Get Debt Free With One Manila Folder

When you’re facing a pile of debt and unpaid bills, the task before you can seem overwhelming. You’d much rather be pounding Olde English and watching old Daily Show episodes. The key is to get it all organized and in one place, and it all starts with one manila folder.

No Credit Needed recommends these first two steps.

1. Find a manila file folder and label it “debt reduction plan”. This folder will contain all of the information that you will need to succeed.

2. Use the telephone and online access to your credit accounts and find out your current balances, current interest rates, due dates for all loans / credit cards, telephone numbers for each creditor, and addresses where creditors accept payments. Bonus Tip: Use a spreadsheet program to organize the information about your creditors, so that you can have instant access, whenever your might need it. Print a copy of the spreadsheet and place it in your “debt reduction plan” folder.

After that, you can reward yourself with some malt liquor and topical comedy and then the next day move on to his next steps.

(If you don’t have a manila folder, any color will do).

Preparing For Debt Reduction Success [No Credit Needed]

Subscribe to Ben’s posts by RSS.
Follow Ben on Twitter.
Email ben at


Edit Your Comment

  1. ElizabethD says:

    The name “Olde English” is one I associate with my preferred furniture polish, not with beer. Hmmm…. correlation with suckiness of beer?

    • rahntwo says:

      Olde English 800 malt liquor. One of the preferred brands of “40’s”.

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        Not to be confused with St. Ides, which once had to pull an ad campaign (featuring Ice Cube!) with the tagline “get your jimmy thicker with St. Ides Malt Liquor,” after a nastygram from the FDA informing the company that, unless it was prepared to produce scientific evidence supporting the assertion that St. Ides increased penis size, it needed to drop the ad.

    • Caffiend says:

      Olde English 800 is one of the worst rated beers on I haven’t had it, but I can’t say that I’d buy it to confirm.

    • fr34k says:

      They taste the same

  2. DanRydell says:

    3. Create a website with a ton of Google ads
    4. …
    5. Debt free!

  3. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    Step 3: Transform Manila folder into gold using alchemy
    Step 4: Profit!

    Starting somewhere is important, but I find this… comical somehow.

  4. aloria says:

    Wow, apparently writing down all my debts, sticking them in a folder, and drinking malt liquor will cure my debt? That is some powerful David Bowie level voodoo shit.

  5. photoguy622 says:

    I don’t have any manilla folders. Should I buy some with my credit card? This is so confusing, it’s very frustrating.

    I think I’ll buy a new TV to relax me.

  6. Beeker26 says:

    1.) Put all your bills in one manila folder.
    2.) File for bankruptcy
    3.) Throw out manila folder

    Easy as 1, 2, 3!

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:


    • varro says:

      This bankruptcy lawyer says your ideas intrigue me, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

      My clients either have a dozen manila folders with their bills neatly organized, or two or three shopping bags filled with two years of unopened mail.

      • SuperNinjaâ„¢ says:

        I am intrigued by the “2 years worth of mail in plastic bags” concept. I have a cousin who is rumored to have the same system. I’m curious: How many of your clients use this “System”?

    • Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

      Don’t forget the 40…and boxed wine for the ladies…

  7. Mobius says:

    I put all my debts (in my case, credit cards), due dates, contact information and interest rates into a Google Doc spreadsheet. I then would pay the minimums on everything but the highest rate debt and put all my extra income into paying that debt off. I did this every month until I no longer had credit cards with any balance. Hooray! Google Docs is easier than a folder.

  8. koalabare says:

    This is exactly what I did. I even did the excel worksheet.

    The only difference is that my folder was blue.

  9. Grungo says:

    I would rather watch reruns of Hee-Haw while drinking my malt liquor, thanks

  10. The cake is a lie! says:

    I can help you get debt free with something even more simple than a folder.

    Step 2: Enjoy being debt free

    That works for getting out of debt and staying out of debt. For getting out of debt i would add a substep which is:

    Step 1.5: Spend the extra money you have on the debt.

    • jason in boston says:

      Some people don’t realize how much debt they accrue (they have no system). For those people, I present you:

      • SuperNinjaâ„¢ says:

        I looked into joining, but they wanted my account numbers & routing numbers for my checking accounts! I did not consider this to be safe enough; thus, I don’t use

  11. apd09 says:

    so basically this person is saying get organized and use the snowball method. No need to read the article now.

    • Dave Farquhar says:

      Looks like a good summary to me.

      The method doesn’t matter nearly as much as getting a plan together, then sticking with it. It all comes down to gathering up what you owe and to who, figuring out what you’re going to pay off first, then dumping every spare nickel into reducing debt #1 on your priority list. Then move all of them up once that one’s gone.

      If the banks weren’t doing funny math when they loaned you money, you can pay it all off in seven years or less. It’s no coincidence. One of the golden rules of finance was to not loan any more than you’re capable of paying off in seven years, and one of the things that got us into the current meltdown was throwing out that rule. But if you still have your house and car at this point, you have a fighting chance.

  12. areaman says:

    Actually the first step should be “Be a participant in your own life.”

    Many people in debt don’t know and don’t care about debt. Being in debt has nothing to do with not having folders, snowball method, etc.

  13. dwb says:

    Is manila a color?

  14. jdmba says:

    This is one of those “trade the folder” until you get a house, kind of things; because otherwise that “advice” is ridiculous. Here’s another view:

    1) Figure out which interest bearing debt has the smallest amount of outstanding principal.
    2) Pay that off
    3) Take the money you were putting toward debt PLUS the money you used to have to pay to that one; and do it to the next one
    4) Repeat
    5) Done

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Really bad idea. So, if you had a credit card with a $10,000 balance at 20%, and one with a $2,000 balance at 5%, you’d pay off the $2,000 balance first?

      You should pay down the highest RATE debt first, then take what you were paying on that, and apply it to the next highest rate, etc etc etc.

      Otherwise, you’re paying extra interest.

      • jdmba says:

        Disagree … and by the way, all the commenters who are writing the word “snowball” also disagree.

        It is old thinking to pay in reverse interest rate order. The issue here is debt free.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:

          The only reason to pay off small balances first is psychological (i.e. the warm fuzzy felling of making certain lines on the spreadsheet go away), not mathematical. The math is indisputable. Ramsey’s snowball is certainly is a very expensive way to get warm fuzzies of achievement.

          • kenj0418 says:

            I can’t speak to whether his system is a good idea for the debt-addict mindset or not, but its neither useful or necessary if you already can deal with your finances properly.

            But regardless – he’s apparently a marketing genius:
            1) Preselect your audience for fundies (increased credulity will be helpful with steps 2-6)
            2) Give them basic financial advice they should have learned years ago
            3) Sprinkle Bible quotes around – brand your plan as being “Bible-based”
            4) Charge them to have you to tell them the same stuff — but at church!
            5) Charge others for the privilege of fleecing your sheep with you
            6) Profit!

            • SuperNinjaâ„¢ says:

              > “…its neither useful or necessary if you already can deal with your finances properly.”

              Duh! :D But seriously, yeah, his name will inevitably come up in conversations like these. Yep, Marketing genius. He found a large market and is still #1 as far as I can tell. I personally feel that, on the whole, his ideas are sound. There are some I disagree with. I am not religious, so I ignore the bible-based angle, but given how clueless I was pre-D.R., compared to the “Now” me, I’d say he had a very positive influence on my financial behavior.

          • jesirose says:

            I have to agree with this. I got into massive debt before and while going through my divorce. Being able to remove the $1000 balance gave me hope. After that it was the $2500, then the $4000 one, etc. Every time I was able to call a bank and finally get a $0 balance, it renewed my hope that I would get out of the problem. Only the $7000 one is left (and it’s a student loan).

            Mine weren’t at insanely different rates of interest though, in fact 2 or 3 of them were closed and had no interest, just payment plans. But I didn’t want to be paying them for 5 years.

  15. nocar says:

    Manila is the fiber the paper is made from, not the color.

  16. spindle789 says:

    so you trade the manila folder for a pen…

  17. lawnmowerdeth says:

    Or if you don’t like paper, just use the Debt Reduction Calculator, mentioned many times on Consumerist.

  18. yessongs says:

    Is that a Vanilla folder?