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Guest Blogger – Erika Purcell-Williams

The rent is due. Another bill comes in the mail. Your phone won’t stop ringing with calls from bill collectors. On top of all that, you still need to fill up your gas tank while prices are low. What’s next?  Although balancing utility bills and rent can be a bit overwhelming at times, there are different methods you could use to help you manage all your bills each month. Check out a few simple tips below that will help you balance your bills…and help you maintain your sanity:

  1. Prepare early: Collect all of your bills from the past month and add up the total amount you owe (that’s right, find your bills from DTE, Consumers Energy, Comcast, your phone service provider- everyone that sends you a bill on a monthly basis.) Add all those bills together. Make sure that you set aside that total amount of money by the end of each month. This will ensure you that you will have enough money to make payments towards all of your bills for the upcoming month.
  2. Apply for assistance programs. There are many programs available, but in order to learn about them, you have to start by applying for assistance. The first stop? The Department of Human Services, known as DHS. You can apply for various assistance programs online using the “MI BRIDGES” application.  Check out this link for further information: www.michigan.gov/dhs
  3. Enroll into payment plans with your utility provider. Many utility companies offer payment plans for low-income customers; you may want to call their Customer Service hotlines to ask about this option and learn whether or not you could quality for a cost reduction.
  4. Don’t wait to ask for help! There are a number of assistance programs available throughout Kent County; some are public (anyone living in Kent County can access them) and some are private (you have to meet special criteria in order to receive the help). However, timing is the most important factor! Don’t wait until you receive a shut-off notice, a week before a bill’s due date, or days before rent is due to ask for help. Start applying for assistance programs as soon as you learn about them. Remember, many programs receive HUNDREDS of applications throughout the year; make sure you give yourself a chance to receive assistance by applying as soon as you can.

While these steps are simple and straightforward, following through with these steps by making calls and asking about assistance programs as early as possible may lead to great financial savings, reduce your stress, and could make managing your monthly bills much easier. Any questions? Stop by the First Floor Front Office at Steepletown Neighborhood Services and talk with Sarah, Shirley or Dennis to learn about assistance programs in your area.  You can also dial 2-1-1 on your phone for other assistance information.