Many people dream about the idea of living without debt, while others have actually done something about it.

Those who comprise the latter group have one thing in common.

They came up with a plan.

An idea without a plan is nothing more than a dream. If you want to get to hero from less-than-zero, you’re going to want to learn about prioritizing debt repayment for better results.

Here’s what you need to know.

Get Organized

No, we don’t mean go out and buy a Hammond B3 (ask a friend who’s into Jazz if you didn’t get it). We’re saying arrange your personal finances in an orderly fashion so you can attack them methodically.

Begin by making a list (or creating a spreadsheet) of all of your debts. Include the amount owed, the minimum payment, the interest rate and the date the monthly payment is due for each one.

Next, compare your income to your expenses. If you’re making more than you owe — or breaking even — you can proceed to the next two paragraphs in which you’ll make one of the two choices.

If not, skip ahead to the next-to-last paragraph.

1. Start at the Top

Arrange your list in descending order, according to the interest rate the debt carries. Place the one with the highest interest rate at the top and the lowest interest rate at the bottom.

You will then make the minimum payment on all of the debts, save the one with the highest interest rate. Focus as much of your money as possible on that one until it is paid in full.

Once you’ve done so, take all of that money and add it to the minimum payment you were making on the next highest one. Pay the same way until it too is paid in full. Continue the process, adding all the money you paid on previous debts to the next one in line until each of them is gone.

1. Start at the Bottom

Conversely, you can list all of your debts in ascending order, based upon the outstanding balance. Place the one with the lowest balance at the top and the one with the highest balance at the bottom. Proceed in the same fashion as you did above, until all of the debts are paid off.

Going this route usually returns faster results, because you’re eradicating the smaller debts first and your payments get larger as you assault the biggest balances. However, you’ll pay less money overall if you go with the former approach because you’ll eradicate the highest interest rates first.

Deciding Which Approach to Take

Your patience, weighed against your need for quicker gratification, will be the ultimate arbiter here. Going with option number two brings more immediate results, which can inspire you to stay with the plan. Meanwhile, option number one will save you more money in the long run if you can accept abstracts over tangibles.

If You Owe More Than You Make

You’re going to have to make some decisions about where to cut back or how to make additional money when you have more debt than income. Consulting a professional at a firm like Freedom Debt Relief can help you evaluate your circumstances and figure out which debt relief strategy might suit your needs.

Either way, your best shot lies in choosing a strategy with which you can stick and working it until you’re successful

One more thing: You’re going to find yourself in possession of credit accounts with zero balances as your plan progresses. The temptation to use those accounts will be great. Resist it. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a situation in which you’ll be “prioritizing debt repayments for better results” again and again and again.