organisation you owe money to sooner rather than later.

May 2021 – 6 minute read

Key takeaways from this article:

  • Work out what you can afford to pay
  • Contact the organisation you owe money to
  • If you can’t agree dispute it
  • Contact the National Debt Help line
  • Other contacts
     

Here are 4 steps that may help you.

1. Work out what you can afford to pay

By looking at your current financial position and understanding where your money comes from and goes to, you can create a budget. A budget should allow you to know what you can afford to pay. This could help in any discussions you have with the people you owe money to. Westpac’s Davidson Institute ‘Managing Money Guide’ sets out how to create a budget and get your finances back on track.

2. Contact the organisation you owe money to

The sooner you speak to the organisation the better. Most organisations would prefer to help you and find a solution, but they can’t do this unless they know what your situation is. Ask to speak with the most appropriate team to discuss your difficulties in paying.


Write down all your conversations and keep all your emails and correspondence so you can refer to what you agreed later, if you need to.


What an organisation can do for you will depend on the organisation and your specific difficulties, here is a list of what they may be able to do
 

  • Defer payment until you can afford to pay. (if you are paying by direct debit, consider contacting your bank and stopping these payments until an arrangement is reached)
  • Arrange a payment plan.
  • Change the frequency of payments. For example, weekly instead of monthly.
  • Waive some fees of penalties.
  • Find a cheaper product or service that you can afford.
  • Make you aware of any concessions you may be entitled to and other government or charitable organisations that may be able to help you.

3. If you can’t agree, dispute it.

If you can’t come to a resolution that you consider fair, then ask the organisation who you can dispute this with. Many organisations have dispute resolution services that are run by an industry body or the government. Sometimes they may have an ombudsman. There is a list of some of the organisations you can contact below.

4. Contact the National Debt Help line

If you would like to speak to someone about your financial position the National Debt Helpline is a not-for-profit service that helps people tackle their debt problems. Their professional financial counsellors offer a free, independent, and confidential service. They are simply there to help you get back on track.

Other contacts

For specific bills that you may be having trouble with, we have detailed some contacts that may be able to help. Contacts may change over time, so we recommend you undertake your own research to confirm the contacts are correct and right for you.

Phone and internet

  1. Contact your service provider to ask for a payment extension or instalment plan.
  2. If you can’t reach an agreement, ask if they have an independent dispute resolution service
  3. If you are still dissatisfied lodge a complaint with

Utilities (Electricity, Gas and Water)

  1. Contact your service provider to ask for a payment extension or instalment plan.
  2. If you can’t reach an agreement, ask if they have an independent dispute resolution service
  3. If you are still dissatisfied lodge a complaint with

Rent

  1. Contact your landlord and ask for their help
  2. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome contact your states Tenant Union for advice.

Banks

  1. Contact your bank and advise them of your situation. Everyone’s circumstances are different so they’ll work you to find the best solution.
  2. If you can’t reach an agreement, ask if they have an independent dispute resolution service
  3. If you are still dissatisfied lodge a complaint with

Rates

  1. Contact your local council to discuss payment options.
  2. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for subsidies or concessions from your state’s revenue office.

Fines

  1. Contact your states revenue office or police to discuss payment options.

 

Remember, the sooner you let organisations know your financial position generally the better the outcome. Most organisations will listen and help, if they know what your situation is. However, if you do not feel comfortable to talking directly to the organisations you owe money to, you could talk to an independent financial counsellor at the National Debt Help line, telephone 1800 007 007.


You may find these useful

Budgeting to help recover from a financial setback

Getting your finances back on track following a financial setback can help you feel more in control and confident about the future.

Help to understand debt consolidation

Reduce financial stress, make your repayments more manageable and potentially reduce the costs.

Financial assistance: Navigating the support you need to recover

A quick guide to our financial and other important support measures.

Things you should know

This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.


© Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.