The Debt Free Chart
Last May, J$, from Budgets are Sexy, posted Resource of the Month: Debt Free Charts. I thought this was a great idea and decided to download one, modify it, and use it for our debts. I wrote about it in our June Net Worth post. Each Debt Free Chart comes with 50 sections to break up your specific debt. This is a great way to track your debt payoff. At the time, we had about $400,000 in debt to pay off including my car loan, Dr. SoS’s student loan, and our mortgage. I created the following chart for us.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”Peter Drucker
Since we are paying off debt, which I think of as ridding ourselves of the debt, I decided to color from the top down. If we were using this for savings, I would think of this as filling up an account and we would color from the bottom up. We broke our $400,000 debt into 50 equal slices of $8,000 each. My only complaint when using this for “all” of our debts is that paying off $2,000 to $3,000 per month takes about four months to color a single line. Debt Free Charts are motivating, but only being able to color a line once per quarter year seems more disheartening than motivating.
Not Losing Our Marbles
I read personal finance and investing articles on a daily basis. Last month, I read a post How one family went from being $55,000 in debt to saving $350,000. In this post they talked about using marbles to track their debt payoff.
In addition to the meticulous budgeting, they use some unconventional strategies. One is a glass jar on their kitchen counter full of marbles. For every $1,000 they pay off on their $172,000 three-bedroom house, they take a marble out of the jar. Ryan came up with the idea because he’s a visual person. “We can actually see the balance getting lower, versus numbers on paper,” Ryan said.Andrew Keshner, reporter for MarketWatch
After reading the article, I shared it with Dr. SoS, but she thought it would be one more thing for our daughter to get into if we put a jar of marbles on the bar between our kitchen and dining room. She knows me so well. I posted our Debt Free chart on the refrigerator because, as she knows, I hope to spark conversation about personal finance with any visitor that sees it. The same would go with a huge jar of marbles.
Then, when we were in Michigan this summer visiting family her Dad was throwing out a gallon glass pickle jar. This jar would be the perfect size to store a bunch of marbles. Out of the blue, she said, we could use that pickle jar for your marbles. Perhaps she was not as opposed to the idea as she initially appeared.
Some Assembly Required
When we returned home, I read about how to get the pickle smell out of a jar and worked for a few days to remove the smell. I searched Amazon for some reasonably priced marbles. I found some bulk 5/8″ cat’s eye marbles in red, yellow, green, and blue for $22.99 and ordered them. We received them about a month ago, but still needed to count the marbles and put them into the jar.
A funny thing happens when you open your mind to an idea. More ideas seem to fill you. We have always been fans of spooky things and Halloween. Our wedding anniversary is on Halloween, after all. I happened to be looking for something about a week ago and found an even better jar for our marbles.
Years ago, I discovered Crystal Head vodka. The Ghostbuster himself, Dan Akroyd, co-created this delicious vodka, which is one of my favorites. Some point after I discovered it, I located a 1-liter bottle of it on sale in a liquor store. This cool bottle is a life-size crystal skull. I could not pass up the sale and bought the bottle. This was before Dr. SoS and I met, but we shared this vodka a couple years ago and I kept the cool bottle.
We are down to $385,000 from our initial $400,00 when I created the Debt Free Chart. The bulk marbles did not contain an equal count of each color with only 70 of my favorite color. Yesterday, I counted out 70 green, 105 blue, 105 yellow, and 105 red and dropped them into my perfect “Death to Debt” skull jar with each marble representing $1,000 in debt.
Getting Debt Free
We plan to continue to use our Debt Free Chart, but currently only have the first bar colored. Next month, we will be able to color another bar because our debt will be less than $384,000. Now we have a fun new visual way to see our debt slowly dying away.
Working toward paying off all your debts is a process and we believe you should do anything you can to keep yourself motivated toward that goal. Along with my personal finance and investing books, this new frightening visage staring at me from my desktop serves as a constant reminder of the debts we owe.
The great thing is that we know that with each $1,000 we pay; we are able to remove one of those marbles from the skull. It is as if we are clearing our own minds from the thoughts, stress, and trouble that debt can create. We will pay it all… one marble at a time. If we can do it, we know you can, too.
The future is clear… clear as a debt free skull…