Balancing the Bills

By Zaneta Lowe  - bio | e-mail | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - If you're like many consumers, with lots of debt piling up, how do you know which bills to pay first?

If funds are short, but the list is long, Consumer Credit Counseling's Lisa Scrivner says address your basic needs first.

"You definitely want to make sure you pay your house or your rent first," says Scrivner.

Then she says, pay any other secured debt.  This includes things like home equity and auto loans, items that are secured with collateral.

"If you default on that loan, then they take whatever the collateral is from you."

Next, Scrivner says you want to tackle credit cards with higher interest rates.

"Pay higher amounts on the highest interest rate cards and then pay smaller amounts on the other," says Scrivner.

Scrivner says there even some tricks consumers can use to get really agressive.

"If you make a payment every 14 days, that's almost like making an extra payment," she says.

Finally, pay off any unsecured loans. Some examples can be student loans, personal loans or personal lines of credit.

"Contact those organizations if you're not able to make payments on time, or try to renegotiate those," says Scrivner.

And another tip, experts say just because you're getting harassed by debt or bill collectors, doesn't mean you should make that a higher priority.

No matter how you prioritize your payments, Scrivner says consumers can't afford to ignore them.

"Thirty-five percent of your credit score is made up from making on time payments, so when you miss payments, or make late payments, those are things that can really affect your credit score."

Consumer Credit Counseling Services of West Georgia East Alabama offers free sessions for budgeting.  You can reach someone at 706-327-3239.