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Huge medical bills, tremendous debt, a small income, and little to no help ? Yep, I've been there.

Two years ago, my (then) fiancé and I found ourselves in a very tough situation. A few days before New Year's Day, a firework exploded in his hand. After a few hours in surgery, he came out pretty sore but in good condition overall. He amazingly has full use of his hand, minus a little stiffness and arthritis.

As a young college-aged couple about to get married, we were faced with a very scary reality neither of us had experience with: an overwhelming amount of medical bills. He didn't have health insurance, so every bit of that debt was put on his shoulders with no one in his family able to help him financially. We were scared and somewhat hopeless. We knew that financial problems could lead to some tough times in a marriage. So, I made it my mission to find help, turning first to the internet.

Unfortunately, it was very hard to find good articles on how to get help with medical bills, so we took a few pieces of advice from websites and tried some new tricks of our own.

Here are the approaches we took to help cut down a substantial amount of our bills:

1. Charities and scholarships: Look for every possible charity effort or scholarship fund.  A social worker at the hospital told us while we were there that we could apply for a charity through them. We did that right away and can you guess what happened? They forgave almost every bit of his debt to that hospital and even to the clinics and providers that cared for him while he was there. We learned he had been forgiven close to $40,000 in debt – talk about an answered prayer!

2. Look over your bills: Inspect all of your bills initially to make sure there are no errors. If there are ever any questions or you're not sure how to read one, just call the company and ask them for help.

3. Ask for help: At one point we sent out sincere letters to each company he owed money to and asked them if there was any way that they could forgive any or all of his debt. One clinic forgave over $3,000 for physical therapy after they got the letter!

4. Medical loans: The physical therapy clinic set us up with a medical loan that we could pay off within 2 years with no interest and forgave 10% of our remaining debt for doing so.

5. Discounts: Ask companies if they have any large payment discounts. The hospital that he first visited right after the accident said they would forgive two full monthly payments if we were able to pay off our remaining balance (which was very low at that point), so we saved close to $100 on that debt. Every penny counts!

6. Be honest: If there was ever a month we couldn't make a payment, we called the company's billing department and told them, and they never had a problem with it. We even had one of our bills sent to a collection agency, and they did everything they could to make sure we could afford our monthly payments.

7. Re-work your budget: You will have to rearrange your budget to fit in the monthly payments. We set up payments with companies for different times of the month so we wouldn't get stuck paying all the bills at the same each month, which made it much easier on us!

Through all of this we’re not only loving our married life, but we’ve learned to be responsible, take the initiative to ask for help, to live well on a budget, and to love each other through every circumstance. We're working hard to pay off the bills while I'm in graduate school, but we're doing it, bit by bit!

This has been a guest post by Lindsay from Des Moines, IA
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