Working out which debts to pay first

piggy bank with IOU message

It’s important to understand which bills to pay first, especially if you’re in debt.

While unsecured credit lenders, like pay day lenders, may shout loudest, rent, utility bills and council tax should be paid first. These ensure you continue to have a home and heating.

On this page, we will explain what are priority and non-priority bills and show you what could happen if you don’t pay.

If you’re having problems paying priority bills or debts we can help with expert debt advice.

What are my priority bills/debts?

Priority bills should always be paid first as not paying can lead to serious consequences for you and your family:

Priority Bills Consequences of not paying
Rent You could lose your home
Council Tax Fine, imprisonment, money taken direct from wage/benefits or visit from bailiffs
Certain payments ordered by the courts Imprisonment, money taken direct from wage/benefits or visit from bailiffs
Gas and electricity Disconnection, money taken direct from wage/benefits, County Court Judgement
TV License Fine
Telephone Disconnection, County Court Judgement
Court fines Fine, money taken direct from wage/benefits or visit from bailiffs
Secured loans County Court Judgement, loss of goods
Child maintenance Fine, imprisonment, money taken direct from wage/benefits or visit from bailiffs

What are my non-priority bills/debts?

Below are classed as non priority bills.  Usually the consequence of non-payment of these items is less severe than a priority bill:

  • Credit card debts
  • Catalogue debt
  • Water rates arrears
  • Bank overdrafts and loans
  • Personal loans with finance companies
  • Loans with loan sharks
  • Money borrowed from friends and family
  • Hire purchase agreements (HP)
  • Unsecured bank and payday loans (loans that are not secured against your property)

Get in touch

If you've money worries or debt issues, please contact our Money Advice Team on 01204 328000, or send them an email by clicking here for free, confidential help and support.