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Visual, Instant Gratification to Help You Pay Off Your Debt

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You need some instant gratification when you're in debt payoff mode. These debt payoff visuals will help to keep you + your wallet motivated.

Do you remember in elementary school when your classroom was plastered with all kinds of progress tickers?white desk with laptop open, fresh flowers, with text overlay "debt payoff visuals to track your progress"

Like thermometer posters to track fundraising goals that got “hotter” as you closed in on your target, or height charts where you could visually see how short you were just four months ago, or M&Ms plunked into jars for each good day of behavior.

Heck…do you remember just coloring for hours and feeling happily focused and accomplished?

Visual motivators and progress bars can really help with your financial goals, and particularly with your debt payoff. Tweet this!

Especially if you're paying off your debt using the gazelle intense method!

There’s several ways to do this, so let me give you a continuum starting with the nerdy, numbers examples on one side and ending with what inspired this entire post by its sheer coolness.

Free Debt Payoff Chart – Create a Work of Art

Sure, there are all kinds of online tools you can use to keep track of your progress, but if you’re anything like me, a little visual instant gratification that you physically get to fill in (re: color) doesn't hurt either.

Creating a work of art as you pay off those pesky debts is precisely what this woman did when she paid off more than $26,000. Her work of art garnered so many “oohs” and “aahs”, that she then created a business out of it (how's that for ways debt can be a rewarding motivator?)!

You can now purchase your own progress map to color in for all kinds of goals and outcomes you're working to achieve.

Inspired but not looking to buy? Draw the outline of your own version of a work of art, slap it up on your wall, grab your favorite colors, and start visually mapping your progress. It'll be as cool as fun as it was in first grade.

Move Your Way UP to Zero, Excel Style

Do you enjoy a good excel sheet?

The thing is, it's kind of defeating when you’re working down towards zero ($0). I mean yes, at the end you will have paid off your debt (and there’s nothing defeating about that!). But the end of your debt payoff journey can feel like starting from absolute scratch instead of truly acknowledging the amazing work you've put in.

There’s a psychological benefit to seeing a line headed up in a positive direction versus simply headed down toward zero. So what you can do to reap this benefit is set up a Google Spreadsheet or excel sheet with your various debts — ours were a student loan, a car loan, and an engagement ring. Then put your totals in the first column, except add a negative sign to them (for example, -$14,366).

With each new payment you make, add it into that debt's number (as a positive number). For a more visual option, add the new totals to a different column (with the dates along another axis) and create a chart to show you visually moving upwards towards zero.

Use Online Wealth Trackers (Yes, Paying Off Debt is Adding to Your Wealth)

There are several free net worth trackers available to help you visually get back to zero (and then move up, up, up!). The one I have used since 2009 is NetWorthIQ.com. I also use Personal Capital, which I highly recommend as it automatically keeps track of some crucial investment data (like how many fees you’re paying overall, across all funds, each year).

Though no an online wealth tracker, I’ll discuss the online Chrome Extension “Momentum” tool here as well. I use it in my biz to remind me of the most important of my daily tasks (hello semi-recovering, 20-windows-open-at-the-same-time). Instead of using it for that, each day when it asks you what your main focus is, you can type in your financial goal. Then every time you open a new window, this gorgeous backdrop with your goal + an inspiring quote opens up as an aspiring reminder of what you want to be focused on.

Debt Payoff Thermometer Templates

These are self-created debt payoff thermometer templates by people who have gone through the debt payoff process themselves:

  • I lurrrrvvvvveee this idea from commenter crazypumpkin, “I made a paper chain link, just like the ones we all made in elementary school. Each link is worth $100. I hung that nice long chain across a picture in my bedroom so that I see it every morning when I'm getting dressed. I see it every night when I'm getting ready for bed. I see it every time I walk into my room. Every time I get below the amount on a link, I get to cut it off. Talk about visual and satisfying! It's really helped keep me on track and remind me what I'm working for: no more credit card debt.” I think this would also be a great family project if you’d like to get the kids onboard + excited about your financial efforts.
  • Ashley from BloggingAwayDebt.com created her own paper debt thermometer to keep her motivated in completely paying off her $7,700 Wells Fargo credit card debt. She had the idea to make them for one debt at a time — the one that she’s hyper-focused on at the moment — so that she can really see some progress. Have six fingers when it comes to crafts? Here’s a free printable thermometer you can use for your goal. And here’s a bunch of free, very specific payoff charts you can print and color in as you go (scroll down on the page to see them).

Advice When Using Your Debt Payoff Visual Aid

After you choose a debt payoff visual aid from above, it's time to make the most use out of it.

I recommend consistently updating your tracker — no matter if you've paid off $5, or $1,500. Pick how often you'd like to update your tracker from the beginning, and stick to it.

You could choose to do so every other week, every week, or once a month.

And if you have a family? Get everyone involved. The motivation and excitement will be multiplied.

How about it — ready to add a little visual progress ticket to your debt payoff goals? If you already do, I’d love to hear what you use in the comments below (it might inspire someone else’s debt payoff journey!).

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.

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