When you’re in debt, it can feel confusing and overwhelming – as if you’re trying to find your way out of a huge maze with ten-foot walls and no map to guide you.
Luckily, the first step to getting out of debt is to give yourself a map. And that starts with using some kind of spreadsheet or tool to organize all your debts so you can see what you owe and create a plan for paying them off.
Now, if you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you’re already aware of a more high-tech solution than spreadsheets, but in this post we’re first going to look at the best of the traditional spreadsheets and then discuss other options, including ReadyForZero, at the end of the post.
So let’s take a look at some fantastic maps that can help you conquer debt!
1. Free Debt Calculator and Spreadsheet from Vertex
When you’re in debt you want something simple – and this spreadsheet delivers. It’s quite easy to use as long as you’re comfortable with Excel or similar computer programs. When I opened it up, I immediately liked the straightforward and friendly layout. On the right side, you’ll see some instructions for how to use it as well as an explanation of the debt snowball and debt avalanche methods of debt repayment. The spreadsheet itself has blanks for entering all your debt amounts (credit cards, student loans, etc.) and then it uses those numbers to show how much you’re paying each month and how those payments are being allocated.
A screenshot of the Vertex debt spreadsheet
This spreadsheet is quite useful for an individual or a family who wants to put all their accounts in one place and get organized for paying them off. While the spreadsheet can’t do everything you might want, such as automate your payments or account for certain types of extra payments, it’s a very helpful tool for those looking for a traditional spreadsheet.
2. The SquawkFox Debt Spreadsheet
What if you want an even simpler version of your map to being debt-free? In that case, an excellent spreadsheet for paying off debt is the SquawkFox Debt Spreadsheet. This one is not quite as complex as the Vertex one, but it has a nice simple layout that is easy to use. You can add your credit card accounts and any other debts such as mortgages and student loans
A screenshot of the SquawkFox Debt Spreadsheet
As you can see above, the spreadsheet allows you to put each of your loans and credit cards in next to its interest rate and monthly payment. The spreadsheet shows you what percent of your total debt each loan accounts for. At the bottom, you can see your total debt remaining and how much interest you’re paying each month, as well as your monthly payments. All in all, this is a good spreadsheet for those who want something simple.
3. The EnemyOfDebt Spreadsheet
On the other hand, what if you feel that you can handle a more complicated (and more powerful) map? If that’s you, then The EnemyOfDebt spreadsheet could be your best option. It’s an extremely useful one – as long as you can learn how to use it! The benefit is you can do just about everything with this: you can handle both your budgeting and your debt repayment plan in one place.
A screenshot of the EnemyOfDebt Spreadsheet
In terms of budgeting, the spreadsheet gives you categories to put all your spending into and a way to track your expenses from week to week. For example, you can see how much you’re spending on food, entertainment, utilities, and other specific categories. This can be very valuable for those of us who are trying to save money for paying off debt (and let’s be honest – that includes most of us). On the other hand, you also are able to list your debts one by one so that you know how much you’re paying and how close you are to getting an account paid off. This can be a great spreadsheet for someone who is ready to be fully committed to their budget and debt repayment plan and to use them in unison.
4. The DebtFreeAdventure Spreadsheet
Let’s look at one more spreadsheet before we talk about the “high tech” option mentioned above. If none of the spreadsheets above seems like a good fit for you, perhaps the layout of this one will work best. It is very clearly laid out, and it goes month by month, which is a little different and gives you the ability to look at your debt situation long-term. The information that’s included is pretty basic, but it is all you need for a bare bones debt repayment plan – with a row for each debt and columns to track your monthly payment, principal, and interest rate for each debt.
A screenshot of the DebtFreeAdventure Spreadsheet
One nice thing about this spreadsheet is how it allows you to see at a glance how much you’ve paid each month and plan out your debt repayment for the months ahead. With that said, you should know that if you choose this one there might be certain things you can’t do with it, since it’s a very bare bones option.
5. ReadyForZero’s Automated Debt Tracking Tool
Alright, now let’s discuss that high-tech solution we so coyly mentioned at the beginning of the post. And that solution is ReadyForZero. What ReadyForZero does is give you all the best aspects of a debt spreadsheet with much more functionality and an infinitely better interface. Here’s a screenshot of ReadyForZero:
A screenshot of the ReadyForZero Debt Tracking Tool
ReadyForZero was created to streamline the process of getting out of debt as much as possible. And fortunately, it’s even easier to start using ReadyForZero than it is to download a spreadsheet. You can just enter your email address and a new password to create an account, and then enter your debts one by one. You can add debts manually or for even more functionality you can actually link your online accounts to ReadyForZero. What that means is your debt information will be automatically updated – for example, when you make a payment, your ReadyForZero dashboard will reflect your new balance.
But more importantly, it’s not just about ease of use. The other core value of ReadyForZero is to help you stay motivated throughout your debt free journey. One of the ways the app helps your motivation is by showing each of your debts as a progress bar so that you can see them getting slowly filled up, until the day they are completely finished and turn gold! Also, if you have the email notifications turned on, you will get a congratulatory email from ReadyForZero anytime you reach an important milestone such as paying off 25% or 50% of an account. And that’s just the beginning. Another feature allows you to send email updates to friends and loved ones so they can give you some external accountability and keep your sights on the ultimate goal: being completely done with debt.
And we hope that no matter whether you choose ReadyForZero or one of the excellent spreadsheets shown above, you will find the right map to help you navigate the path to your personal financial goals!
Image credit: Neos Design