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One of the more popular articles on Married (with Debt) is part of our 10 Rules to Eliminate Debt and Change Your Life – the part where we make a debt and budget spreadsheet to track our bills, debts owed and daily spending.

I get an email almost every day asking for a free copy of the one I use. If you would like a copy for yourself, just email me through the Contact page and I’ll send you the Microsoft Excel budget template I built.

Because this was such an important tool in helping us get out of debt, I wanted to talk more about why having a debt and bills due spreadsheet is important:

  • Gets both partners looking at their money as “our money” and focused on one goal
  • Gives you a place to keep track of what has been paid, and what needs to be paid
  • Tracks your progress as we work towards debt freedom
Debt Tracking Budget

Click to enlarge. This is my debt and bill spreadsheet with embedded instructions for use.

Gets Both Partners on the Same Page

If you are married or otherwise in a committed relationship that involves the combining of finances and want to get out of debt, you need a plan. A debt and budget spreadsheet is your reference point.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves and begin attacking debt like a drunken sailor, it is critical that we take some time and put all our expenses into an easy to use and follow format. If you’ve been living separate money lives, playing the game of “I’ll pay for cable if you pay for the gym membership and the power bill,” this can be a great chance for both partners to see everything as one equation, and more importantly, to see that it can be solved.

 

Keep Track of What Needs to be Paid

A debt and budget spreadsheet is like a homepage for your money. If you are working from an old-school accordion file or some other system that leaves you with bills and receipts falling out of every pocket, chances are you are missing payment due dates and getting late charges.

In the best case scenario, you are missing the big picture and are unable to see the complex equation that is “money in, money out.”

Late or missed payments can be eliminated by keeping track of bills due in a spreadsheet. That way if one gets lost in the mail or falls between the car seats, it doesn’t become a missed payment. If you can see it on your chart and notice it hasn’t been marked as paid, you can call your creditor to arrange payment before it becomes late, or pay it online.

For many, the first step in taking control of money is to stop missing payments.

 

Tracks Your Progress Towards Debt Freedom

A debt and budget spreadsheet, along with a debt payoff calculator, are a great way to keep your get out of debt journey in context. If it’s going to take one year, you can see it and track it on your chart.

If it’s going to take three years, at least you know that going in and can prepare yourself mentally for the long journey ahead.

Though we are making sure that both partners are on the same page, it is probably a good idea to designate one partner as the person to keep the chart updated. I’ve mentioned this before, but when it comes to my wife and I, I view myself as the CFO of the family business, meaning I take the active role in planning the big picture of where our money goes and making sure payments are made. I view my wife as the CEO, the person who makes the daily spending decisions that keep us spending less than we earn and on track.

Even if one person is in charge of the debt and budget spreadsheet, make sure you are reviewing it together at least once a month and comparing the current month to previous months to establish trends.

 

Whatever Method You Choose, Stick With It

If you want some more in-depth instructions on how to use my debt and budget spreadsheet, make sure you read this article.

If you use a spreadsheet or just a notebook, the important thing is that you have everything on it, and that you are consistently keeping it updated. Eventually you will enjoy watching your debts go down and knowing that the days of missed payments and “I thought you were paying that” are well behind you.

 

Readers: What do you use to keep track of your debts and spending?