can't pay your household bills

What if you can’t pay your household bills?

Authored by Ruth Jacks

Ruth Jacks

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Approximate read time: 4 minutes

Finding yourself in a situation where you can’t pay your household bills when they fall due is a nightmare for many. Missing one or multiple payments can lead to your creditors taking action to recover what you owe. You could see repayment reminders arriving by phone or post, and from there, your worries may snowball to include visits from debt collectors and bailiffs and the fear of personal bankruptcy.

However, there are ways to limit your personal debts before they get out of hand and lead to such dramatic consequences. So, what can you do if you can’t pay your household bills on time?

Review your outgoings and curb your non-essential spending

It’s easy to spend a lot without much consideration, especially with direct debits and subscription services, and you could find yourself paying to the point where you’re struggling to stay on top of those bills.

Fortunately, if you identify the problem early enough, you can take the action necessary to reduce your debts.

One of the ways you can do this is by comparing your income and outgoings. You don’t need fancy accounting software to do this. While dedicated budgeting apps are available, you can lay out your income and outgoings on a simple spreadsheet or even on paper with a pencil. It sounds simple, but you might be surprised how many outgoings you have when they’re all laid out in front of you. If money’s tight, you could identify and reduce any non-essential costs or see if you can get a better deal on services (gas, electric, water etc.).

Reviewing your outgoings can be an effective way to reduce your spending and save money, but if your debts are of such a level that you fear bankruptcy, you may need to take more drastic action to relieve those debts.

Find an additional income source

By finding additional income, we don’t mean go out and buy a load of lottery tickets. If you choose to find another source of income to pay your bills it should be reliable and not based on luck or borrowing more money.

If your current job allows it, you could ask to work some extra shifts or some overtime. Alternatively, you could try taking a part-time job. This option’s feasibility may depend on how much spare time you have and what jobs are available.

While it may sound easier just to take out more credit or a loan to pay off your debts, doing so can actually worsen your situation. Loans need repaying, and most come with interest, meaning even more debt to repay further down the line.

Sell your assets

If you find you can’t pay your household bills by cutting your expenses or cannot find an additional source of income, you may have to consider selling your high-value assets: cars, property, collectable items etc.

Selling your personal possessions may be a painful experience, but if the items are of a high enough value, doing so could generate sufficient funds to repay your burdensome debts.

Seek professional help

If you’ve tried all this, but your debts are still unmanageable, and you don’t want to file for bankruptcy, then you may benefit from professional help. Wilson Field has a team of experienced initial advisors and licensed and regulated insolvency practitioners. Speak to us for free, impartial, and non-obligatory advice tailored to your circumstances.

A formal repayment arrangement

If your debts are of such a level and you’re looking to avoid bankruptcy, you could benefit from an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA). These are formal insolvency arrangements designed for insolvent individuals and sole traders. An IVA works by consolidating your unsecured debts into a single repayment tailored to what you can afford, paid monthly, usually over five years. An IVA’s formal nature makes it legally binding.

IVAs typically work best for debts exceeding £10,000, with less formal solutions existing for smaller debts. Depending on your circumstances, an IVA can be a feasible alternative to bankruptcy and may protect assets like your home.

IVAs can only be carried out by licensed and regulated insolvency practitioners.
More help for personal debts


Realising you can’t pay your household bills can be a frightening prospect, but there are ways to get yourself out of debt and repay what you owe without having to go bankrupt. Reviewing and reducing your outgoings can be a simple and effective way to start if your debts haven’t escalated to a high level. If you require more income to repay your bills, you can look for an additional source, either by working more hours if possible or by taking a second job. If that still isn’t enough, you can sell your personal assets and use the funds generated to pay the bills. However, if your debts are of such a level that you fear bankruptcy, you should consider a more formal arrangement like an IVA, consolidating all your unsecured debts into a single repayment.

For free, impartial advice with no obligation, speak to our initial advice team.

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