Bills...To Pay or Not to Pay?

By Zaneta Lowe  - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - With more expenses and less money in the bank, juggling bills is a growing concern for many consumers.

So, when money's tight, which bills should be paid first?

One expert says basic needs always come first.

"Basic food, clothing and shelter needs, you have to meet those, any medical needs," says Lerone Harper of Consumer Credit Counseling Services of West Georgia/East Alabama.

Next, take care of secured debt.

"Then we have to decide which creditors absolutely have to be paid, have to be paid right now, a mortgage has to be paid right now, car notes have to be paid right now," says Harper.

Harper says unsecured debt, like most credit cards, is a lower priority.

But, it still needs to be managed.

"Long term, wise, you really want to pay off higher interest debt first," he says.

Experts say child support and income taxes are important, because failure to pay can result in serious consequences.

Student loans are considered medium priority.

Regardless, Harper says there's one thing no consumer can afford to do and that's ignore the situation.

"You can get modifications on credit cards, you can get modifications on all accounts if there is a dialogue," adds Harper.

Harper also advises consumers to begin with a basic budget.  He says they should start by taking an overview of all income, then deduct the expenses.  This will allow consumers to see what they can and cannot afford.  It may also reveal the need for additional income to cover expenses.