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How to Manage Debt: Tracking and Prioritizing Debts

billsIn order to eliminate debt you must know how to manage your debts properly, whether it’s credit card debt, a mortgage, student loans, or any other type of debt. As you may already know, the first step is getting organized. If you followed the advice in the first post and created a bill payment schedule, you’ve already done most of the hard work to begin the next step in managing debt: tracking and prioritizing debts.

Start by referencing your bill payment schedule to begin tracking the progress you’ve made toward debt reduction. Subtract your monthly payment from your current balance (and don’t forget to factor in interest) to determine your new balance. Use this Debt Tracker worksheet to keep track of your debt elimination progress.

Debt Tracker

To stay organized, staple this to the back of your bill payment schedule or save in the same folder if referencing on the computer. (The bill payment schedule serves simply as a calendar for you to reference each month and the debt tracker worksheet will help you more clearly see your progress toward paying off credit cards, loans, etc.) Once you’ve organized and tracked your debts, the next step is to prioritize which debts you will pay off first. Generally, your mortgage payment and all housing costs should be at the top of your debt priorities.

Just like your mortgage payment is tied to your house, your auto loan payment is tied to your car; it is a secured debt. Secured debts are those that are backed by something such as your house or car. Secured debts should also be at the top of your debt priorities. Next on the list should be federal income taxes, especially if you have assets that can be taken away. When sorting through credit card debt and other unsecured debts, prioritize them in order from highest interest rate to lowest interest rate to be sure you are not paying any more in interest than you have to.

Check back for information on how to manage calls from debt collectors and recognizing signs that you need help with your debts. Check out the last post in this series on getting organized here.

ABOUT AUTHOR / Madison

Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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