Prioritizing bills during tough economic times

In these tough times we are all getting squeezed. So when money is tight what should you pay first and what bills can take the backseat? Mary Beth Franklin with Kiplinger's Personal Finance gave us some tips to prioritize.

"Well, you are legally required to pay all your bills but there is a hierarchy. Think of your family's safety, in terms of health insurance, roof over their head, your mortgage or rent, food and utilities. Those are top priorities. If you need a car for work, pay that lease bill or pay the car loan. But after that start looking carefully."

Your taxes and student loans should be next. Then tackle credit card debt and that means stop using them! Pay down the card with the highest interest rate first and pay at least the minimum balance on all other cards.

Stretch your food dollars further by going back to the basics: scan grocery circulars, clip coupons and shop with, and stick to, a grocery list. Skip pre-packaged convenience items and consider brown-bagging at work.

Franklin also suggests, "Most of us live a life of convenience and we think conveniences like cell phone and cable service and Netflix and what ever else are the necessities of life but guess what, they are really not. And maybe it's a great time to re-access your habits."

You can cut your entertainment expenses by passing the bookstore and hit the library for free books and movies. Check your telecommunications bills line-by-line and call each provider and try negotiating a better, cheaper deal.