Got 13 Minutes? This Simple Plan Will Help You Tackle Your Debt

Woman in city
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder
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Any amount of debt is overwhelming. And when something’s overwhelming, we tend to procrastinate — or even shut down entirely.

But making a plan to pay off debt doesn’t have to be too complicated. It’s just a matter of sitting down and focusing.

What if we told you making a plan doesn’t have to take more than about 13 minutes? Seriously.

Take a deep breath — it’s time to get started.

1. See If You Can Save Hundreds of Dollars: 2 Minutes

One of our favorite first steps to escaping debt — whether you’re dealing with student loans, credit cards or medical bills — is to refinance and consolidate it with a personal loan. That means using a personal loan to pay off your debt, leaving you with one monthly loan payment.

At first this might sound counterintuitive — like you’re just shuffling your debt around — but the truth is, this trick could lower your monthly payment, save you tons of money in interest and allow you to pay off your debt faster.

If you’re not sure where to start looking (and have a credit score of at least 620), use a website called Fiona. It takes about two minutes to fill out basic information, then it’ll match you with a personal loan — rates start at 3.84% and you can borrow up to $100,000.

Pro Tip

When shopping personal loans, look for interest rates lower than your credit cards’ and manageable monthly payments. Oh, and don’t take out more than you need to pay off your debt.

Best yet? Because Fiona won’t make you stand in line or call a bank, you can get a free quote right now. If you find a loan offer you like, apply right online, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming debt free.

2. Know Whatcha Owe and Track Your Progress: 2 Minutes

One of the toughest parts of paying down your debt is simply knowing where to begin.

Which of your credit cards are carrying a balance? Is your name attached to any unpaid loans? Are you behind on medical or utility bills you didn’t know about?

That’s where a free website like Credit Sesame can help. It takes about two minutes to sign up and access your free credit score. From there, Credit Sesame will outline your debt — exactly what you owe and to whom — and offer personalized recommendations.

It helped Melinda Smieja, a single mom who racked up somewhere nearly $30,000 worth of credit card debt after her 13-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.

When she went to pay off her cards, she had no idea where to start — then she found Credit Sesame. “I could look and I could say, ‘OK, this is what’s all going on here. This is my debt. This is what’s happening. This is what’s making my credit [interest] high,’” she said.

She eventually become debt free and improved her credit score nearly 300 points.* And it all started by taking two minutes to sign up with Credit Sesame.

3. Cut Your Monthly Bills (Without Any Major Sacrifices): 3 Minutes

One way to pay off your debt even faster? Cut some of your monthly expenses. No, we’re not talking about your morning coffee… we’re talking about car insurance. You just might be able to cut its cost — without sacrificing coverage.

That’s exactly why we like using an online service called Gabi. It’ll do all the shopping for you to help you find cheaper insurance — with the same coverage and deductibles you already have. And it says it saves customers an average of $865 a year.

You don’t have to fill out any forms. Just link your existing insurance account and enter your driver’s license, and it will start looking for cheaper coverage. It didn’t take us more than about three minutes.

Plus, after you sign up, Gabi will keep looking for savings.

Imagine having an extra $865 to throw at your debt… that’d be nice!

4. Sign up For a Side Hustle to Bring in Extra Money: 3 Minutes

Maybe you’ve been thinking: This advice is great and all, but I hardly have enough money to pay rent — let alone pay off my debt.

If that’s the case, you might want to look into a flexible side gig. No, this doesn’t have to be a forever thing. You might only need to do it for a month or two. But the extra paycheck could really help you get back on track — or even ahead.

We like an app called Doordash, because you set your own hours and work as much or little as you want, meaning how much you make is up to you. 

You’ll earn money for each delivery, plus tips. Jose Neri, from California, reported earning $500 to $600 a week working just lunches and dinners.

The best part? No passengers.

It only takes a few minutes to complete your Doordash application — and you could get your first paycheck as soon as this week.

5. Update Your Budget: 3 Minutes

Now that you’ve got a plan mapped out — a way to simplify your debt, keep track of it, cut your bills and boost your income — it’s time to update your budget to accommodate your plans.

And if you don’t have a budget yet? You’ll definitely want one to help guide you through this journey — but don’t panic. Here’s an easy budgeting method we like: It’s called the 50/20/30 method. This is what it looks like:

  • 50% of your income goes toward essentials.
  • 20% goes toward financial goals.
  • 30% goes toward personal spending.

It’ll take more than three minutes if you’re creating a budget from scratch, of course, but this is a good backbone to get you started.

Once you have a plan of attack, it’s time to get started on your adventure to becoming debt free. Good luck!

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.