Main Content

Prioritizing Bills

You’re responsible for paying all of your expenses on time. If you miss payments now, you’ll have to make them up in the future. But when you don’t have enough money to cover your needs and obligations, you may have to make a short-term plan to get through the month.

Sometimes your plan may involve paying some bills late or missing a bill. When bill collectors are calling or you’re trying to decide which of your obligations to pay first, it can sometimes just seem easiest to pay the “squeakiest wheel” – but this might not be the best approach. Sometimes you may need to ignore the squeaky wheel for a short time while you pay for necessities and build a plan for repayment.

What to do

What to do

Read through the list of expenses

Identify what you need to pay to protect your housing and income, keep your insurance and meet any court-ordered obligations.


Make a list of bills

Read through the items that apply to you and write down the monthly amount of each bill. It's okay to estimate if this amount changes from month to month.


Prioritize your bills

If you can't pay all your bills at once, think about the order you pay them in. Weigh the risks of not paying each one, then number them in the order you want to pay them, based on priority.



Things I need for a job

  • Transportation to get to work
  • Equipment or uniform
  • Childcare

If you miss a car payment, you may have to pay a late fee. You risk possible repossession of your car, a negative entry on your credit record and lowered credit scores.

If your car is repossessed, you might have trouble getting to work and risk losing your job.


Insurance I need to pay

  • Car insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Renters or home insurance

Not having insurance may mean you can't drive your car, and it puts your assets, including your health and your family's health, at risk.


Things I need for housing

  • Rent, mortgage or property taxes
  • Gas, electric
  • Water, garbage, sewer

If you're late with rent, you may have to pay a late fee, risk possible eviction, and strain your relationship with your landlord.

If you don't pay your utility bills, they may get cut off. Utility companies may charge fees to get reconnected.


Obligations I have to pay

  • Credit cards
  • Loans
  • Child support
  • Court-ordered fines and fees

If you're late with your credit card payment, you may have to pay a late fee. You also risk a negative entry on your credit record, lowered credit scores and higher interest rates.

If you don't pay court-ordered obligations, like child support, you may face legal consequences.


Prioritizing Bills Workbook
Download this fillable PDF to help you manage issues when you can't pay bills on time.


Icon Nav - Personal Finance Guide



Together, we can make
your financial goals a reality.