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Are You Tracking Your Debt-Payoff Progress? Joan’s Mid-October Financial Update

in Joan's Posts, Our Financial Journey, Pay Off Your Debt

Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

Mega milestone this month, you guys… the sixties have faded away! We are now under $60,000 in non-mortgage debt, down from a high of almost $90,000! Officially, our total stands at $59,966.29 in debt to go. As of last month’s update, that number was $61,878.56, so we’re down $1,912.27 this month. That’s our highest drop in quite a while – at least since I started doing monthly transparency updates here on MvD!

Updating our Very Next Steps

Even with our big total pay-down figure this month, we hit only one of our Very Next Step goals. I can’t say I’m very scientific about those – but without trying it, it seems like I set them up so that they come in bunches. That’s OK; the one we hit was “the one!”

  • Hated BoA MasterCard: Our goal had been to get this under $22,500, and it’s at $21,735.93. Now, I’d like to get it under $21,000 – and, in our sights after that – we’ll aim for the “teens” instead of the $20K range. THAT will be huge!

Don’t forget that we keep track of all of these debts in summary (complete with V.N.S.) on my “Joan’s Finances” page – so you can see how we’re doing at a glance. As we roll through each month’s updates, though, I’ll just hit the ones that change!

The month of Getting Stuff DONE

If you’ve been following along on these monthly updates, you’re (hopefully) slightly surprised, in a good way, at our progress.

Last month, we used most of our “extra” credit-card payment to fund some surgery for our cat Floyd, and rather than tapping the emergency fund, we decided to simply hustle and track our spending diligently and sell some crap to try to make up the difference.

And we even threw some surprise extra expenses in there – my best friend’s wedding, a three-day weekend at the beach with my mom and an increase in our cell-phone bill now that Sarah, who’s 12, has a phone.

Even so, it worked – big time.

I wish I had a major secret – but it’s really pretty straightforward. We declared this the month of Getting Stuff Done.

I followed up on contacts for side hustles that I’d been delaying. We cleaned out closets and made a bunch of trips to the consignment shop, things we’d had on the master to-do list for months.

And we freed up some mental energy, too – I knocked off a major list of to-do tasks for one of my side jobs and my two non-MvD blogs, and Chris plunged into a stack of books that need to be listed in our Amazon store. Even though they might not be directly revenue-producing, having these things checked off has helped us stay focused!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch here at MvD, while Baker finishes up the documentary, his wife, Courtney, and I have tackled a list of behind-the-scenes Man Vs. Debt tasks that will save us time and, again, help us focus more on our long-term goals!

One of those lingering tasks that’s now completed means, I hope, some good news for you!

Are YOU tracking your debt-payoff progress?

That’s right – I’ve finally finished making downloadable copies of the tracking system I use to power these monthly updates! I’ve been asked for them by email and in the comments since I first started sharing our finances, but one thing after another kept me from getting them ready to distribute.

Well, you can now get your free debt-payoff progress tracker here! There’s both an editable spreadsheet (.xls file) and a printable PDF you can use.

I truly believe this month-after-month tracking is the biggest factor in our ability to pay off almost a third of our debt so far! And whether you use our tracking system as-is, modify it to suit your needs, or do something else entirely, the point is, I hope you’ll choose to be purposeful about marking your progress in some visible way!

This month has been nothing short of amazing for us. I feel like I’ve got my own version of feeding the multitudes – I keep paying bills, and there’s still a little room leftover in the checkbook.

For the month ahead, our biggest goal as a family is to formulate a plan for upcoming holiday expenses – and some upcoming orthodontia. But my biggest goal here on MvD is to help you figure out how to track your progress.

If you don’t already have a system you love in place to keep an eye on your debt balances, start with this one. 

And, either way, comment and let me know how I can best help you keep your momentum rolling!

I’m glad to help!

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Pauline October 16, 2012 at 4:19 PM

Congratulations on knocking off so much debt this month! Going under $60K is a big milestone. Hopefully you can have other get stuff done months to gain momentum. Keep it up!

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Joan October 16, 2012 at 4:48 PM

Thanks, Pauline!! I can’t wait to keep rolling!

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Alan October 16, 2012 at 4:54 PM

Awesome Joan. $2000 down, on top of the interest charges. Keep going. Gazelle Intensity. B of A to $0 ASAP. I volunteered to host a Financial Peace Class in my area. My motivation is to deprive hated B of A of any debt customers, and payments. “The worth of souls is great” (a scripture in LDS scripture). To me, “the worth of B of A is the opposite”. People are jumping up, and asking if they can attend.

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Joan October 16, 2012 at 5:16 PM

Alan, that’s awesome!! Good for you for not only having the vision, but helping others do so too… that’s the thing I absolutely love most about what I get to do here at Man Vs. Debt and You Vs. Debt!

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Paul October 17, 2012 at 11:02 AM

Alan,
Financial Peace University is awesome! My wife and I are taking it for the second time. We needed a refresher as she was getting into her old spending habits, and I was not holding her accountable for them. We are now back on track and cutting up credit cards.

Also, I completely agree with you about B of A. It is an evil institution. After a couple unpleasant encounters, we now avoid that place like the plague. I had one of their employees in an online MBA course, and I was not surprised to find out he worked for B of A, judging by his comments and actions in class.

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Christina Denise October 16, 2012 at 5:21 PM

CONGRATS!!! It is an amazing feeling to see the numbers go DOWN….I do have a question, what do you do during setbacks. I’ve been diligently monitoring and managing my finances and credit report I was so excited to find out I increased my credit score 19 points….only to find out last month an overlooked payment was posted from December 2011 when dropped my score 12 points, so my increase is 7 points…so upset spent an hour on the phone with the creditor with no luck. I’m not giving up, just a little P.O’d!

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Joan October 16, 2012 at 9:42 PM

Christina, I admit – that’s hard for me too (not with credit score, so much, but in other areas!) It’s one reason I make sure I have MULTIPLE factors I’m aiming for – so I’m always a success in one or another, you know? I know it’s totally a mental game, but at the same time, it really motivates me when I know that every month, I’m either another 5% down, or under another dollar figure total, or under a new VNS balance on a particular card, or OVER a certain dollar figure paid off. It’s all the same thing – really – but it gives me a “win.”

I’m not sure if that helps or not, but I can definitely say – I know how you feel! And I’m here cheering for you!

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Carol October 16, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Woot!! So happy for you. Keep up the great work!!

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Joan October 16, 2012 at 8:12 PM

Carol, thanks!! :)

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Leah October 16, 2012 at 7:13 PM

That’s so awesome! Nice job Joan!!!! And thanks for making those forms. I’m printing them out right now!

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Joan October 16, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Leah, I’m so glad – let me know how they work out!! :)

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Leslie October 16, 2012 at 7:41 PM

Hi Joan! Awesome news and congratulations! Those are indeed mega milestones!! I cracked up when I clicked on the “sell some crap” link and saw a quote from me! That was hilarious, and I can report that I am STILL as obsessed as I was when I wrote you guys that email. But, and here is the awesome news: today my total made from selling crap=$3960!! I am shooting for $5000 by the end of the year but I don’t think I have anything more to sell!

I’m going to start focusing on making some extra $$ from freelance editing jobs (made $122.50 already and have my next client lined up). By the end of the year, I will be UNDER $10,000 (if all goes well) of debt, and I know you know how great that is going to feel!

Keep up the good work and we all will too! You guys rock!

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Joan October 16, 2012 at 8:12 PM

Leslie, too funny! And WHOA… congrats to you!! You will HAVE to let me know when you hit $5,000 – between crap-selling and freelancing! That is amazing!!

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Bilgefisher October 17, 2012 at 9:32 AM

Joan,

Congrats. Its always fun to get passed a large number like that. Especially when you had a more difficult month, yet paid off more.

I see many forms of active side income, do you have any forms of passive side income?

Jason

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Joan October 17, 2012 at 12:03 PM

Jason, we are what I call active/passive – for instance, I get Mary Kay reorders and make money from past work while not doing anything active. My husband can go months without listing new books in our used bookstore, and we still sell consistently from our built-up inventory. We have limited ads and affiliate links on our personal blogs that make us revenue, but they’re most effective when we’re updating the sites regularly. So they’re not what I consider “fully passive,” though I know that’s a subject up for debate – but they’re not time-for-money trades either!

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Katie October 17, 2012 at 10:13 AM

Awesome! After your first post I set up a simple spreadsheet to track my debt. It has been going down but with getting married and adding my husbands info, it took a HUGE upswing. We are making progress each month but need to be better at tracking our spending and talking about savings and our plan.

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Joan October 17, 2012 at 12:03 PM

Katie, I am so glad you’ve come this far!! (And just wait – you’re going to be in one of my upcoming MvD posts, I haven’t forgetten about our conversation!) :)

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Paul October 17, 2012 at 11:12 AM

Great work! 90K is a big number to start at, congratulations! We are hoping to get under 25K by the end of the year, and finish off the non-mortgage debt next year. We probably started in the 35K range in 2010, but have been up and down since then due two job changes and two moves to go along with them. I am finally in a job I like and hope to keep until I retire. I might just start blogging to get my thoughts out there and maybe bring in an extra dollar or two. I wish you continued success in your efforts to eliminate debt!

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Joan October 17, 2012 at 12:06 PM

Paul, that’s awesome!! I cannot WAIT til I can join you in the “20s”!

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Cheryl October 17, 2012 at 11:48 AM

congrats!! I started tracking the percentage after I found your site. I used the excel from Joe’s- no more harvard debt site back in July. I was so focused on the number, I didn’t take a second to think about how much over all my debt was coming down. I’m down 42% overall and will pay off the AmEx at the end of this month. I started with 3 cards- the largest the dreaded BoA- but that’s down by 1/3 so far. I plan to have that paid off by Feb/Mar 2013.
Thinking about paying off debt lead me to thinking about ways to expand the revenue stream. I ended up having a small side hobby of making cake balls for parties. It’s that fun creative outlet that makes a little bit of money.

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Joan October 17, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Cheryl, that’s AMAZING!!! (And yummy, if I may say so regarding the cake balls!)

You are really rocking it! Make sure you keep us posted!

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Cheryl October 17, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Thanks Joan! I think reading about other everyone’s break throughs help keep me motivated!

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Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager October 17, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Woot! Congrats on your progress. I wish I was as motivated as you with the month of getting stuff done. But right now all I want is for this cold to be gone!

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Joan October 17, 2012 at 7:10 PM

Jenna, that’s important too – take care of yourself! :)

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Rebecca October 17, 2012 at 2:52 PM

Congrats on your progress and good luck with the holidays. I say just make your own or just do something as cheap as you can for gifts. Maybe having a no gift exchange might be good too.

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Joan October 17, 2012 at 7:11 PM

Rebecca, we actually do a charitable contribution instead of gifts for almost all of our family – and since we budget for giving anyway, no hit to the rest of the budget! You’re 100% right, that can be a big trip-up at this time of year!

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Mo October 17, 2012 at 8:52 PM

I track with a simple excel spread sheet that I create. I set up a budget each month based on the specific things that come up for the month. I’m living on about 40% of my *net* income until the debt is paid off. Going crazy on it! Only $7,126.26 left.

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Joan October 18, 2012 at 9:48 AM

Mo, that’s AWESOME!!! Keep us posted – we want to celebrate especially big when you hit zero!

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Natalie F October 19, 2012 at 1:09 PM

Congratulations on your progress! I’m going to download the pdf and give it a shot. It seems like it will keep me focused and motivated to reach my goal. It’s such a hard process, but I can’t wait for it to pay off!!

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Joan October 22, 2012 at 4:01 PM

Natalie, that’s awesome!! Definitely please keep us posted on how it goes! :)

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Jeffrey Mitchell October 20, 2012 at 11:48 AM

Joan,

Keep up the good work! It is exciting to see someone tackle debt like you and your family has been doing.

I would be interested to know if you are also tracking the amount of money you have spent in interest payments during the war on this debt. I think when you finally get to $0 you can publish these facts for the benefit of the community. For example, $90K in debt was really more like XYZ because of the costs of the debt. This will help others to understand the true cost of using credit and serve as model of what people need to be aware of.

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Joan October 22, 2012 at 4:03 PM

I think that’s a neat idea, but it’s not quite that cut-and-dried of a calculation – because of course that $90,000 is really already something like $50,000 plus interest (literally – over more than a decade of not paying more than the minimums, etc.)

If I had been keeping track all along, that certainly would have been interesting! I actually wish I had a specific dollar amount total for the exact cost of goods and services bought, which of course you could then figure the interest with, but more importantly, so that I could SHOW the value of paying more than the minimums!!

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Kris October 21, 2012 at 8:42 AM

Congratulations! Inspiring post.

This is my first time commenting here as I’m very new to the site. In honesty, I’m feeling very vulnerable right now. I have a lot of student debt waiting for me, lots of clutter that I need to get rid of, a family to help support, horses that I can no longer afford… I’m even willing to say that my current earnings are only in the four figure mark. I’m really, really SCARED!!!

Thank you for all of the advice you have given here. I’m taking note on all of it and I’m inspired. I may be extremely afraid, but I have a positive feeling that I can get through it no matter what. Even if I lose everything, I know it can only get better from there.

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Joan October 22, 2012 at 4:04 PM

Kris, thank you for commenting – and for hanging out here at MvD!! I get where you’re coming from – and I know scared all too well. The biggest thing is, we’re here for you, and that positive attitude is what’s going to pull you through, no matter what happens! Keep us posted on how we can best help!

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Kris October 22, 2012 at 4:11 PM

Thank you so much! I look forward to reading more! I know that everything will work out in the end.

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Adam Hathaway October 22, 2012 at 6:17 PM

This is a great help you are providing to those in debt. If I had this end of last year I probably would not have spent hours upon hours on my own tracker :)

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Joan October 22, 2012 at 7:30 PM

Adam, thank you so much – and I hope you’ve found the hours you spent to have been worth it; I know I do!! :)

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debtgirl October 23, 2012 at 1:58 PM

You guys are doing so great! Congrats on getting under 25 for BofA. I usually refer to them as Bend Over America! I hate them too.

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Joan October 27, 2012 at 7:31 PM

HA, good name. I’m not sure who doesn’t hate them, exactly! ;-)

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Marie at FamilyMoneyValues October 23, 2012 at 2:50 PM

The best part about it all is that all of the things you do to generate that extra needed money will be the things that propel you to wealth once you do get your debts paid off!

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Joan October 27, 2012 at 7:31 PM

Marie, that’s a REALLY good point. Because I can envision some other circumstances in which we might have been debt-free, but not really with the freedom and lifestyle we want!

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Cay October 30, 2012 at 2:51 PM

Joan, We emailed to one another about a year ago. My daughter was college and we were almost fully funded for that expense. We had a truck loan of $12,000.00.
Update to report: We full funded the college fund and our daughter graduated from college DEBT FREE, April 28, 2012. We paid off our truck in 8 months. As my husband and I sat down to plan our next set of goals, our daughter and boy friend, decided they wanted to get married Oct. 13, 2012 instead of Oct of 2013 as originally planned . My husband and I had an emergency budget meeting and sat down to plan. After our meeting, we sat down with our daughter and told her the plan. The wedding was paid for in CASH and we are still debt free!!!
The husband and I have had another budget meeting, and decided a course of action to completely be DEBT FREE-paying off our mortgage. In January, we refinanced our home for 10 years and borrowed $50,000.00. (We had a 6% interest rate for approx. 11 more years-we locked in at 3.65% with all refinancing fees paid from by the CU). By refinancing, we saved over $200.00 a month-we pay that on the principal of the house each month and pay more towards the principal!! To date, we owe $42,000.00. We plan (with God’s blessings) to be mortgage loan free in 3 years. Yes-we can do it! I have NO doubt.
I enjoy reading your “accountably” post and your honesty. My husband and I have surrounded ourselves with like minded people in regards to be DEBT FREE. Thru your post, we feel others are feeling the same. Thank you Joan for your updates.

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Joan December 10, 2012 at 2:01 PM

Cay, I apologize I didn’t see your comment sooner, but that is AMAZING!!!! I am so proud of how far you’ve come and that you’re tackling that last thing, the mortgage, and are ready to get it gone too! I can’t wait to join you in that part of the journey… and I appreciate your support and encouragement more than I can say!

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