Help! I Can’t Pay My Bills. Part 3

This is a series written for those who are struggling mightily with their finances and tough decisions are being made about who will be paid and who will not be paid.  It is my hope that this series will provide practical steps that can be taken to walk out of this situation and into financial freedom.

Part 3  Prioritize

When the financial sky is falling down and the walls are closing in on you, it is imperative that spending is prioritized.  Here is my suggested order of priority for spending when there just is not enough to pay everything.

  1. Housing  Must take care of the mortgage and utilities first.  Now if the mortgage payment has run out of control and it is 60% of one's take home pay, then it is high time that the house be sold or income be tripled within a couple of months.
  2. Food  I am going to eat before one single bill is paid!  We must be able to eat.  I am not talking about Olive Garden or fast food.  I am talking about groceries bought with coupons and much attention to frugality.
  3. Transportation  If transportation is required to produce income, then it is imperative that the vehicle payments, insurance, taxes, gasoline, and maintenance be funded.
  4. Back Taxes  Owing the government back taxes is a terrible thing, and it must be addressed.  I would rather owe anyone besides owing Uncle Sam!
  5. Secured Debts  If there is additional money remaining after Housing, Food, and Transportation are taken care of, it is time to pay the secured debt payments.  This is debt where the lender can come take something – like a car, boat, motorcycle, tractor, etc.  If the lender repossesses the item, they will sell it at a wholesale auction and come after you for the difference.
  6. Family & Friends Debts  If you owe family and friends and you still have some money left, it is essential to pay on debts owed to family and friends.  Unpaid debts to family and friends has been the cause of untold relationship issues since time began.  Avoid this!
  7. Unsecured Debts  It is time to address the unsecured debts.  Credit cards, student loans, signature loans, etc.  One thing to note is that unsecured debt holders will be screaming and hollering the loudest because there is nothing they can come take from you.  As a result, they will try to play upon your emotions to get you to pay them before you pay anyone else.  And it works!  I have met with a lot of people who have kept their credit cards current while letting the house payments fall behind.  Not good!

Go back to the spending plan you have prepared and ensure that your priorities are in order.


  1. AnotherJoe on November 12, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Where does the tithe come in on this list? or is it not included and just assumed that the are paying it? I would put it somewhere with the unsecured debts because as credit card companies scream and holler to make people feel guilty to pay, so do a lot of churches with the “robbing of God” line.

  2. BJ on November 13, 2008 at 11:55 am

    I disagree with that. I believe that tithing should be first on the list. It is all a matter of trust and faith that God will provide the rest! It may not be a 10% tithe, but whatever is put on your heart from God at that time. But I don’t believe that we should put tithing at the bottom of the list!

  3. DebtGirl on February 24, 2009 at 8:36 am

    After all the priorities are paid, I have about $350 left a month that doesn’t even come close to covering the $1300 minimum payments on unsecured debt. Any thoughts about taking this $350 and paying on one debt at a time, get it paid off and then move to the next? Spreading $350 over 7 debts will never get me anywhere.

  4. BP on February 24, 2009 at 11:47 am

    i agree with ‘BJ’ to a degree. I know tithing should be first priority because that’s what scripture says. God’s Word doesn’t say ‘tithe 10% as long as you can meet all of your other financial obligations/creditors first.’ His Word and commands don’t change based on our circumstances. the disobedience of falling behind on payments will not be made right by acting in disobedience in not tithing. where i disagree with ‘BJ’ is i don’t believe that you have to ask God to put a percentage on your heart. He already has in His Word- 10%. Why not trust the God who created all things and holds the universe together by His very word? i know ‘trust Him’ is churchish, but that doesn’t make it any less biblical. how is it that we can believe, in faith, that God has saved us from hell through Christ but not have faith that God can meet our financial needs? i disagree with ‘anotherjoe’ that it should be considered unsecured debt. when did the tithe become a debt to God? the ‘robbing God line’ isn’t something the church made up- they’re quoting God in Malachi 3. scripturally, the tithe is the MINIMUM. that’s just acting in obedience! why should the church, the bride of Christ, suffer because of a believer’s financial disobedience?

  5. karen on May 27, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    If I tithe then the next week before another paycheck I charge my gas, charge groceries and charge doctors bill how is that the right thing to do. Now I go in debt further but I tithed, I have been tithing for years and never have received a blessing financially I just get by in major debe pleae pray for us

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