Not able to pay off all your bills? Here’s which ones experts say you should prioritize first

ORLANDO, Fla. — With thousands of Central Floridians facing unemployment after businesses have closed up shop for good or for the time being due to the coronavirus pandemic, many are having to prioritize what bills they can pay and when.

Financial experts have formulas that they recommend when you’re in a tough spot and unable to cover all your expenses.

“In medicine it’s called triage,” money expert Clark Howard said in a recent blog post. “It’s exactly what’s happening in the hospitals right now as they decide who to treat when or who not to treat. You have to look at your bills the same way. You’ve got to think about what you must have.”


Channel 9 compiled a few experts’ top tips:

Dave Ramsey, author, radio host and CEO of Ramsey Solutions, said the most important thing you can do is take care of your “four walls” first, and in this order: food, utilities, shelter and transportation.

“Before you spend even one more dime toward debt, make sure to take care of you and your family,” Ramsey wrote in a blog post. “That means you need food in the fridge, lights and running water, a roof over your head, and a way to get to and from work every day.”

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Clark agrees that feeding yourself and your family should be your number one priority.

“At the top of the list is food. You either need money to buy food or you’ve got to come up with a way to get food,” Clark said.

Clark says if you can make your rent or mortgage payment to do it. If not, contact your landlord or mortgage company immediately to see what options are available.

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While foreclosures and evictions have been halted during the pandemic, Clark said that lenders are much more likely to work with borrowers who communicate early and often with them about their circumstances.

When it comes to utilities, many state and local utility companies have stopped shutting off services during the coronavirus pandemic. But Clark said communication is still key.

Clark suggested you check utility company websites for coronavirus accommodations and how you ask for assistance. Make sure you don’t ignore your bills. He advises staying in contact with each company if financial hardship puts you behind and you can’t pay.

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Communication is also key when it comes to transportation, Clark said. If you can’t make your car payment, make sure to communicate with your lender.

“The lender does not want your vehicle,” he said. “They have a direct incentive to work with you for a while to see if you can get back on your feet. That’s why you stay in contact.”

Ramsey advises that if you’re struggling to make ends meet to make sure you are up on all of those necessary bills before tackling other debts.

“Do not be behind on your home and current on your MasterCard and your student loan. If you’re going to be behind on something, if you have to choose to be behind on something—and I’m not recommending being behind—choose to be behind on things that don’t matter as much,” he said.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.