Momentum Series Interview – Debt Free Charts: Coloring Your Way Out Of Debt
This marks feature #17 in the Momentum Series – an interview series to share the stories of bloggers from across the personal finance community.
The goal is to showcase their story, the wins, the losses and the actionable advice that others can take value from and insights about their blogging journey. Whether that be conquering debt, maximizing career earnings, the road to financial independence or other strategies for financial and blogging success.
Joining us for this week’s Momentum Series Interview is Heidi from Debt Free Charts.
Heidi’s website provides users with charts to help them track and visualize their financial goals. Today, she stops by to share her own financial journey and the story of Debt Free Charts. Heidi is on a mission to giveaway 150,000 free charts in 2018!
If you want to connect with Heidi and get your own free chart head to:
With that said, let’s get started. Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Heidi! Here is the Momentum Series Interview – Debt Free Charts: Coloring Your Way Out Of Debt.
Can you share your financial journey with us and how you and your husband had accrued your debt?
We were the “normal” American couple, no budget, consuming all of our income each month, and using credit cards to buy and pay for the things we didn’t save up for. We weren’t frivolous, didn’t finance new cars, didn’t buy fancy electronics, didn’t spend a lot on clothes or go on European vacations (even though most of our friends were doing all of those things).
What we did do was charge small things, go out to nice dinners because ‘we deserved it’, gifts at Christmas and birthdays, and the inevitable yearly expenses that somehow managed to sneak up on us every year, like property taxes and car repairs.
We limped along like this, never completely falling, never making any progress for over 10 years.
What was that breaking point or moment of change that shifted your financial path?
Things began falling apart in late 2006, when my husband lost the job we thought would be forever stable, and we had zero money in savings. We fell back on a Line of Credit we had, and every month wrote ourselves a check so that we could cover all of our bills and minimum payments.
When my husband finally found a good job 6 months later we were $38,000 in debt (not including the mortgage).
What were the strategies and tactics you put in place that set you up for the most progress and success?
That year I found the Dave Ramsey book The Total Money Makeover and managed to get a copy from our local library. I devoured it, and finally had a clear picture of how stupid we had been with our money.
I learned about the Debt Snowball method of paying off your smallest debts first to get some momentum going, and got started.
If you had to give advice to someone struggling with their debt that doesn’t know where to start, what would that advice be?
Start by looking at where you spent your money in the last 30 days. Get your credit card and bank statements and make a list showing what you spent on housing, bills, groceries, eating out, gas, minimum debt payments, everything. Until you understand where you’re spending your money, you can’t make educated changes.
Then, write down all your debts, and resist the urge to feel discouraged. Instead choose to feel determined, even angry, at your debt. Don’t fall into the guilt game, that won’t do you any good. Just start where you are right now and move forward.
Now you can begin to make a new plan and tackle your debt. Yes, you CAN do this!
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset?
- The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
- Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
- The Millionaire Next Door
- The Automatic Millionaire
- The Richest Man in Babylon
- The Life Coach School by Brooke Castillo
Apps or Services
When did you start Debt Free Charts? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
When we started to climb that mountain of debt it was soooo hard to stay motivated. It felt like we were just not getting anywhere with our tiny snowball. I looked for something that I could put up on the fridge and see at a glance how we were doing.
I tried a thermometer but it was just too boring for me, so I had the idea to make a “thermometer” chart of the words “Debt Free.” Wow! What a difference! Just seeing those words get filled in had a huge impact on us.
I made that first chart around 2008 and it helped us so much that I shared it in an online forum, and started making charts by request in that group. After about a year I decided to put them all up on a simple website so anyone could access them, not just the people in that forum.
It seems so simple, even a little cheesy, but it really does work, especially if you are a visual person like I am. You see your progress, not just in numbers on a spreadsheet, but in big words that you are filling in as you move forward.
Seeing how far you’ve come spurs you on to win. It’s incredibly inspiring. It gives you that boost of pride in what you’ve been able to do, and helps you see that you can do it, you can become debt free!
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with Debt Free Charts?
The sole purpose of Debt Free Charts is to help as many people as possible stay motivated to reach their money goals.
What was the that first “big win” with Debt Free Charts that kept you motivated and reinforced your belief?
When I made that first chart for myself, and had the thought that maybe it could help someone else, I wasn’t really prepared for how many people would be impacted by them. In December of 2017 I was thinking of making a new website for the charts, so went looking on social media to see if I could find anyone who had posted a photo of their chart.
I was blown away to find a hashtag on Instagram already in use and hundreds of people who were posting their charts. I had no idea that so many people were using them, because I had no way of really keeping track of how many charts were downloaded.
I started an Instagram for Debt Free Charts and announced the coming of the new website and had thousands of people downloading charts within the first month. It has been a whirlwind ever since.
How many charts are currently available and which charts have been the most popular with users?
I have 26 free charts for paying off debts, plus another 50+ for savings goals, with more charts coming.
The top five free charts are:
- Debt Free Chart
- Student Loan
- Car Loan
- Credit Card
- Starter Emergency Fund.
Do you have any anecdotes or success stories from users that you’re able to share?
One of my favorites is about Ellie Mondelli who colored her mortgage chart in with a black pen.
“I stuck this chart to my cubicle wall at the end of August 2016 and have stared at it every single work day since, dreaming of the day when it would be completely black.”
Seventeen months later, she had reached her goal.
“Thanks again to @debtfreecharts for my absolute favorite visual aid during this journey. Each line I colored in was a small win of its own and kept me so motivated to reach the top.♡”
Do you have any specific goals with Debt Free Charts over the next 12 months? How about 24 months? What tactics are you planning to leverage to accomplish these goals?
Over the years I’ve given away thousands and thousands of charts. I wish I knew exactly how many. But now I’ve got a big goal and I’m keeping track.
I WANT TO GIVE AWAY 150,000 FREE CHARTS IN 2018.
150,000 charts to help people SEE their progress in a visual way and stay motivated to keep putting in the work that leads to success. I don’t want anyone to feel like their progress is so slow that they will never reach their goal.
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
Even if you don’t use Debt Free Charts, use some sort of chart, especially if you are at all visual. Track your progress visually so that you can see how far you’ve come. It really does make a difference.
Any special shoutouts?
Special shoutouts to my fellow Instagram buddies who are inspiring others to get out of debt – @debtkickinmom, @conrad_inspire, @easy_budget, @debtfreeinsunnyca, @gobudgetgirl, @inspiredbudget and @asunnysideuplife.