Which Bill Payments to Prioritize When You’re Broke

The future is uncertain and sometimes no matter how prepared you are for the future, a financial crisis may happen. An unfortunate event where you have to spend a lot of your money may occur, or you may lose your job, or sudden medical problems may arise. Numerous situations can render you penniless.

You may be out of cash for awhile, but many times the situation is not dire. You can still bounce back. It may just be a short term drawback. Even though the future may offer a brighter hope, one thing that is dim at the moment of crisis and that is, even if you do not have any money anymore, the bills will continue to come. Let this fact not put you in a depressed state, but rather take it as an opportunity to be better. Good money management technique is what you need to get the bills paid. You have to learn to prioritize which bills should be paid first and which ones to set aside temporarily until you have enough cash to cover for everything that is needed.

The best way to prioritize your expenses is by looking at your immediate needs and the immediate needs of the family to get a better grasp of which ones to pay first.

Basic Necessities


Whether you are well-off or tight on cash, you still need to eat. So, you have to put food on top of your list of necessities.

Daily Essentials

Toiletries like toothpaste, shampoo, soap and the like are definitely important necessities that you need to prioritize. You may want to buy the cheaper ones and those that offer deals. For the meantime, do not buy by the bulk. Just buy what is needed at the moment so you will still have enough cash to pay for other necessities.


Depending on your amortization, mortgage or rent, the amount you need to set aside for house payments may vary for every individual. Although it may be a big amount for you to muster at the time of personal financial crisis, you still need to get this paid somehow. If you are juggling between which ones to pay first, this is one of those on top of the list. You cannot afford not having a roof over your head or shelter for your family. You may want to transfer to a smaller place if you are renting, if that will work best for you, but do not in any way remove house payments on your list of top priorities.


Top utilities that you need to pay first are electric, gas, and water bills. They are essential for your general well-being and that of your family. Telephone and cellphone bills may be important to you but always prioritize your health and safety first before anything else. If the food, shelter and the three top utilities are paid-off then you can now set aside some of your money for telephone bills. If you are really broke, you may want to keep either the cellphone or the landline phone and give up the other. If you choose to keep the cellphone line, you may want to ask your service provider to change your service plan to a lower rate.


Even though, the budget is tight, sad to say, you still need to file your income tax. Failure to do so or if you fail to file on time, you may incur penalties that will only add to your financial burden. In some cases, you may be able to ask for an extension so that you can file your taxes later.

Loans and Debts

Car loans and loans with collateral should be considered important too because you may lose your valuable properties if these loans do not get paid on time. If you have a payday loan, these typically have extremely high interest rates and not paying them off can make things even worse.

Belt-tightening measures are definitely needed during personal financial crisis, but you have to be sure that you are tightening your belt in the right places. Prioritizing groceries and food is wise but this does not mean you keep eating out every other night. You still have to spend wisely on the priority bills stated here. Just remember that any crisis in life, including financial crises, will only be temporary if handled properly. Spend wisely and soon you will find yourself back on your feet again.

Are you broke right now? What are the necessities you can never be without?


Which Bill Payments to Prioritize When You’re Broke — 14 Comments

  1. If the situation is really critical, you can adapt most of your lifestyle. I would start by negotiating my bills with my providers and my bank, sometimes if you can pay a small amount they consider it good faith and will agree to postpone part of the payments. Then I would buy the most basic food, start clipping coupons, and forget about new clothes and travel for a while.

  2. Great info.
    You are right, no one can see the future and any crises can happen any time even one the future looks bright.
    This article is well written especially for emergencies when we should know which needs should be prioritized.

  3. I’d also add to Pauline’s comment and say that if you know the situation will be dire and will last for a while, figure out a way to reduce the largest bill: mortgage or rent. Renters have a little more flexibility to move to a less expensive place. That could help pay the remainder of the bills.

  4. Basic necessities indeed must be the priority. I’ve known a poor family who implement a self-imposed brownout in their home just to save on electric bill. Your priority list really makes sense.

  5. This is one case where I think paying just the minimum on a credit card makes sense. Things like rent/mortgage takes priority. But be sure to get on top of this as soon as you are able.

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