Many adults are having a hard time covering household expenses because of the pandemic and economic fallout. If you’re in a tough spot, you will need to decide which bills to pay promptly and which ones can wait. Here’s a list of important considerations when deciding which bills to put at the top of your priority list.
Mortgage or rent
First and foremost, you need to keep a roof over your head. Normally, when you don’t pay your rent or mortgage, you can be kicked out of your home. However, there is currently a national ban on evictions and foreclosures for federally backed mortgages until at least March 31st. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have also extended their foreclosure moratoriums until February 28th. Once time expires, you’ll be at risk of losing your home again unless the law is extended again.
You deserve to be comfortable in your own home. While you can live without cable, phone and internet service, some other utilities are essential for your well-being. Gas, water, electric and trash/recycling bills must be included in your monthly budget. Fortunately, there are tricks you can use to keep your bills low.
- Unplug your electronics when they’re not being used
- Buy energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs
- Wash your clothes in cold water
- Lower your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees at night or when you’re away
- Take shorter showers
- Fix leaky faucets
Food and medication
Your health is important so eat well and don’t skip any medications prescribed by your doctor. Failing to take the right dose at the right time can make your disease worse, cause hospitalization or result in death. When you’re already struggling to make ends meet, the last thing you need is to add an expensive hospital bill to the mix. If you’re having trouble affording your prescriptions, here are some ways you can save money.
- Ask for the generic
- Compare prices at different pharmacies
- Use a prescription discount card
- Request a 90-day supply
- Apply for prescription assistance
Car note and insurance
You need to be able to get to and from work every day. If having a vehicle is essential to you getting there, then you need to prioritize your car payment and insurance. Driving without insurance can lead to fines, a suspended license, your vehicle being impounded or a trip to jail if you get caught. In other words, a bunch of headaches that you don’t need. If you live in an area with reliable public transportation, consider selling your car to save more money each month.
Failure to pay child support is a federal offense so make sure you keep up with your payments. The result can be a suspended license, wage garnishment including your tax refunds, a denied passport, jail time and other penalties.
Usually when you don’t pay your federal student loans for a while, the loan eventually goes into default and is reported to the credit bureaus. Your credit score will plunge, making it harder for you to get approved for new loans in the future. Additionally, the government may garnish your wages and seize your tax refunds to repay your debt. However, there has been a temporary change. Federal student loan payments are suspended until September so that’s one less thing you need to worry about right now. Just keep in mind that your debt will be waiting for you come October.
Missed payments can lead to late fees, interest and a damaged credit score. Making at least the minimum payment helps your account remain in good standing. If you’re experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic, your credit card issuer may be willing to work with you. Some will let you temporarily skip payments, lower the interest rate or waive late fees. So, contact them for assistance.