How to stay focused using these awesome debt trackers
July 10, 2019
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Whether you are paying off debt or building your wealth, keeping track of your goals is an awesome way to stay motivated. From bullet journals to spreadsheets, learn how to stay focused using these awesome debt trackers.
As we moved through our debt elimination I kept track of our progress in several different ways. I was constantly filling in my bullet journal spreads or updating spreadsheets. Who knew how much joy I could get by colouring in teeny, tiny boxes each month?? More than anything, updating these tools kept my head in the game. They served as a constant reminder that I was working towards a goal. Being able to see the progress we had made in different formats kept me going!
Keep reading to find some fun ways to keep your progress visible and increase your motivation for achieving your goals!
Debt Elimination Spreadsheet
First off, when we were in debt, having a simple way to see our progress was really important to me. This spreadsheet was where I started my tracking journey.
I actually started using it about two years before we committed to getting rid of our debt, but it evolved (and got a new name!) along the way. The language you use is extremely important. Even game-changing. Find out why we call it a debt ELIMINATION tracker here.
A basic Excel spreadsheet or a Google Sheet can get you started – or you can download our free template here!
All you have to do is put in YOUR debt names and balances. Then, update those balances at the end of each month! It will keep a running balance of your debts, your total OWED and your total PAID OFF.
It’s super motivating when you have officially paid off more than you owe!
The Undebt.it website was ridiculously helpful for me in getting an accurate timeline on WHEN we would be debt free. It is a website that does the hard math for you, so you have an end date in sight!
It calculates your debt snowball for you, and there are options to check out which program is faster. (Pro-tip…YES, it costs less money to pay off your higher interest debts first. But I’m a firm believer that intentional finance is more about habits than it is about math, so I’d stick to the snowball method, where you pay off your debts in order from smallest to largest!)
It takes a bit of effort to set up – you need your debt balances, your interest rates, and the amount you anticipate paying each month. But then it does the math for you and calculates your debt-free month.
If you pay off less than the amount you commit to, obviously your debt-free date will get farther away. BUT if you pay off MORE each month, then you can shave months (and interest) off your journey!
You can enter your payments in as you make them, but I chose to just adjusted my debt totals each month to make sure I was on track.
I checked out a lot of debt-free calculators during my year on this journey, and this one was absolutely the most accurate!
Reach For a Million
At Reach for More, we BELIEVE in the power of community. Sharing your success and struggles with people who will support and high-five you can keep you your forward momentum!
We have a private Facebook Group for our community where people can share their successes and discuss their struggles. Belonging to this community gives people a safe space to share their questions and get support from other people who have similar goals.
In our Reach For More Facebook Community, we are doing a Reach for a Million challenge. We have regular check-ins where people share how much of their debt they have paid off with our goal of collectively paying off ONE MILLION DOLLARS!
Head on over to Facebook to join our community and share your progress and get into the conversation!
Keeping track and staying motivated goes beyond spreadsheets and websites! Even though we have been debt free for six months, I can’t bring myself to put this paper away. It sits on a dresser in my bedroom, as a constant reminder of how far we have come and how much work it took to get here. (It is completely coloured in now, this is just a picture I snapped last winter when we were so close!!)
Bullet Journalling is a fantastic way to keep track of any habit. If you are at all artistic, it is a beautiful way to create your monthly calendar and day planner. I found having this clear picture of the progress I was making on each debt inspiring! Any payment I made, I would first update my spreadsheet and then colour in the boxes on my tracker so that the balance matched!
There are some stunning ideas for bullet journal spreads out there. A quick Pinterest search is all it takes. I will be SUPER honest with you guys, though; I made mine in an excel spreadsheet. The bullet journal spreads are so beautiful, and motivational too, but my perfectionist nature gets incredibly anxious when I try to create them myself.
This post from Chasing a Better Life is so inspiring, and it makes me want to crack out my pens and dot-grid notebook right now! (And I’m certain that this was where my motivation for MY tracker came from too!)
If the bullet journal style isn’t your jam, maybe a different form of tracker is. There are some incredibly creative and talented people out there, making this EASY for us.
Check out Debt Free Charts for some free printables, or dig a bit deeper and find a chart for practically anything you could be saving for!
I like the game board style best – like a trip through financial candy land!
If you are a Dave Ramsey listener, you have maybe heard some creative ways that people have made their progress visible. Some people create paper linking chains, with each link representing an amount of their debt. They rip off a link each time they pay a chunk down, until the chains of debt (see the amazing metaphor at play here??) are gone for good!
When they start, those construction paper chains drape all around their home – very visible to friends and family. I didn’t do this, because extra clutter gives me anxiety. But I LOVE the accountability that comes with it.
Explaining the rainbow coloured chain to guests could be a sure fire way to trigger shame, but also to show immense courage! And once people have heard your goal, and seen your chains, you are WAY less likely to give up! (I recently saw some clever folks on Instagram using paperclips in a similar way – another visual representation of the debt, with a very tangible way to keep track of the journey, but on a smaller scale!)
For me, I chose something a little simpler but still effective. I bought one of those word signs (on sale at Target, thank you!) and I kept it on our mantle.
The top part, “Living like no one else” is a Dave quote – if you are willing to sacrifice and hustle and live like no one else now to get out of debt, then you’ll be able to reap the rewards later, and live and give like no one else with the wealth you build.
The key to this sign, though, is the number. I kept an updated total of our debt, right there for the world to see. At first, it was mildly uncomfortable when people would come over – not many people create a focal point art piece featuring how deeply in debt they are!
It triggered a few conversations, but over the months, it was fun to see our friends check out the new number and be amazed at the progress we made. So beyond the shame I might have felt at the beginning, I know it kept us moving forward and maybe even inspired a few people along the way!
And finally, more powerful than OTHER people seeing it, WE could see it. Every day. Some days it made me feel sad. Some days it made me inspired and fired me up to hustle even harder!
The point of all of these visuals is to keep you motivated. They serve as a constant reminder of the hard work you have done and the hustle you have left in front of you. It reminds your brain, daily, that you can do hard things, and that you are working towards a goal!
Today, my word board looks like this…
As I write this, it has been 6 months and 3 days since we made that final payment. I keep this in my dining room to remind me of the journey we went on together, and to keep me focused on the future. If I’m being really honest, there are some days it still brings me to tears.
Maybe some day I’ll update it. I could use it to track our Emergency fund, I guess. Or some sort of holiday-themed pun, perhaps. But for now, it will stay as a medal of honour in our dining room.
Reminding me to KEEP GOING, always.
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