How can I manage our bills with one low income?


Q. I’m at $11.75 per hour and my take-home home pay is $705 per week. husband is out of work for 10 weeks as of today. That leaves me to pay our mortgage, pay our vehicle payments, lights, water, credit cards, cell phone bill and car insurance, which now totals $2,500 a month. How can I pay off the smaller credit card to give me room for bills? We have no savings and it’s a humongous load to get everything done.
— Struggling

A. We’re sorry to learn about your situation.

First, has your husband applied for unemployment? We know not everyone is eligible and the system has been overloaded with a record number of claims, but he should at least try to get into the system.

Also know that many companies, including mortgage holders that are deferring payments and utilities that promise not to shut service for nonpayment, are working with customers during the coronavirus crisis. You should contact each of your bills to see what programs they have that can help for the short-term.

And some businesses, such as restaurants that are expanding delivery and take-out services, are hiring as they contend with the shutdown rules. We’re guessing your husband has been unable to find work, but he should keep trying as companies change their shutdown strategies.

Generally, when your bills are higher than your income, you have two choices: increase income and/or decrease expenses.

One option is to see if you can find a higher paying job, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with AXA Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.

She said the minimum wage in New Jersey is $11, but even with lots of companies shut down, others have increased wages to attract personnel.

Also make sure to adjust your withholding to account for the fact that your husband is not currently employed, D’Agostini said.

“Your household income has been reduced, and therefore your withholdings should reflect this, and you may be able to take home more each week,” she said.

As for the credit cards, she said you can search for cards that offer either a zero or low percentage rate for some period and see if they will accept money from your other card, D’Agostini said. If that works, you can roll over the balance and get some breathing room while not adding to the interest burden while your husband is not employed.

Then it’s time to reassess your budget and reduce any unnecessary or discretionary expenses as much as possible, she said.

Best of luck to you.

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This story was originally published on April 28, 2020. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.