Liz Crenshaw's Guide to Consumer Issues, Recalls and More

Which Bills Should You Pay First During Furlough

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    NEWSLETTERS

    For many furloughed federal employees, being able to pay their bills is a problem hitting home.

    So what should you do if the government shutdown is shutting down your finances? Adam Levin from Credit.com offered some perspective on what happens if you don't pay.

    First, remember a late payment is a problem. Depending on which bill you pay late, it can drop your credit score by as much as 50 points or more. And remember that a credit score is what you need to get loans and good interest rates.

    So here is a bit of a strategy: Pay your most important bill in full and first.

    Most credit experts agree your mortgage payment is your most important bill. So pay it, and pay it on time.

    If you can’t, you can try to contact your lender, but News4 has already heard from some who say reaching out to their mortgage companies has brought no relief at all.

    Next: Your credit card bills. Visa, Mastercard, even your department store cards.

    These are a bit easier as most credit card bills provide you the option of making a minimum payment. Furloughed workers should consider just paying the minimum at this point and preserve cash.

    Student loans are a bit tougher. You can ask for a hardship deferment, but it takes a while for those to be processed. Contact your loan officer and ask.

    So which other bills are most important to pay? it’s good to know which of your creditors report to the credit bureaus and which ones don’t.

    Typically, late rental payments are not reported to the credit bureau. So talk to your landlord if you need to delay your rent check.

    Late utility payments are not typically reported, either. Again, contact Pepco, Dominion Virginia Power or Washington Gas and explain your situation.

    Insurance bills and medical bills also are not typically reported if they are late. So these may be bills you can negotiate a deferment.

    One more thing to remember: Most lenders don’t report a late payment until you are 30 days late. So making a payment a few days beyond the due date usually doesn’t hurt.

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