Frugal living – help with bills and food

If you’re a New Jersey resident in a rough patch financially, here are some helpful tips to keep your household going:

Gas & Electric bills

  1. Through your designated local agency, apply for LIHEAP and Universal Service Fund. LIHEAP pays something towards your heat bills and gives you a break on your monthly electric and gas bills. And, when you get into the USF program they will also help you catch up with your outstanding gas and electric bill.
  2. Call your gas and electric utility’s collection department and try to make an extended payment arrangement with them.
  3. If you can’t negotiate something favorable with the utility company that works, your next step is the New Jersey State Board of Public Utilities at 800-624-0241. If you’ve been paying your gas and electric bills regularly, they can help you negotiate extended payment terms. And they will try to help even if you haven’t been paying regularly. If your utility company was offering you a 6-month catchup period, for example, the BPU may be able to arrange for you to bring your bill current over a year’s period by paying your current bill plus a portion of the past-due amount, every month. But, the first question they must ask is if you already tried to work something out with your utility company – so make that call first.
  4. If the BPU can’t help you either, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local State Assemblyperson or State Senator. They have constituent representatives whose full time jobs are to help you with problems like this. They’ll do everything they can to help get you some relief while you get back on your feet.
  5. Put in a call to your municipality’s Human Services Department. Every town has one, and they sometimes have small pots of money set aside just for the purpose of helping out residents in need.
  6. Center for Food Action can also help if you hit them at the right moment in their funding cycle. Their rules are: you must have a shut off notice, be able to prove that you can resume making payments after they help you catch up, and they only help once every 1 or 2 years (the time period changes occasionally).

Get a month’s mortgage or rent bill paid

  • If they have funds, the Center for Food Action can pay a month’s rent for you. Their rules are: you must have a current eviction notice, be able to prove that you can resume making payments after they help you catch up, and they only help once every 1 or 2 years (time period changes).

Cut your phone and TV bill way down

By making local calls through the Verizon Lifeline Communication program and using your broadband internet connection to place calls through the internet and watch TV, you can cut your monthly “triple play” bill down to under $35.00/month total.

  1. The Verizon Lifeline Communication program offers basic landline phone service at $3.00 per month. Check eligibility requirements and download an application at NJ Shares processes applications for the program. You qualify if a member of your household receives free school lunch, TANF, SNAP (used to be called foodstamps), Medicaid, LIHEAP or is in one of several other program (see complete list on their website) –or– if your annual income is at or below 150% of the federal poverty income level.
  2. Make completely free long-distance calls through your internet broadband connection and Gmail. Log into your gmail account, click on the phone icon in the left menu bar and you’ll be making phone calls to any location in the United States, completely free of charge.

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