Updated on 09.09.14

The One Hour Project: Create A Visual Debt Reminder

Trent Hamm

Keeping your focus on getting out of debt can be a challenge for some people. It’s so incredibly easy to just not think about it at all and make a bad financial choice, like putting something unnecessary on the credit card or going out for an expensive dinner and drinks.

One of the most effective tools I use to remind me of my progress is a visual debt reminder. It’s simply some sort of visual item that reminds you of your commitment to reduce or eliminate your personal debt and also to simply spend less than you earn.

Creating a Visual Debt Reminder

The Inspiration

One form this might take is an image of that which is inspiring you to become debt free. For me, this would be my children, particularly my son who was the person who really inspired me to start turning things around.

The Goal

If you have a specific goal in mind, you might also want to include a picture of this goal. My wife and I have a 15 year goal of buying a piece of land in the country and building a home on it, so for us we would potentially use a picture of a country home as our visual reminder.

The Progress Bar

You might also want to construct a progress bar that shows your progress as you move from your current debt total to zero. Each time you calculate your debt total, you’ll (ideally) move a bit closer to zero, so you can fill in a bit of the progress bar.

What I did for myself was combine different elements. I digitally placed a progress bar at the bottom of an image so I could see myself progressing towards the goal of being debt free.

What Should You Do with Such a Reminder?

I keep such reminders all over the place: on the dashboard of my truck, in my wallet wrapped around my credit cards, and in a few other places where I’ll see it regularly. It constantly reminds me of my goals and my real priorities and cuts down greatly on the influence that spur of the moment things have on me.

Take a few minutes, sit down at your computer, and create for yourself a visual reminder of your personal finance goals. When you have one designed, print out a few copies and put them in places where they’ll remind you of what your real goals are (I really recommend wrapping one around credit cards, for instance). Then, as you make progress towards your goal, take pride in this effort and start filling in that progress bar. As you see it constantly filling up over time, you’ll begin to see the connection between your good choices and your dreams.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. Daniel says:

    I wholeheartedly. My wife and I just had our first child on 7/1/07. It has brought an overwhelming feeling of responsibiliy into my life that I didn’t know before.

    My feeling is that man is fundamentally a selfish being. This is clearly reflected in people’s spending habits. People make purchases for 1 of 2 reasons; either they want something for themselves or they’re buying for another person. When you take upon yourself the commitment of family & children, you also agree to put aside all selfish ambitions. To me the ultimate visual debt reminder is my family. I would feel horrible if my finacial irresponsibility ever made them uncomfortable in life.

  2. mgroves says:

    You know, some sort of dashboard software for this would be incredibly useful. It could keep track of all your debts, principle & interest, as well as a semi-current estimation of one’s credit score…

  3. Andrea says:

    Just last week I made myself a chart in Excel with a progress bar for every time I make any debt payments. Even before I made any payments, it was interesting to put in some imaginary numbers just to see what an impact it could have.

    I was already doing well with debt repayments, but having a visual just makes every tiny bit of progress seem so much more concrete.

  4. Mike says:

    Seems like a great idea for a website to develop a debt tracker with visuals. Or someone create a free excel template that can be shared.

  5. Avlor says:

    The progress chart would also work for those of us trying to reach an emergency savings goal. (I’ll be making my chart tomorrow when I do finances for the week.) Thanks for the idea Trent!

  6. Avlor says:

    P.S. hmm – mgroves mentioned dashboard software. I wonder if you could do this in a google spreadsheet and make a graph of the page to be your desktop. (Pondering…)

  7. Mariette says:

    Having something which reminds you regularly about your financial goals to keep you from getting distracted is a great idea! As for debt tracking tools on websites, we’ve thought about putting one on ours, right now our site (Boulevard to Retirement) gives you a ranking that takes debt into account and also gives you savings trackers, which is a little different. Mint or Wesabe might have something like that, although maybe not exactly what your looking for. Just as a point of curiosity would an online debt-tracker be something that people would be willing to pay for as part of a financial planning process package, like a monthly subscription fee? And if so, how much? Someone asked me that recently and I had no idea.

  8. crazypumpkin says:

    I think computer based visual reminders of debt are great, but for me it isn’t enough. I’m not always at the same computer, and on a computer it’s quite easy to hide things. I had to make my visual reminder much more visual. 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.

  9. Deila says:

    I have something like this on my Quicken program with 2 personal loans and one car note. Since I open Quicken daily, I see the reminders daily.

    Listed at the top is the balance due and, every time I make a payment…CHING… I get to hear the Quicken register sound! Plus I can see the debt reduction right there. Granted, when I make an extra payment, it doesn’t show how much interest was reduced… but I can always call the company to find out… which I do.

    We had a third loan and it was recently paid off this way. How FUN it was to actually REMOVE that loan tracker off Quicken!

  10. Monica says:

    I like the paper chain link idea. Maybe that will help motivate us more as a family to get out of debt! We use mint.com right now and it does help because it’s updated so frequently. I don’t have to wait until my next statement to see how much my debt has gone down on. It has the amount in the bank vs. debt counter as well so it’s nice to see that we’re getting closer and closer to being able to pay it off in full if we wanted to. Even though we’d be left with nothing in the bank, it’s still good to know we have enough to pay it all off. Another sign to getting just a bit closer.

  11. Melissa says:

    Bankrate.com has a great debt repayment chart. You put in you #’s, and it calculates it till they are paid off. It’s perfect. A Great visual! It was there last year, I hope it’s still there.

  12. I really like visual presentations of information and this is a great idea. I use a similar approach and post it on my refrigerator at home so that I can see it everytime I got into the room. Whilst it may seem like overkill, I think that having a system really does work when it comes to finances, as it acts as a motivator and yo can visually see the prorss you are making. I think it’s great that you children have acted as such an inspiration, they are to be treasured!

  13. I just saw the paper-chain idea and made paper chains for each of our two credit cards. They’re hanging on the bulletin board above the computer. I’m also going to make a chart to hang on the fridge or in another prominent location. Great ideas!

  14. michele says:

    This is a great idea. I found a program on Mary Hunt’s Debt-Proof Living called the Rapid Debt Repayment Plan (RDRP), that does all the number crunching for me. It gives me a picture of the situation I am in and how long it would take to pay off my debt if I continued as is, and then it compares two more options for me and shows how quickly I can be out of debt and save on interest. Her plan is the same as the one mentioned, where the payments are rolled into the next larger debt when payed off.

  15. GEoff says:

    I have my $0 credit card statement (yaay!) and the most recent statement from the next piece of debt I’m paying off (right now a student loan) taped to the mirror in my bathroom. I see it every day and it really helps.

  16. Joseph says:

    I have my student debt snowball entered into Excel and have it setup to make a graph – very nice visual reminder of that sucker building up momentum!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *