Poll: Paying off debt more important than saving

If given the choice of saving money or paying down their debt, consumers say it's much better to pay off bills, a new survey of nearly 3,000 respondents indicates.

Nearly 90 percent of consumers put a higher value on overcoming debt rather than putting money away for later expenses, according to a new poll conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Despite the findings, Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC, said saving and debt resolution are of equal significance.

"People often debate which is more important, to be debt free or to have a robust savings account, and the answer is both," said Cunningham. "As important as it is to handle debt responsibly, the truth of the matter is that the unplanned emergency is inevitable, and savvy consumers will recognize this and prepare for it."

High levels of debt often leave consumers in dire financial straits. Moreover, higher credit card balances in particular can play havoc with credit scores. There is some indication, however, that consumers are behaving more responsibly in this regard: Last week, the Federal Reserve reported credit card debt fell in July.