How to Manage Your Debt in 10 Minutes a Week


Juggling multiple debts can feel like playing whack-a-mole. As soon as you pay one bill, another pops up, and you spend each month scrambling to stay afloat.

You know that you need to get organized if you ever want to get ahead of your debt, but you are not the kind of person who enjoys organizing your bills.

Thankfully, the work necessary to manage your debt — and get it paid off once and for all — is not nearly as overwhelming as you might assume. In fact, with just a little initial effort, you can organize and manage your debt in as little as 10 minutes per week. Here's how.

1. List Your Debts

The first step is to track down the specific information about each and every one of your debts. Look up who you owe, the remaining balance, the rate of interest on each debt, and each debt's minimum payment. For instance, your list might look like this:




Minimum Payment

Store Credit Card








Visa Card




Federal Student Loan




Private Student Loan







Depending on your tech comfort level, you might choose to use a simple paper-and-pencil list, create your own Excel spreadsheet, or use a pre-made program, such as DebtTracker from It's Your Money. The important thing about creating your debt management list is that you should use a format that you are likely to stick with.

Once you know exactly what you owe, it's time to look for some extra money in your budget to send to your debts. Whether you give up your daily Starbucks habit, or officially quit the gym you haven't actually been to since New Year's, you are sure to find fat you can cut from your budget to send to your debts. (And of course, make sure you are not adding any new debts.)

2. Debt Avalanche vs. Debt Snowball

Once you have your list, decide what order you plan to pay off your loans. There are two schools of thought on this: debt avalanche and debt snowball. (See also: Snowballs or Avalanches: Which Debt Reduction Strategy Is Best for You?)

The Debt Avalanche

According to this method, you start your debt payoff with whatever has the highest interest rate. You send extra money to that debt until it is paid off, and then begin sending the same amount to the debt with the next highest interest rate.

For instance, if our example budgeter had a total of $1,000 to send toward her debts each month, that would give her an additional $248 per month to pay toward her Store credit card, which has the highest APR, making her monthly payment $352. At that rate, she will have her Store card paid off in nine months.

From there, she will begin to send $400 per month to her MasterCard (the $48 minimum plus the $352 she had been sending to her Store credit card), paying that off within three months. At that point, she can begin to send $632 to her Visa.

The Debt Snowball

This method recommends you begin with your lowest balance because you can pay it off quickly and feel motivated by your results.

In our example budgeter's case, she would begin by sending $296 to her Visa card (her $48 minimum payment plus the additional $248 she can spend on her debts), paying it off in five months. She would then work on her Store card balance, sending $400 per month to it.

Generally, you will spend less money over time if you employ the debt avalanche method. However, depending on how you are wired and motivated, the debt snowball may be easier for you to maintain.

3. Automate

Automation is the center of the 10 minutes per week debt management plan. Setting up automatic payments for each of your debts will eliminate the "Oh, crud, I forgot to pay my Visa bill!" realization that is the worst part of being disorganized.

The key to having automation work is ensuring that you have enough money in your account to cover your debts on your due dates. There are two ways to do this without keeping track of every penny:

Schedule Payments With Your Paycheck

Many credit cards and lenders are willing to let you change your due date to one of your choosing, or will allow you to make payments anytime. Schedule your payments to come out automatically on the same day you receive a paycheck.

Open a Debt Payment Checking Account

You'll automatically transfer the full amount you need to pay all of your debts each month into this account. For instance, our example budgeter might transfer $500 from each of her bi-weekly paychecks into her debt payment checking account. On her bills' due dates, her payments will be automatically transferred. The benefit of a dedicated account like this is the fact that the money will be out of sight, making it less tempting to spend on anything other than debt payoff.

4. Spend 10 Minutes Per Week on Maintenance

Once you have developed your debt payoff plan and set up your automation, all you have to do is spend 10 minutes each week (or less) maintaining the plan. There are three items on your maintenance list:

Don't Overdraw

Check how much money is in the account you use to pay your debts. With automation, this should be a quick process with no surprises — but it's always a good idea to check in weekly to make sure you are on track. Otherwise, it's very easy to accidentally overdraw your account.

Revise Your Balances

Do this at least once a month. As you are working to pay off your debts, revising your balances for each debt can help to keep your motivation high.

Adjust Your Payments as Necessary

Change your payment amount with each debt that is paid off. You can also use this time to add any one-time payments you might make from windfalls or other unexpected money.

"When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time."

As with consuming a pachyderm, the trick to debt payoff is working slowly and steadily. While each small chunk of debt does not seem significant, it all adds up to a monumental accomplishment.

How are you maintaining your debt repayment program?

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