Some good news: It can all be fixed.
you racked up a lot of debt
You can’t change the amount you owe, but you can change how much interest you’re paying. The lower the rate, the faster you’ll be able to pay everything off. See if you can transfer your debt to a zero-interest credit card or apply for a low-interest personal loan, says Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial Takes on Investing. No? Then try this: Many creditors are actually being pretty understanding right now. Call them up and ask for a better interest rate.
If you borrowed cash from a friend and don’t know how you’re going to pay them back
Stop trying to repay it…in full, anyway. Letting the money sit in your account until you have every last penny puts it at risk for “spending creep” (as in, you’re broke and just going to use a little bit of the cash you have earmarked for your BFF with the intention of putting it back later. Except, you won’t). A better idea: Set up a realistic repayment plan, suggests Lowry. If even that’s a struggle, see if you can pay them back by helping with errands or other projects versus in cash.
If you lent money to someone and are still waiting to get repaid
Since it’s already too late to say that you probably shouldn’t give out loans to friends and family, try this: Spending is easier than saving, so have your BFF pick up the bottle of wine next time you plan to get together or buy the movie tickets or cover the cost of your dinner. Keep repeating until it totals up to what you’re owed.
If you feel paranoid about spending $$
Put yourself back in control by picking one money goal that will help you feel financially stable, like building up your savings. Another way to get out of survival mentality is to actually give some of your money away, even if it’s just a few bucks. Donating to a cause you care about is a reminder that you have at least some financial power.
If you are really behind on all your bills and can’t catch up
Given the current situation, most lenders and service providers are offering assistance, but you will have to call each one to talk through your options. Start with the bill you’re most behind on. While you’ve got them on the phone, work out new payment dates so that going forward, everything you owe isn’t all due on the first of the month. And then ask if there’s any financial incentive to setting up automated payments. A monthly discount? A one-time credit?
Another tip: You need to freeze your debt. That isn’t some fancy financial lingo—we mean…freeze your debt. Financial coach Whitney Hansen suggests putting your credit cards in a mason jar, filling it with water, and sticking it in the freezer. You’ll still have access in an emergency, but you’re blocked from temptation spending.