Paying your Priorities First

Priority Payments

Always use the money you have to first pay for what is most necessary for you and your family – food, clothing, shelter, transportation and continued utility service. Because debt collectors can do little to you, other than harass you over the telephone or through the mail, do not decide which debts to pay based on harassment from debt collectors. Use the following guidelines in deciding which bills to pay if you do not have enough money to pay on all your debts.

  • Mortgage, property taxes, rent payments and food purchases should always come first.
  • Then, make whatever payments are necessary to insure continued utility service. The utility company may not require payment in full even if you are behind. Apply for energy assistance, when applications are available, and any other source of help with your utility bills. Contact the Public Utility Commission and file an informal complaint, if the utility will not make a reasonable payment agreement with you.
  • Tax liabilities and your car loan after critical items (food, rent, clothing, utility bills).
  • Student loans should be paid after critical items and transportation expenses are taken care of.
  • Debts without property pledged as collateral, such as credit cards, doctor and hospital bills, and accounts with merchants, should only be paid after all necessary bills are taken care of.

    Do not pay on a debt, even if a creditor or debt collector threatens to sue you, if payment on that debt would keep you from paying for your mortgage, rent utility payments, food and a car loan.