A debt tracker can help you stay motivated during your debt-free journey and help you pay off your debt fast. Here is a list of 15 debt tracker ideas to help you kick-start your debt-freedom journey!
It’s really not fun to be in debt. It’s stressful. It’s discouraging. It can feel like you’re drowning and that there is no way to get out.
Of course, there is a way out. And while you can’t completely eliminate the stress, you can make the process a little more fun and encouraging.
One of the ways to get your head out of the water and keep you swimming in the right direction is to create a debt tracker.
What is a debt tracker?
A debt tracker helps you manage your debt. It can help you keep track of how much debt you have paid off and how much debt you still have left.
It can also provide you a visual reminder of where you are in your debt journey.
Why should you track your debt?
It is almost guaranteed that you are going to lose steam at some point in your debt-freedom process. You might be tempted with a big expense, exhausted because you are penny-pinching or working too much overtime, or simply jealous of your friends and family without debt.
But a debt tracker will keep you on the right path. It can be a visual reminder of all the debt you’ve paid off already. It can help you manage your debt so you don’t get overwhelmed. And, in all honestly, it can also be a fun distraction.
Whether you are a spreadsheet-lover, more of an arts & crafts kind of girl, or want to get your kids involved in paying off debt, you can find the perfect debt tracker for you.
1. Puzzle Debt Tracker
Any puzzle-obsessed folks out there? You know who you are – when everyone else was neck-deep in the toilet paper shortage, you were more concerned about the puzzle shortage.
In this puzzle debt tracker, the back of each puzzle piece has the amount of debt that you have paid (or it could be the amount you still have left). As you pay off your debt, you add to your puzzle. Once you have paid off your debt, not only are you debt-free but your puzzle is now complete!
A fun twist on this idea is if you actually create your own puzzle image on the front. I have created my own puzzles with Shutterfly.com in the past, but there are many other companies that do this.
You can choose whatever image for your puzzle that you want, but here are some of my ideas:
- A family picture. If your family is your reason for getting out of debt, then this is the perfect image to remind you of your “why” throughout your debt-free journey.
- A vision board. You can create an electronic vision board of why you are getting out of debt. It can be a collage of your reasons for getting out of debt and the things you want to do once you are out of debt.
- The words “I am debt-free!”. Simple, but effective. Can you imagine how good it would feel once you place that last puzzle piece?
Helpful hint: I thought I could go a slightly cheaper route and just paint on a cheap puzzle with the words “I’m debt-free!”, but this arts and crafts project was an utter fail. The paint acted like glue, and then I couldn’t separate the puzzle pieces. It also took a lot of coats and looked awful.
2. Lego Debt Tracker
Build your way to debt-freedom with a lego debt tracker. You can purchase a lego model, or use any lego pieces to build something unique. I found it easy to write on legos with a sharpie.
You can create one structure for every debt, or have each debt represented by a different lego color.
This is also a great way to get your kids involved in your debt-freedom journey.
3. Sand Art to track debt
This debt tracker is going to take you back to your childhood (maybe…or is it just me?). I was always memorized by the sand art creations at the fair, and loved getting sand art kits to do at home.
Originally I purchased this sand art kit from amazon, but the bottles were a little too small to write anything on. I’m sure you can find a kit that works for you, but I decided to head to the dollar store, where I found many vases and even sand (although I could only find green sand, which I’m not going to lie takes a little fun out of the process – it would look so much cooler with different layers of colored sand). I used tape and wrapped it around both sides of the vase. On one side, I wrote the debt name (i.e. credit card, student loan #1, car debt, etc.) and on the other side I created a debt thermometer which goes from 0% paid off to 100% paid off. You can purchase a vase for each debt.
If you don’t want to use sand, you can use something else to fill the vases. The first thing that comes to my mind is M&Ms, although I would not be able to resist eating them! You can also fill it with beads, buttons, rice (oooo you can paint the rice maybe?), coins…the possibilities are endless.
4. Origami Debt Tracker
The inspiration for this tracker also goes back to my childhood. One year, one of my mom’s students gave her this huge (I really mean it – like the size of an overfilled balloon) glass bowl filled with origami swans. The student crafted each swan, and I always thought it was such a beautiful, thoughtful gift. Beautiful because each swan was unique with a different paper design. Thoughtful because it must have taken her weeks or even months to finish.
Each time I looked at the glass bowl of origami swans, I smiled. Years later, it randomly popped into my head, and I thought it would be a great way to visualize a debt journey. Each origami creation would represent a certain amount of debt. Each color would represent each type of debt (blue for student loan, red for car debt, etc.).
Once you have your vase and origami paper, you should determine how much debt each paper will represent. Before you begin your journey, you should write on each strip the remaining balance (or the amount you will have paid off) so that you don’t lose track. For example, if you determine that each blue origami piece will represent $1,000 of debt paid off (and you have $15,000 of debt represented by the blue pieces), you should write on 15 pieces in increments of $1,000 (like $14,000 remaining balance, $13,000 remaining balance, $12,000 remaining balance, etc.).
On the other side of the strip, you can write a motivational saying. Or, as you fold each piece during your journey, you can write down what you sacrificed that month, or something you are thankful for. Get creative!
4. Debt Tracker App
There are plenty of debt tracker apps out there – some free and some with a fee (either one-time or monthly). I personally haven’t checked out these debt apps, so I don’t want to recommend any here. Let me know if you use one that you really like!
5. Beads in a Vase to visualize your debt progress
This is a great debt tracker idea for those paying off debt with the Debt Snowball Method. The circular vases (purchased at the dollar store!) represent a snowball – purchase one vase for each debt you have. The beads (which I also purchased at the dollar store), represent the amount you’ve paid off. Each bead should represent a certain amount of debt paid off. For some of the vases (aka debts), I made each bead worth $100 of debt paid off, but for some of my smaller debts, I made each bead worth $50 of debt paid off.
The trick with this tracker is that you should keep a separate piece of paper that records how many beads you’ve placed in each vase so that you are not constantly recounting. One way to do this is to have another sticker label on the back that keeps a tally of how many beads you put in. I purchased these sticker chalkboard labels on Amazon.
6. Beads on a bracelet or necklace to track debt
You could also add beads to a bracelet or necklace to track your debt. Just like in the case, you can have each bead stand for a certain amount of debt paid off. Wearing your debt jewelry may remind you throughout the day to make smart money choices to reach your big, debt-free goal.
7. Thermometer Debt Tracker
I found these wall thermometers at…you guessed it…the dollar store. They were in the teacher/office section, and did need a few modifications to transform it into a debt tracker. If you are creative, I bet you could make these thermometers from the items you have at home instead of repurposing a purchased one.
These are so easy to use, just move/scroll the piece of ribbon as you pay off your debt. I decided to write down the percentage of debt paid off as well as the actual amount paid off on each line. You could have a different thermometer for each debt that you have.
I used nails to hammer these thermometers onto my wall, but you can also use command hooks, tape, or even a magnet to attach to your fridge or white board.
8. Debt Tracker Spreadsheet
There are many debt tracker spreadsheets that can help you keep track of your payments, your progress, and can even calculate your projected debt-free date.
There are spreadsheets available for purchase; I have actually had the most luck finding debt tracker spreadsheets on Etsy.
Or, you can make your own spreadsheet tailored to your debt and formatted just the way you like it.
I’m in the process of creating my own debt tracker spreadsheet. Keep a look out (by joining my email list at the bottom of the page) because I can’t wait to share it!
9. Free Printable Debt Tracker
There are so many free printable debt free charts available online, but my totally biased favorite is the debt snowball tracker that I created which is helping over 28,000(!) people get out of debt. It is part of my free debt snowball printable bundle that emails you three debt snowball printables over the course of three days (one of them being the snowball/pinwheel tracker). Sign up below to get the bundle.
If you prefer to use the debt avalanche method to get out of debt, grab my free debt avalanche printable bundle.
10. Bullet Journal Debt Tracker
A bullet journal is a great way to organize your life, including your finances.
One of the popular bullet journal debt tracker spreads looks very similar to a bar graph – each debt is a bar and each box in the bar represents a certain amount of debt paid off.
For those who are paying off debt with the debt snowball method, I created a spread in my bullet journal where each snowball represents a different debt and each wedge represents a certain amount of debt paid off. Check out this debt snowball bullet journal ideas post to learn how I created it and get more ideas on debt bujo spreads.
11. Calendar or Planner Tracker
If your a planner addict, or have a desk or wall calendar, then you should think about using it to track your debt. You can track your payments and your balance, and can organize each debt by color.
12. Sticker Debt Payoff Tracker
Fun fact about me: I used to collect and trade stickers in elementary school. I would beg my mom and dad to buy me all sorts of stickers – big, small, holographic, fuzzy, glittery…you get the point. Using stickers are a great way to track your debt payoff. Here are some ideas for using stickers to track your debt progress:
- Use graph paper (you can print some by searching for printable graph paper online) and gemstone stickers to represent a certain amount of debt paid off
- Buy award sticker charts (I found the ones pictured below at the dollar store). You can have a chart for each debt you have.
- Create your own sticker charts. I made the star charts below.
13. A debt diary
Get a notebook that you can dedicate to tracking your debt. You can use it to manage your debt – from balances to payments to how you are feeling about your debt. You can make tables for your debt, draw charts showing your progress, or just write about your debt diary-style.
14. Debt trackers that you can color
Coloring in mood trackers have been trending for a while now. Why not use that same philosophy to track your debt-freedom journey?
15. Debt Scratch-Off Tracker
I saved the best for last. I found these awesome scratch off stickers on amazon, and I thought they would be perfect for a handmade debt tracker. For each $1.000 of debt you pay off (or whatever amount you choose), you can scratch off another sticker.
Or (and I think this may be a better idea), you could write down a small reward behind each sticker. After you pay off $1,000 of debt, you can scratch off a sticker to see what your reward is (like eat a nice restaurant, buy a new outfit, etc.).
Which debt tracker is best for me?
The answer is simple: find the debt tracker that you think you can stick with throughout your debt journey.
If you enjoy crafts, pick a crafty one. If you want to stick to the numbers and like graphs, pick a spreadsheet or debt app.
If you are getting out of debt with a spouse or your kids, agree on a tracker that will motivate everyone.
What debt tracker idea did you like the best? What debt tracker do you use?