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Tackling your debts

If you can’t pay everything, which bills should you never miss?

Posted 20 February 2017

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Not sure which bills to put first? We'll take you through your priority bills so you know which ones you should always pay.

Losing control of your finances can be really scary and if you’re dealing with debt repayments on top of this, it can seem like there’s a different bill to pay every other day. And if this happens to you, you might start missing some bills.

While it’s never ideal to miss any bills, there are some bills you should always try to pay. These are your priority bills – if you don’t pay them, there can be greater consequences than just getting extra charges or fees.

Not sure what your priority bills are? Don’t worry – we’ll take you through the bills you shouldn’t ever miss.

What are the priority bills?

As we explained, your priority bills are those you should always make the effort to pay, even if you miss other things. This is because there can be serious consequences if you don’t.

Here are some priority bills, as well as what can happen if you miss the payments.

•  Rent, mortgage or secured loan payments: you could lose the roof over your head.
•  Council Tax: if you get behind, the council can take money from your benefits or wages, secure the debt against your home, send the bailiffs round or even put you in prison.
•  County Court Judgment (CCJ): the lender can apply to have the debt secured against your home, take the money from your wages or get bailiffs to come to your home.
•  Gas or electricity bills: your provider can cut off the services if you don’t pay them.
•  TV licence: you can get a fine of up to £1,000.
•  Water bill: you can’t lose your water supply but you could get a CCJ or money taken from your benefits.
•  Child maintenance: you could get money taken from your benefits or wages, a visit from bailiffs or even go to prison.
•  Tax payments: you can get a CCJ, money taken from your wages, the bailiffs come round or even face bankruptcy.
•  Court fines: you can get what you owe taken out of your benefits or wages, the bailiffs can come to your house or you could go to prison.

What can you do?

If you’re falling behind with your priority bills, the first port of call should be whomever you’re paying it to – whether that’s to the council, your utility provider or your landlord. Explain that you’re having difficulties and they’ll usually do their best to help you out.

And if your debt repayments – things like credit cards, loans, storecards - are making it hard for you to afford your priority bills, you should think about seeking advice. A debt charity or a debt solutions provider can help you work out a new way to pay off what you owe – why not get help today?

by Emily Bancroft

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.