You envision a future free from money stress. No more debt. No more being strapped for cash. No more sending every extra penny out the door to pay for your past.
You think you can get there, at least most days you think you can.
But there are those days when you just feel it’s all too hard, like you aren’t making any progress at all, and you think maybe it's not worth it.
Those days are the hardest. Those are the days when you want to throw in the towel and quit on this idea of getting out of debt or saving your big emergency fund or paying cash for a big vacation.
Instead of quitting, or barely holding on, why not get inspired by making some visual trackers? They make the journey into a game, and yes, they can even make it downright fun.
This could be the key to you staying in the game and making it to that future you want so much.
When you update a hands-on, visual tracker (not just numbers on a spreadsheet) you feel a little thrill, like you got another point, or you scored another goal.
And when you feel that, you want to do it again and again.
Sports Psychology fans will tell you it’s because Winners Keep Winning.
Whatever it is, it’s real, and you can use it to your advantage.
So here are six ways you can get hands-on with visual trackers and get re-inspired by your goals.
(Note: This post contains some affiliate links. If you purchase from a link in this post I may receive a small commission, but it won't cost you any more. Thank you for supporting Debt Free Charts.)
1. Visual Charts
Near and dear to my heart, this one was the BIG one for us. Seeing our progress made us want to do whatever we could to color in more. And coloring a chart by hand has cognitive benefits that you just don’t get with numbers on a computer or phone app.
With the classic Debt Free Chart each line represents 1/50th of the total debt. Color the chart in up to the new balance every time a payment posts and see at a glance how far you’ve come.
With the NEW game style Debt Free Chart (made with kids in mind but just as fun for adults) you can get the whole family involved in paying off debt and saving money.
And, in case you didn't know, all the Debt Free Charts for paying off debt are FREE!
Debt Free Charts aren’t your style? No problem! There are lots of other printable charts out there on the web, or you could create your own.
Now of course I love a tracker to color in, and that’s how Debt Free Charts came to be - I made a tracker for our own debt free journey and found it so helpful in keeping us on track.
I’ve had countless comments about how motivating it is to fill in a line on a chart.
“You wouldn’t believe how great it feels to pay a bunch of money so you can color in a line!”
“Seeing this hung on the wall makes us want to do everything in our power to see this bad boy fill up to the top! Oh yeah! Let's do this!”
“I can’t wait to finish coloring this in next month… it’s amazing for motivation!”
“I’m obsessed with coloring in our chart... can you say “satisfying”?!”
Here are some of my favorite Pens for coloring charts
Zebra Midliner Highlighters - I love these softer colors!
Sharpie Liquid Highlighters - great for really strong color you can't miss!
Frixion Pastel Highlighters - soft colors and ERASEABLE!
But a chart isn’t the only way to track, here are some other fun ideas to keep your motivation up.
2. Paper Clip Chain
The symbolism with this one isn't lost on me.
Getting rid of your chains of debt, one link at a time.
Each link represents a specific amount, usually from $100-$1000 per link, and when you pay down your balance by the amount of one link, remove it.
Make one long chain for your entire debt, or make shorter chains for each individual debt. Pin them up on a bulletin board, magnet them to the fridge, or use sticky tack to put them up on the wall.
I found these multi colored paper clips, and sticky tack, at the dollar store.
One benefit of Paper Clip Chains is they are small and subtle, so you can hang them up at work and stay focused on your goals without announcing them to your coworkers.
A few alternatives to the Paper Clip Chain:
- The classic Paper Chain, fun in Kindergarten, and fun now!
- A long ribbon with clothespins
- A shoelace with pony beads
Note that with this tracking method you will really only see how far you have to go, not how far you’ve already come, so I don’t recommend this method as a stand alone. However, adding a chain to your other progress trackers can add another layer of fun.
Each puzzle piece represents a specific amount. Just divide your total debt by the number of pieces. Even a simple 48 piece kids puzzle from the dollar store works great.
- Put the puzzle together (BONUS: Puzzle making is a great, frugal pastime!).
- Carefully flip it over (build it on top of a piece of poster board to make this easier).
- Number the pieces in order with a marker (I like Sharpies).
- Take the pieces apart and if you have over 100 pieces in your puzzle, put in groups of 25 in individual baggies, i.e. pieces 1-25 are in baggie #1, pieces 26-50 are in baggie #2, and so on. That way you can find your next pieces easily.
- Each time you make progress on your goal, put the corresponding number of pieces together. For example, if each piece equals $100, and you make it $1000 closer to your goal, add ten pieces to the puzzle (to make this a permanent representation, glue each new piece into place).
4. Goal Jars
Two jam jars or pretty little bowls or mugs (something you already have), one full of something like:
- Glass “gems” (I found these blue ones at the dollar store).
Each time you make progress on your debt you transfer pieces from one jar into the other.
For this one it’s most fun to have a full jar to start, so fill up the jar, then count how many pieces it took to fill it, and divide your total debt by that number to get the amount each piece represents.
I think it would be even more inspiring to label one jar DEBT and the other jar FREE, transferring pieces into the FREE jar as you go.
5. Big Graph
Take a sheet of grid paper (or download the free Debt is Going Down printable here) and make a graph to track the downward progress of your debt payoff or the upward progress of your savings. For debt payoff, at the top left write in your total debt. At the bottom write 0. Divide the total debt by the number of horizontal lines (24 on the printable), and write in the rest of the numbers using that increment.
Write in the months across the bottom starting with this month, using just the first letter if space is tight. Put a dot at the current debt for this month. Next month, put a dot where the new debt amount is, and connect the dots with a line. Over the months you’ll see the line go lower and lower as you pay off your debt. If you get to the end of the page, simply make another one and keep going.
6. Goals Wall
Now put it all together and make a great display of all your progress trackers where you will see them daily and watch your motivation rise.
Hang up your Visual Charts and your Paper(clip) Chain and your Big Graph.
Add images of your dream future and your “why”.
Making your debt free journey fun makes a world of difference, so get some visual progress trackers going and become a winner who keeps on winning!
Have you tried visual trackers? What is working best for you? Tell me in the comments :)
When Heidi and her husband Bob were getting out from under a mountain of debt, she wanted something to help her see her progress visually. She created her first chart for herself and shared it in a forum (pre-social media) and she was thrilled to learn the charts helped other people stay motivated too. She is most known for creating over 50 totally free charts for getting out of debt, and so far over 150,000 people in 143 countries around the world have used her charts (map shows actual locations of customers), impacting more people than she ever dreamed. To read more about that map, click here.