7 Steps for Catching up on Bills When You Have No Idea Where to Start

So you want to pay off your debt. That’s a great goal! But if you can barely make payments on your monthly bills, what are you supposed to do?

First, don’t think there’s no hope. The process of getting current on your bills and becoming debt-free is simple — but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

To get on the financial path you want to be on, you have to commit. Here’s how to get started.

How to Start Paying Off Debt, Even if You’re Behind on Your Bills

We’ve got seven steps for paying off debt when you’re behind on bills. Go through them in order. Some steps may take you longer than others, but trust that each step is important, and complete each one fully before you moving on to the next.

1. Find Out Whom You Owe… and How Much You Owe Them

Prioritize your catch-up list by ordering bills and creditors by importance… and annoyingness.

If you’re behind on utilities or rent, catch up on those first. Then list your bills from highest to lowest interest rate. If you’re trying to maintain your credit score, prioritize debts that aren’t yet in collections over those that are.

From there, if you’ve got one company calling you multiple times per day, you can move that debt higher on your list than a debt you owe to a company that’s relatively quiet. Alternatively, if there’s a debt that just nags at you personally, move it up the list to get rid of it ASAP.

Sign up for accounts with Credit Sesame or Credit Karma to make sure you don’t miss a single creditor. They aggregate all your debts to give you a comprehensive list of everyone you owe and what you owe them.

Make sure to exclude time-barred debts. Those are debts outside the statute of limitations, meaning they’re too old for a company to sue you over. Brush up on the statute of limitations in your state, so you can tell if any of your debts fall in this category.

Focus with intensity on the first bill on your list. Try to make minimum payments on the rest.

2. Make a Budget

A woman's hand puts cash in an envelope.

Now it’s time to fit your debt into your budget and get a realistic picture of how long it’s going to take to catch up. When you’re on a low income or behind on your bills, or your income varies from month to month, we recommend doing a zero-based budget.

A zero-based budget puts all your expenses in order of priority. Your necessities are your top priority, and your debts or catch-up payments get prioritized over wants. You’ll “spend” every dollar of each paycheck on whatever is in your budget.

If you’re new to budgeting, try splitting your month into two separate budgets — one for each paycheck.

The envelope system is a great complement to a zero-based budget. It helps limit your spending in areas that are triggers for you, because you’ll only carry the cash you’ve budgeted for in each category.

3. Cut Up the Credit Cards

At this point, if you have multiple credit cards, let them go. You know what’s coming in and what needs to go out. You know if you have enough income to cover an expense or if you’re coming up short.

Your budget should only include what you can afford based on your income, not your available credit.

If you need to keep one, choose the one with the lowest interest rate, and keep it at home so you’re not tempted to use it. Sau-Sha Hill, 27, who lives in Texas, actually asked her friend Sha’Kreshia Terrell to hold onto her cards while she paid off $ 30,000 of debt.

“Sha’Kreshia would literally take my credit cards out of my wallet and keep them at home,” Hill said.

You don’t need to close your credit card accounts to stop using them. But if closing the account is the only way you’ll stop using them, that’s better than continuing to rack up debt. Yes, your credit score will drop temporarily, but a good credit score is useless without a sound financial foundation. Do whatever it takes to stop your debt from going up while you’re getting current.

4. Lower Your Expenses

A man's hands prepare containers of homemade food for freezing.

You may think little cuts here and there are enough to make up for your spending vices, but when you’re trying to accomplish a big financial goal, you need to make big changes. And that includes saying no to things you previously said you’d never give up.

Remember: This isn’t forever. You’re ripping off a Band-Aid to heal a wound that’s been festering for a long time. Eventually, you’ll be in a place where you can indulge again. But that day is not today.

It might be hard, but you — and your kids — can get through it. Here are some expense-cutting ideas to get you started:

5. Manually Track Your Spending

To stick to your budget, it’s imperative that you track your spending. But automatic tracking through apps like Mint is not enough when you’re trying to lower your expenses

and pay your delinquent bills.

Just as counting calories or macros on a diet tends to make you eat less, manually tracking every dollar you spend results in you spending less.

EveryDollar is a great free app for manually tracking your purchases to make sure they’re aligned with your zero-based budget. You can also make a budget spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets if you need further customization.

6. Increase Your Income

A man rides a bike with a pizza delivery case strapped to his back.

Organizing your budget and lowering your spending are just the first steps. You’ll need to earn more money than you were bringing in when you got into this situation.

Deliver pizzas, drive for Uber, clean houses, do work-from-home customer support — anything that’s flexible enough to let you maintain your full-time job and that pays more than minimum wage, i.e., you’ll need to do more than just online surveys.

Organize your schedule to make time for increasing your income. Again, it’s not easy, but it’s not forever.

7. Tackle Your Debt

Achievement unlocked!

Once you’re current with your payments and you’ve created room in your budget to remain current (and have extra), you’re ready to begin tackling debt. And the good news? You already know how!

Keep following these steps, and you’ll remain current while you continue on the path toward of freedom from debt.

If you need more help, here are some tips for paying off debt on a salary of less than $ 50,000. And here are some other options you have for paying off debt if you’ve tried these steps but they just aren’t working for you.

Jen Smith is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She and her husband paid off $ 78,000 of debt in less than two years on two less-than-average salaries. She gives money-saving and debt-payoff tips on Instagram at @modernfrugality.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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Catching the Hidden Serial Killer in ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’

There’s a serial killer on the loose in Red Dead Redemption 2. You may have seen his “works of art” close to Valentine. The game won’t point you in the right direction here. You’ll have to find him and catch him yourself. But he does have one weakness.

Like most pop culture serial killers, this one is just begging to be caught. But it’ll take the right detective to figure out the clues. He wants his genius to be understood — but of course, that’ll be his downfall.

Each victim the RDR2 serial killer leaves out in the world has a clue nearby. Usually shoved inside a facial orifice, but not always the same one — it’s a surprise each time!

Much like the first mysterious shack, RDR2’s first serial killer victim is quite close to one of the starting areas, designed to pique your interest so you keep an Eagle Eye out for more…

As Gory As RDR2 Gets

The first of these clues is on the ride from Horseshoe Overlook to Valentine. Many players will stumble on it in their early game back-and-forth. If you load up the map nearby, a simple marker named “corpse” can be seen.


Serial killer clue first one map RDR2
Find the first clue from the serial killer here, southeast of Valentine.

Travelling below the train tracks will reveal the body, or what’s left of it. If you find the severed head, you’ll get the clue: one third of a map that leads to… something.


Serial killer clue Valentine railroad tracks Horseshoe Overlook RDR2
Postmodern expressionism, the artist clearly feels shackled and… dismembered.

But unlike most quests, there’s nothing to signpost where the next steps are. This is one of the rare mysteries in RDR2 that you either find yourself, or you miss.

Humans Don’t Have That Many Organs

Not too far away, in the land of the Braithwaites, there’s a corpse on the edge of the plantation property. There are actually so many body parts scattered around, we think more than one killing has taken place to signal this clue. There’s also a lot of blood, providing a trail to follow.


Serial killer clue two Braithwaite Manor RDR2
Eagle Eye helps, but you can follow the trail of blood.

True to form, there’s a disembodied head nearby, with a scroll stuffed into a novelty face-hole. It’s the second third of the map. Here’s where to find it from Braithwaite Manor:


Serial killer second clue RDR2 Braithwaite Manor map
Just a little bit southeast of Braithwaite Manor is where you can find the second serial killer clue.

But we still need the third piece…

Third Crime’s a Charm

Back towards Valentine, if you go southwest and a bit south of Wallace Station, you’ll come across the third clue deep into the woods.


Serial killer third clue map Wallace Station
Find the third clue here, where the serial killer has left another morbid present.

Follow the same formula, and use your Eagle Eye if you get lost.


Serial killer clue three RDR2
We see. And we cannot unsee.

Once your map is fully put together, it’ll look like this:


Serial killer full map RDR2
On the back of the full serial killer map are the words CAN YOU FIND ME.

This just so happens to look like a run down shack that’s quite close to Valentine. Once you’re there, you can open up the basement to find the serial killer’s dwelling. There also appears to be a safe combination, but Arthur will use that to open the serial killer’s locked door.

Finding the RDR2 Serial Killer

Investigate the serial killer’s hideout, and in the very back there’ll be a knife you can inspect. Doing so will trigger a cutscene in which the serial killer will attack you.

He’s not too hard to fight off, and you can hogtie him and take him back to the sheriff’s office in Valentine to collect your reward.

Trust a serial killer to get all weird, and when the sheriff tries to put him into his cell, he goes full Hannibal and tries to take a bite out of the sheriff’s neck. You’d almost think it was the vampire quest… but more on that one later.

Dead Eye makes it pretty easy to pop the serial killer in the head and save the sheriff. He’ll reward you for your trouble with a stack of bills. It’s not as much as you get from robbing a train, but at least the people of Valentine are a little safer now — until you next decide to rob them.

In-Depth ‘RDR2’ Hunting Guide: Perfect Pelts and Legendary Animals

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