Are you paying your bills in the wrong order?

You're Paying Your Bills Wrong
You're Paying Your Bills Wrong

Do you pay your monthly bills in the right order? Based on at least one recent study, the odds are you don't.

First the good news: for the first time since 2008, Americans have changed the order in which they pay their bills. A study released this week by TransUnion found that Americans are once again paying their mortgage before they pay their credit card bills. That's good according to financial planners because keeping a roof over your head is probably more important than paying off your latest flat-screen TV or $200 sneakers.

Still, payment patterns vary. People in New York and Los Angeles are giving equal weight to credit card payments and mortgages, but in Chicago, consumers were still paying off their credit cards first.

In spite of the improvement, Americans are still paying off their bills in the wrong order, according to financial planners. That's because the top priority in most American households is still the car payment. Nationwide, the 30-day delinquency rate for auto loans fell to 0.87 percent late last year.

Sure, juggling bills is a balancing act, but ultimately your car is probably less important than your home, the argument goes.

If you feel you can't make a payment for whatever reason, financial planners advise you to be proactive and call the company or bank and ask for an extension. Credit card companies are often the most willing to negotiate a revised payment plan.