Have you ever found yourself worrying about how to get help with bills or other emergency expenses that pop up out of the blue? You wouldn’t be alone. According to NBC News, 65% of Americans lose sleep due to anxiety over finances.
In an ideal world, every one of us would have at least six months of living expenses set aside in an emergency fund. In reality, 40% of Americans don’t have enough in savings to cover a $400 emergency, according to Forbes. Sometimes even a decent rainy day fund isn’t enough to prevent the damage caused by an unexpected torrential downpour.
Fortunately, there are resources available to people who need emergency financial assistance and aren’t sure how to get rid of debt. This article outlines the ways you can find your way back to financial security through government assistance, nonprofit programs, and online fundraising.
Five signs you might need financial help
It’s easy to feel financially secure in the day-to-day, but a single emergency can make it abundantly clear that a personal financial crisis is around the corner. These are five telltale signs that it might be time to reassess your financial health—do any of them ring true to you?
1. You don’t have any savings or an emergency fund
The primary way people avoid taking on new debts or loans is by building a healthy emergency fund with at least six months of savings. Without some spare change in the bank, you could be looking at a fiscal crisis.
2. You’re living off credit cards
Using credit cards to pay for everyday essentials like housing, food, and transportation is a telltale sign that you need to reevaluate your financial situation. If you don’t think twice about taking on more debt, it’s probably time to cut up your plastic.
3. You frequently tap into savings
If you find yourself unable to grow your savings—or you routinely dip into your savings just to make ends meet—it’s time to take a hard look at your spending habits and budget.
4. You’re afraid to look at your ever-increasing credit card bill
Knowing you’ve fallen even deeper into debt is demoralizing, but it’s even worse when you ignore the situation. When you see the balance on your statement continue to rise rather than decrease, it’s time to move beyond denial and take action.
5. You avoid thinking about the future
If you find yourself unable to think about your future in a meaningful way, your financial situation might have gotten the best of you. If this is the case, it’s probably time to take a big step back and envision what your financial future may look like 10 or even 20 years down the road.
Three things to do immediately when a financial crisis strikes
Trying to pick up the pieces in the midst of a financial crisis can sometimes lead to poor decision making. To avoid the pitfalls of credit cards, predatory lenders, and other harmful debt relief solutions, follow these tips:
- Stay calm: To overcome feelings of panic and hopelessness, make a list of ways to find emergency cash assistance through legitimate avenues.
- Know your priorities: Reassess your budget and prioritize your spending. Look for ways to cut nonessential expenses to an absolute minimum.
- Ask for help: Seek advice from someone you trust who has already successfully dealt with a financial emergency. They may be able to offer some words of wisdom.
Programs that provide emergency financial assistance
Even with a new budget and a renewed focus, a financial emergency can still make it incredibly difficult to pay monthly bills and stay out of debt. If you’re still struggling to pay for expensive medical treatments, survive unpaid maternity leave, or deal with any other unexpected costs, there are public and private programs that can help you regain your footing.
Government assistance programs
These government programs offer grants, subsidies, and training to help individuals and families looking for emergency money assistance. Whether you need to pay medical bills right away or find emergency rental assistance, these financial hardship assistance programs may help.
Government food programs
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides each state with grants to operate its TANF program. The eligibility requirements and programs vary from state to state, but they generally help with basic necessities like food, housing, and more.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutritious food to low-income families and individuals. Recipients can use their SNAP vouchers at approved stores and restaurants to purchase items like fruits and vegetables, dairy, bread, and poultry and meat.
Government help with utilities
- The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program that helps people regulate the temperature in their homes during the summer and winter. LIHEAP can also help with low-cost repairs to heating and air conditioning systems.
Government help with housing costs
- The Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) is a housing program aimed at securing affordable housing for low-income families and individuals. Those who meet the eligibility requirements work with public housing agencies (PHAs) to find housing, and then pay a portion of the cost.
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is another low-income housing program that offers other forms of subsidized housing, including grants.
Government medical assistance
- The Medicare Savings Programs offer four different ways for low-income families and individuals to pay for premiums, copayments, coinsurance, deductibles, and other medical expenses.
Nonprofit financial assistance resources
In addition to government programs, there are also numerous nonprofit programs and grants that aim to help people with everything from food and housing to out of pocket medical expenses and child care assistance. You might even try reaching out to a local religious organization, as there are many churches that help families in need.
Nonprofit food assistance programs
- Feeding America is a nonprofit that provides emergency food assistance through their network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs across the country. The organization also helps those in need find long-term assistance through government programs, even helping with the application process.
Help with utilities from nonprofits
- 2-1-1 is a program through United Way that helps those in need with a broad range of services, including help with utilities. Trained professionals are available to help around the clock when you call 2-1-1.
- Modest Needs provides financial assistance for an array of needs, with a special focus on short-term needs, like help with housing costs and utility bills. The organization offers what they call “self-sufficiency grants” to help those struggling to get back on their feet.
Nonprofit housing assistance for mortgage and rent costs
- Community Action Partnership helps more than 148,000 families gain safe and affordable housing every year. It also provides training and referrals to other government resources so impoverished communities can find financial relief.
- Volunteers of America believes that home is more than just a shelter—it’s a cornerstone of stability and security. The nonprofit houses over 25,000 seniors, veterans, families, and others in need each year.
Help with medical costs from nonprofits
- The HealthWell Foundation is a nonprofit that helps the underinsured pay premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs and find alternatives to simply dealing with medical debt. Eligibility criteria include income level, medical condition, and health insurance coverage status.
- The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC) believes that everyone has the right to affordable health care. Whether it’s providing financial help for pregnant women or helping with financial surgery assistance, the NAFC has 1,200 clinics across the US where low-income individuals and families can seek medical care.
What if you aren’t eligible for assistance programs?
When you need financial relief immediately, there might not be time to go through a lengthy application process or wait months to be approved for a grant. Many find these application processes frustrating and discouraging. This is when crowdfunding can become an essential part of your financial recovery.
Need help fast? Crowdfunding to the rescue
Countless people in your position have turned to crowdfunding when they needed emergency financial help right away. Emergency fundraising for housing costs, utilities, medical bills—and everything in between—is easy with GoFundMe.
We offer a simple set-up process, 24/7 customer support, and a blog full of fundraising tips and ideas. Not only do we provide immediate access to your funds, but our free fundraising platform means that you can keep more of the money you raise.
Feeling guilt or shame when you’re on the verge of a financial crisis is natural, but remember that your friends and family care about you and want to see you succeed. Finding support from people you know and trust can be critical to overcoming this hardship.
Find financial freedom right now
When you’re unsure how to get financial help and feel like you’ve reached a roadblock, GoFundMe is here for you. If you haven’t already, start a free fundraiser and begin your journey to debt-free living. End the anxiety about finances, and begin focusing on what matters.