If you have substantial debt, you have a tough decision to make.

On one hand, you'd like to start saving and investing toward your financial goals. But with credit card interest rates well into double digits, eliminating that debt is an immediate return on your money that's hard to duplicate with savings or stocks. So what should you do?

For many people, the answer is both. That is, it just might be better both to pay down your debt and to save.

Be prepared
One of the first things Fools recommend investors have is an emergency fund to take care of, well, emergencies. As much as Macy's (NYSE:M) and Best Buy's (NYSE:BBY) advertising may try to convince you otherwise, an emergency doesn't include that cute new coat you saw marked down or that must-have plasma TV.

Rather, it's the unforeseen circumstances: your car's engine seizing because you forgot to change the oil, or the new roof you need because the ice dams that built up with the winter storm crushed a hole in your eaves. It would also include your monthly living expenses required because you got laid off. Those are emergencies.

Without an emergency fund, you might have to tap your credit cards yet again to pay the bill -- assuming you haven't already maxed out your limit. That's why an emergency fund is so important and why you should consider contributing to one while paying down your debt.

Sure, that means you're paying some extra interest on your credit cards each month. But that might be the least of your problems if you find yourself without a job and needing to pay the mortgage.

Still, aim to get those cards paid off. Make regular payments above the minimum, snowballing the payments each time you pay off a card. You'll get rid of your debt much faster that way. The credit gurus at TMF Green Light offer additional ways to gussy up your credit cards (in time for the holidays) such as asking your credit card for a better interest rate or playing the balance transfer game. Just don't neglect the e-fund that's essential to your overall financial well being. Putting a little aside now can save you lots more later, even if it costs you a little bit more over time.

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Each month TMF Green Light offers money-saving tips you can put to use right away. The last issue's tips were worth $2,250. It would be to your credit to try out the 30-day, free trial subscription available by clicking here.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. Best Buy is a Stock Advisor and Inside Value recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.