What happens if…I can’t pay my energy bill?

What happens if…I can’t pay my energy bill?

Did you know that after rent or home loan repayments, energy bills are the second biggest expense for Australian households? So it’s hardly surprising that there will come one time or another when you may struggle to pay your electricity/gas bill.

But what exactly should you do if you can’t pay your energy bill?

In this step by step guide, we’ll show you the actions you can take if you face a shocker of an energy bill.

Step 1: Crunch the numbers on what you can afford to pay

While you may not be able to pay the energy bill in full, don’t just ignore the problem. Instead, work out how much you could realistically afford to repay before the due date. You can use our budget calculator to get an idea of how much you’ll have left over once all your everyday expenses come out (e.g rent/home loan repayments, groceries and transport) to put towards your energy bill.

Step 2: Give your energy provider a buzz

Each energy provider in Australia will have a financial hardship department, which you can call to have a chat about your situation. Let the provider know how much you can afford to repay and they should offer you a payment plan to suit your financial situation.

They may suggest you switch to bill smoothing, which means instead of paying your energy bills on a quarterly cycle, you’ll pay estimated instalments fortnightly or monthly.

Step 3: Check if you’re eligible for any concessions

Each state or territory will offer different concessions and rebates, which you may be eligible for if you’re facing hard financial times or suffer from illness or injury. So when you speak to your provider, make sure you check if you’re entitled to any of these government schemes as this could slash your energy bill by hundreds each year.

If you’re unhappy with the way your energy provider has handled your situation you can speak to the Energy and Water Ombudsman by calling 1800 500 509.

Step 4: Make changes to your energy usage  

While a high energy bill may be a major setback to your finances, thankfully there are plenty of ways you can reduce your energy usage (e.g using fans over aircon or washing your clothes in cold water) that won’t cost you a thing. For a full rundown on the different ways you can save on energy read our spring energy savings tips guide.

Tips for saving money fast

Apart from following the above steps, also consider these savings strategies to help you pay your energy bill:

  1. Sell used items. Have a look around your home for items you could potentially sell by hosting a garage sale or on websites like Gumtree and eBay. Keep in mind the best selling items are usually designer apparel, vintage gear or antique pieces.
  2. Pick up work on the side. Making extra cash on top of your full time job has never been easier thanks to the growth of peer to peer platforms (otherwise known as the share economy). For instance, if you hop on Airtasker you can browse through tasks that strangers in your area have posted and bid on a price that you think is fair e.g $60 for cleaning their kitchen. If you own a car, another P2P platform that allows you to earn quick cash is Uber, which connects you with those looking for a driver at an affordable price.
  3. Rent out a spare room. It might not be your ideal situation having a boarder in your home but the extra income could just pay off that energy bill. If you only want to rent out your spare room for a short timeframe, consider signing up with a website like AirBnB which is largely targeted at holiday goers.
  4. Become an Army Reserve. Love the thought of tax-free pay and gaining new skills? Then becoming an Army Reserve could just be just for you. Plus on top of these perks you only have to work a minimum of twenty days a year.
  5. Strike a pose as an art model. Art studios are always looking for models of all shapes and sizes to pose for their life drawings. You’ll earn some extra dough and hey it could be a fun experience.
What happens if…I can’t pay my energy bill? was last modified: September 17, 2015 by Rebeccah Elley

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