Could “debt art” help you pay off your debt faster? It helped these folks.

how do i money debt art

UPDATE! (9 months later…)

Love seeing the progress!!!

I’ve read (and even said it myself) that what you pay attention to gets better. I believe it’s true.

Enter, Debt Art!

I’ve seen a few people post what I’m calling ‘debt art’.

You know, like one of those fundraiser thermometers at school or church.

Cheesy, maybe. But maybe it could help motivate you to pay off your debt faster? (It worked for the people featured in this post.) As long as you have to pay those debts off anyway, might as well make it as tolerable as possible.

So I decided to make my own debt art masterpiece. I’m not very artsy, obvi. (That’s mine at the top.)

Each square is $250. We will fill in each square as each debt gets smaller and smaller. I kinda wish I had made this years ago, it would look a lot better with more than half the squares filled in.

We’re on the home stretch with our debts. At one time we owed $16k in student loans. Now it’s down to $6k. But then we added another $4k in taxes to the IRS, oops!

The idea is that seeing your debt payment plan displayed every day will get you thinking about it every day. And coloring in the squares or flowers or whatever will be motivating! You can see and feel the progress.

Some people bury their head in the sand and think out of sight, out of mind is better. It’s not.

We need to face our debts head on and fight!!

Displaying your debt art in your kitchen could even start conversations with friends. You might inspire someone else to pay more attention to paying off their debts!

Here’s a few examples from artsy people…

Amy Jones has it nailed over at Map Your Progress.

With my map on display in my living room, I could see it every day and stare at the art I was creating. I joke that it’s the most expensive piece of art I own, because of how much money it represents to me. Money that has been paid off.

My map worked for me. It really, truly helped motivate me and get my debt paid off.

map your debt

Ashley Barnett used this to track paying off her house.

debt art

Here’s one from Candice at Young Yet Wise

This one is for her Roth IRA, each flower is $100.


how do i money debt art 3


Another from Even Steven via Budgets are Sexy.

To stay motivated I kept it old school, and I kept it new school. I decided to make the old school thermometer graphs on paper and color it along the way. I didn’t put it on our fridge like your children’s finger paintings, but I did put it on our bedroom door where I saw it every day. It was pretty fun. Every time I would make a big payment, I would grab my green marker and color on up the thermometer. Coloring never felt so good!


Here’s another from Marg…

The nighttime tree picture was inspired by my husband’s passion for plants and nature and, less interestingly, the shapes offered by Microsoft PowerPoint (which has moons and stars but not birds, for example). I developed this as a countdown to my husband’s retirement–each block is a month rather than a dollar amount. But I wish I had come across this idea when we were still in the process of getting out of debt because it’s such a good one. All the same, seeing this graphic and looking forward to coloring in the first block seems to have really brought home to my hubby that his early retirement is real, which he hadn’t really believed until that point despite all the charts and spreadsheets I had developed. (I’m the nerd of the family.) He also has some chronic pain issues, so having this graphic to look at keeps him motivated when he’s having a hard time with pain at work.


how do i money debt art 2

Here’s another great one from Krista and Jayson

debt art how to get out of debt

You can do this for other non-debt stuff too…

  • how do i drink waterSaving for a car.
  • Saving for kids college.
  • Saving for retirement, that would probably take up a whole wall!
  • Losing 20 pounds.
  • Drinking 8 glasses of water a day.
  • Workouts.
  • Months until you get out of jail?

Download and print your own wall chart! 

Pretty cool stuff, uh?!


P.S. If you are paying off debt and would like to pay it off FASTER check out my easy debt snowball template. A free download that will help you organize your debts and pay them off fast.

26 Responses to "Could “debt art” help you pay off your debt faster? It helped these folks."

  1. Ms. Montana   May 26, 2016 at 7:44 am

    Ohh, I really like the debt art! As soon as a we get back to making goals happen, I am totally doing this! Taking a year off of work and saving has been fun, but after 14 years of being so focused towards our next big goal, I am a bit anxious to find out what our next step is. As soon I do, coloring!

    • Derek Olsen   May 26, 2016 at 11:40 am

      Hey there…

      I wanted to ask you what you use for tracking your budget. (The charts and graphs)
      I really like it. What program are you using?


  2. Ms. Montana   May 26, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Yeah, we are using Good budget right now. It’s a free app. The paid version is $5 a month (but I don’t really think it’s worth it). We have it on one phone and our tablet, so it’s super easy to enter transactions as we make them. It’s really basic, which is why I like it for now. And if you use it as an app vs. log into your account, you can custom set the colors (which looks much better!) But the resolution isn’t high enough to use that image for my blog, boo! =)

    • Derek Olsen   May 26, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      Cool! So, you use the images from the site (not the app) for your blog?

      • Ms. Montana   June 26, 2016 at 2:54 pm

        Yeah. =( The images from the app were too low res. Even off the website, I have to rotate the screen, take a screen shot then crop and re-rotate. But when you log in from a computer you can run a number of different reports. This month I am going to post the year to date. =)

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  4. paul   June 6, 2016 at 7:45 am

    Love the art idea and it can be applied to almost any situation. Greg for students aND countdown to exams etc. Thanks for the article and the idea.

    • Derek   June 6, 2016 at 9:14 am

      Thanks Paul.

      Yeah, you could use a wall chart like this for almost anything. I really do have one for drinking 8 glasses of water each day. It helps a ton. Without it I wouldn’t drink as much water. Just having the reminder is so helpful.

  5. Katie   June 6, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Great post! I did something similar to this when I was paying off my student loan. I made a chart and for every $100 I paid, I got a sticker. It was really motivating!

    • Derek   June 6, 2016 at 9:15 am


      What a great idea. Like the ones that say “I voted” you could have one that says “I paid my student loans”. haha! Love it.

  6. Ulyana Frank   June 6, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Ooooh great idea!!! I’ve had this at the back of my mind for awhile but I think I’ll create one for when we start saving for our Baby Fund!!!

    • Derek   June 6, 2016 at 9:16 am

      ooooo, yes. It could be in the shape of a bottle? I like it!

  7. Candice   June 6, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Debt art love it! Thanks for including me. Anything that makes paying off debt fun I’m all for it!

    • Derek   June 6, 2016 at 9:32 am

      Just don’t make it *TO* fun, haha.

  8. ZJ Thorne   June 6, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    I did this a few years ago, but lost the work (and my running schedule art) in a flood. I love the visual representations.

    • Derek   June 6, 2016 at 3:44 pm

      Running schedule art?! Cool! I guess you really can use this idea for anything. Bummer about the flood.

  9. Kurt   June 7, 2016 at 9:10 am

    These are really cool, Derek! I love the idea. The colorful, visual image of progress really helps motivate and celebrate, I think. It’s a lot more effective than, for example, a line graph of a declining debt balance. Thanks for the sharing!

    • Derek   June 7, 2016 at 9:25 am

      Yeah man.

      Mine isn’t very artsy as the others, but it works.

      I guess if a graph does the trick for you, go for it. But I would encourage folks to get outside their comfort zone and go more artsy than they usually are. I think combining the left brain / right brain aspect of this idea is helpful. It might unlock some sort of debt payment superpower!

  10. Amy   June 9, 2016 at 11:51 am

    This is such a good idea! My husband and I did this about a year ago, one for my student loans, another for saving up for our house. We were able to completely finish the debt painting two months ago (and it’s now hanging on our wall – a great reminder of the progress we’ve made!), and now we’ve made a little bit of headway on the savings! It’s been great motivation for us.

    • Derek   June 10, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      Amy- I’d love to see a pic. Email me if you want to. derek AT how do i money dot c o m .

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  12. Heidi Nash   August 14, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    The charts that Krista and Jason used can be downloaded free from

    • Derek   September 26, 2016 at 6:14 pm

      Cool, thanks for the link.

  13. Dominick   September 4, 2016 at 11:46 am

    If you are interested in topic: make money not friends quotes – you should read about Bucksflooder first

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  15. Mr. Robot   August 16, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Love the idea! Making stuff visual is the best way to really become aware of what you are doing and how you are progressing.


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