A Great Way to Think About Paying Off Debt!

Sandy left this on our how to spend less and save more article last week, and thought it was a brilliant way to stay motivated paying off your debt. Specifically with mortgage debt.

Check it out:

I remember every time I wrote that check and put it in the mail, I would wait for it to post to my account and I would imagine that I am pushing the bank one step back out my front door. I would come home from a long day at work and would think, “today I bought back 5 square foot of my home.” When I paid down more I would imagine my bedroom is paid for now, then the living room and the kitchen and so on, and that would keep me motivated to save like crazy. When I wrote that last check and I got the letter in the mail that I own my home free and clear, I shut the door for good on borrowing ever again.

YES!! I probably pay off 5 square INCHES with my own mortgage payments each month, haha, but a pretty empowering idea nonetheless :) Imagine if you got a certificate in the mail every time you hit a milestone?

  • “Congrats – you now own your front door!”
  • “Way to go! You just scored a bathroom!”
  • “Boom shaka laka – You own the entire first floor!”

Haha… of course that will never happen since the bank doesn’t want you to pay off your debt (after all, that’s how they make their $$$), but my Lord would it be awesome if they did. I swear, if I ever launch my own bank one day you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be having some fun with it ;) At the very least I’ll throw everyone a free Pay Off Party on me – woo!

This reminds me of that other – even more visual – way to keep crushing that debt too:

debt doodlesThe “color-in-a-circle-every-time-you-send-in-a-payment-and-make-something-pretty” idea! Created by this chick who paid off $26,000 doing exactly that, and then went on to open her own store to pass on the goodness to those who wanted some inspiration as well… Could be a great gift idea for anyone who needs a little subtle nudging, haha… “Here, take this awesome art AND START PAYING OFF YOUR FREAKIN’ DEBT ALREADY!” ;)

As you can see, the more you can visualize stuff and give yourself little wins along the journey the better. Not only will it seem much more tangible to you, but you’ll reach the finish line a lot sooner too! Check out this list of 20+ other physical triggers we’ve covered along the way as well – people are pretty creative.

As for me, I’m considering amping my motivation in a little different way… I was wondering the other day how many dollar bills it would take to cover an entire wall of my home office (yes, I was incredibly bored), and a few calculations later I figured that it would require roughly 1,000 bills to actually wallpaper the ENTIRE office.

And you know what that means, right?

If each bill represented $1,000 and I added one up every time my net worth rose by a grand (or took one down every time it dropped, boo hoo) my walls would become my new motivator! Because “all” I’d have to do is keeping plastering them up until the walls are covered and then I’d have reached that elusive $1 MILLION dollar net worth milestone – woah! How sweet would that be? And actually, it would mean I had $1,001,000 if you included the bills on the wall too – hah.

Anyways, we’ll see if I actually do it or not, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted… It would make for quite the conversation starter, wouldn’t it? Maybe I should do it in the name of education ;)

Happy #StayInTheBlackFriday!

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  1. MrRicket November 27, 2015 at 5:14 AM

    Thanks for this article. Very motivating :D


    1. Stockbeard November 30, 2015 at 3:19 PM

      Yeah, I love the “color a circle” idea :)

  2. Rajesh November 27, 2015 at 5:46 AM

    take the action today, plan yesterday and execute immediately..

  3. Ricardo November 27, 2015 at 7:37 AM

    I wish I could post pictures here. I saw the color in a circle lady’s article a while back. Since its such a simple idea we created our own. We bought some canvas drew an’M’ for our last name made 91 equal sections representing $1000. It sits in the living room and I stare a it sometimes visualizing the completion. We have colored on 33 lines so far this year and I am hoping for 36 by years end. If all goes as planned we will finsh by end of ’16 or early ’17.

    1. J. Money November 27, 2015 at 12:32 PM

      LOVE THAT!!! Snap a picture of it and updload online somewhere for us to see :) You can drop the link here so we can click – awesome stuff!

  4. JT November 27, 2015 at 8:00 AM

    I don’t know why but after reading the dollar bill idea all I can think about is Ludacris’s Roll Out song. You should do it!


    1. J. Money November 27, 2015 at 12:36 PM

      Haven’t thought of Luda in a while!

      Going now to jam out to it and see if anything sparks ;)

  5. Rich Rabbit November 27, 2015 at 8:04 AM

    Exactly, all about the mind set… Dig the color idea.

  6. Hannah November 27, 2015 at 8:08 AM

    You might want to ask your wife before you start on your interior design career, although I guess your office is part man cave?

    1. J. Money November 27, 2015 at 12:36 PM

      Oh yeah – that’s all mine, baby.

  7. Lanette November 27, 2015 at 8:23 AM

    What a fun way to think about paying off debt….just paid off the deck! I asked my bank to print off an amoritization schedule for my mortgage. Every month or two, I use a highlighter to cross off my recent payments. I have13 years of highlights…2 years to go!

    1. J. Money November 27, 2015 at 12:38 PM

      Beautiful! 15 year mortgage eh?

      Never thought about printing it off like that – might have to steal from you :)

      1. Lanette November 27, 2015 at 8:05 PM

        Sure thing. It’s really fun for nerdy listmakers.

  8. Sarah Noelle @ The Yachtless November 27, 2015 at 8:26 AM

    This reminds me of being in elementary school and keeping track of things visually on the wall — like we’d keep track of how many books we’d read that year by putting up a construction paper star for each book, or keep track of how many days were left before winter break by cutting one link off of a construction paper chain each day. Not to say that this is childish — just that it’s appealing on a very fundamental level, and therefore probably very motivating. I like it. :)

    I’m also trying to think about how I could apply Sandy’s mortgage tactic to my student loans…”Today I paid off that intro class that I took in 2007!” “Today I paid off my Health Services fee from 2012!” Hmmm….somehow not quite as motivating as thinking about buying back your bedroom…I think with student loans a physical reminder is probably the way to go. :)

    1. J. Money November 27, 2015 at 12:41 PM

      “Today I paid off all those killer parties from Freshman year!” – that’s more fun to think about :)

  9. Chris November 27, 2015 at 9:58 AM

    I paid our house off and gave my husband a fake check for $140,000 (the amount we saved on interest). When I paid extra, I would figure out how many months or years we saved on payments and also the amount of interest. He knew I was paying it off but didn’t know how quickly. It was a fun idea for our anniversary!

    1. J. Money November 27, 2015 at 12:41 PM

      WOAH! Best gift Ever!!! :)

  10. Kristi @ Femme Frugality November 27, 2015 at 11:00 AM

    What a great way to think about debt! That’s incredibly motivational, and I seriously love that color in idea.

  11. The Professor November 27, 2015 at 12:07 PM

    I love the colors idea. Myself, I’m not as creative. My visual is a loan amortization calculator I have on my computer desktop. ( I know, boring, right?) I play “what if” scenarios all the time. Such as what if I pay an extra $2,000 this month..how many months will that knock off my loan? The calc shows me how much interest I save which gets me motivated even more.
    Over 25 months I’m proud to say that I’ve knocked off $112,000 off my principal. I’ve still got a ways to go but plan on keeping it up in 2016.

    1. J. Money November 27, 2015 at 12:43 PM

      That’s not boring!! Do you know what blog you’re on right now?? :)

      I LOVE that you have that on your desktop – all kinds of nerdiness right there haha… Congrats on wiping so much away so far! It’s working!

  12. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure November 27, 2015 at 1:38 PM

    I love counting the square footage of your house you own. Also, I totally think you should cover your wall with dollar bills… but with two kiddos, that may not be the greatest idea. Start at the top! :)

    1. J. Money November 30, 2015 at 2:34 PM

      Haha good point!

  13. Jover November 27, 2015 at 3:23 PM

    Do the dollar bill/wall thing, but use Monopoly money. Then your wall won’t be a target for thieves, and it will be all sorts of colors, and fun!

    1. katherine November 29, 2015 at 10:43 AM

      This could be cool.

      1. J. Money November 30, 2015 at 2:36 PM

        Then I could actually make it = a million dollars too vs just $1 bills :)

  14. InsiderAccountant November 28, 2015 at 3:12 AM

    It’s a great story, but I just can’t get over the fact that she writes out a cheque each time she wants to make a mortgage payment?! I know that Americans love their cheques, but I thought that for something as regular as a mortgage payment that it would just happen automatically (and electronically). Bizarre!

    1. J. Money November 30, 2015 at 2:39 PM

      Maybe she likes to feel the sting? That’s why I manually pay some of my bills like my mortgages… when it’s automated I don’t notice or feel anything (though I suppose you can still pay online vs sending in a check…)

  15. Steve Miller November 28, 2015 at 7:35 AM

    I love the idea of capturing rooms of your home as your mortgage is being paid off and the colorful drawing based on goals is also cool. I was thinking this may be a good idea for an app!

  16. Freedom 40 Guy November 28, 2015 at 4:00 PM

    Love the visual motivation idea. It’s giving me some good ideas for staying motivated with my writing. I’m thinking I might shoot for 200 articles for 2016. As a long time blogger what do you think about that? Too few? Too many?

    1. J. Money November 30, 2015 at 2:41 PM

      There’s no rules with this stuff at all, so i say go with whatever’s going to get you to actually DO IT and not burn out in the process :) More important to me is staying passionate and keeping down a posting schedule.

  17. Ramona @ Personal Finance Today November 29, 2015 at 7:05 AM

    Really cool ideas, both with the bank out of the door and the circles. I used to keep my paper with the 48 car payments close and think about my ‘liberation’ day. It finally came in 2012 and it was great to just be free of such a stress.

  18. Brittney @ Life On A Discount November 29, 2015 at 8:19 PM

    Great mindset for paying off debt! I try to focus on small goals as well to motivate myself.

  19. Sandy November 29, 2015 at 10:24 PM

    Oh wow, thank you so much for mentioning my previous comment. What a nice surprise. It really had great impact on my motivated when I thought of buying back my home a few square feet at a time. I have to say that I only had to buy back 735 sq ft, a one bedroom condo which is more than enough for me. I paid off my 30 year mortgage in 8 years exactly. Never got a certificate from the bank saying I now own my front door, that would have super motivated me. :))) I just got a letter at the end saying I have satisfied my promise to pay the loan back. That was good enough for me, although I called the county office that week to double check with them that the pay off is registered with them too. They said it will take a month or so. Did I call back in a month? Absolutely, and I got a copy of the pay off notice from the county office as well just to be safe. Thanks again, you made my Sunday evening.

    1. J. Money November 30, 2015 at 2:44 PM

      I’m so glad!! Thank you so much for inspiring the post and giving me something juicy to write about :) It was really fun to put together.

    1. J. Money November 30, 2015 at 2:48 PM

      hell yeah!

      I’ve seen that done a few times before – absolutely love it. Our landlords wouldn’t, but the next time I go and buy a house you can bet this will bubble up in discussions with my wife :)

  20. Money Beagle November 30, 2015 at 11:13 AM

    Yeah, there have been times where I look at approximately how much of my home that I actually own. This definitely puts things in perspective, and helps keep motivated on getting the darn mortgage paid off.

  21. Roy Largo @ Band of Savers November 30, 2015 at 12:08 PM

    I have found that I need a little extra motivation sometimes when I’m sitting at my desk at work. So, as a motivator for not only paying down my mortgage, but also for why I continue to show up each day so that I can have the needed funds to pay down my mortgage, I created a list from 1-174 to hang on my cubical wall. Each number representing $1,000 worth of what we paid for our home. Now each time I break a new $1,000 mark I get to color in the corresponding square. I now own 30.357% of our home after just 27 months since purchasing it. Visual motivation is a key to success.

    1. J. Money November 30, 2015 at 2:49 PM


  22. Adam December 1, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    Its morbid but I’ve always used my life insurance as my motivation. Every payment I make on my house is $XXX.XX amount that my wife and kids don’t have to use my life insurance proceeds for if something untimely should happen to me.

    I just consider it a gift to them and it feels a little better each time.

    1. J. Money December 2, 2015 at 7:07 AM

      Ooooh that’s not morbid, that’s beautiful! And totally going to start thinking the same now too – thanks :)

      That’s the main reason we got life insurance back in the day before kids – to cover the entire house and not have to worry about mortgages any more in the unlikely event. The last thing you want to be worrying about is your money when you lose a loved one!