No one plans to get into debt. But sometimes the unexpected happens and managing personal and household finances become more of a challenge.

When money is tight we might find ourselves having to make a decision about which bills we can afford to pay and which ones must wait. But when we’re under emotional and financial pressure, how can we make the right decision?

Do we choose the bill with the largest amount owning, the bill whose payment deadline is the soonest, or the expense that has the biggest relief when it’s paid?

Understanding what is most important

When you find yourself short of money, the most important bills you must pay are those known as priority debts. These include payments such as council tax, rent or mortgage, utility bills such as gas and electric, TV licence, a court fine and secured loans.

If you don’t pay a priority debt, it could result in you losing your home or you going to prison. Other bills such as catalogue, credit cards, store cards, mobile phone bills and personal or unsecured loans are known as non-priority debts.

Of course non-priority debts still matter and they still need to be paid, but the results of not paying them are not as serious. Any company that you owe money to can start legal action against you to get the money you owe them and you may be taken to a county court, but you cannot be imprisoned for not paying non-priority debts.

Remember, that missing payments may mean you have more to pay back, especially if there are interests or charges applied, and it could also have a negative effect on your credit rating and your ability to borrow money in the future.

Steps to take if you owe money

When it comes to paying your debts, go through your budget and work out how much you have left after all your household bills have been paid. If you have anything left over talk to the people that you owe money to, your creditors, and explain your circumstances and how you plan to pay your debt.

It’s best to contact your creditors by phone and follow up with a letter, confirming what was agreed. Make a note of all telephone calls and meetings, including the name of the person you spoke to and what you said. Keep copies of any letters you write to them. And, if you don’t think you are talking to the correct person ask who is in charge of your account.

If you want help in contacting your creditors or don’t have any money left over to pay your bills, PayPlan is here for you.

We can talk to your creditors on your behalf and help you to set up one regular affordable payment to pay off your debts. We can also advise on a debt solution, like a Debt Management Plan or Individual Voluntary Arrangement, to help you become debt free.

Get debt help – we’ll help every step of the way call 0800 716 239 or visit