Ask MP: Save or Pay Off Debt?

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Ask MP: Save or Pay Off Debt?

My husband and I both work, but fear he’ll lose his job. What’s more crucial — adding to our emergency fund or paying off credit cards?

Save, save, save! Paying off your cards would reduce your monthly bills, it’s true. But unless you’re within striking distance of clearing out your debt — and thus putting that cash back in the household budget — what you really need is a nice fat cushion. That’s because without a robust emergency fund, if the layoff happens, it would be Mr. Visa to the rescue all over again.

For now, stick to making minimum payments on your credit cards and aim to save at least three months’ worth of living expenses (six is better, but start with three). Then begin boot camp: Start living on less right now. I’m serious: Sock away your husband’s paychecks, and try living on just yours. What choices does it force you to make? How lean and mean can you get? Maybe it’s time for you to position yourself for a promotion or ask your boss for a raise. When handled right, fear can fuel incredible acts of courage and creativity.

If the crisis ebbs, resume paying off your debts more aggressively, and take pride in knowing that your household just became a lot more efficient and profitable.

Ask MP Dunleavey your money questions at