This past weekend, I was involved in two separate conversations regarding debt repayment. Interestingly both conversations concerned married couples that despite varied lengths of marriage had failed the first step when it came to destroying debt. The very first step in getting rid of debt is actually knowing exactly how much you owe to creditors.
I don’t mean to cut single people out, I bet they fail the first step too!
What do You Owe Creditors?
When you ask most people, they may have an estimate of how much they owe credit card companies, but it is only the very serious that know exactly what they owe.
But if you don’t know where the starting line is how are you going to get to the finish line?
One of the first things I did when I started this personal finance blog was put it all on the line, I provided a balance sheet of my debt, and man was it ugly:
- CitiCard #1 – $141.99
- Account Central (Discover) – $1,758.30
- CitiCard #2 – $7,797
- Bank of America (Visa) – $1,344.97
- Juniper – $0
- Discover – $4,979.02
- American Express – $0
- Discover #2 – $862.70
Writing everything down was my first step in eradicating all my credit card debt, and is likely to be your first step too.
How to Record What You Owe to Credit Card Companies?
There are three main ways to create a debt spreadsheet that can track your progress (or backslides):
- Regular pad and paper
- FREE Online account aggregator like Mint
- Excel Spreadsheet
The regular pad and paper can work for visual people who need the spreadsheet staring at them as they brush their teeth every morning. It is a bit old school for my tastes but then again, I run a personal finance blog.
The second way is by allowing Mint to securely connect your credit cards to their system. Their system will update your daily balances and provide trends as you pay off the credit cards. If you like pretty graphs and charts this is a perfect way to do it. As an added bonus the system will tell you what you are spending money on too…this way you can create a budget. Oh it is free.
Lastly, there is the excel spreadsheet. It is not as easy to use as Mint but I felt like it combined some of the features of the two previous options. Specifically, I used a free one titled, Debt Snowball. The debt snowball spreadsheet, not only provides you a space to put in your debt it will calculate how long it will take you to pay it off. You will need some excel skills if you are going to get fancy with it.
Are you currently paying off credit card debt? What tools are you using?