One Helpful Thing You Should Do While Paying off Debt

There are numerous articles online that have advice on ways to pay off debt including how to cut back on spending and a multitude of side hustle ideas to make more money while on your journey. You definitely won’t run out of ideas and tips to get you to the mighty goal of being debt free. However, I want to add a helpful aid during your journey which is helping me and has helped others. That one thing that has motivated me during my debt free journey is a visual aid.  Visual aids have been used for as long as I can remember especially in classrooms to help with learning.

A visual aid is used to supplement words with pictures, charts, graphs or other graphics to convey a specific message. 

In this blog post, I will discuss the visual aid that I am currently using to track my progress out of student loan debt and also my discussion with Amanda from DebtfreeinSunnyCA who also believes that using a visual aid while getting out of debt keeps you motivated. Let me add, a visual isn’t restricted to paying off debt, it can also be used to save money. 

I have used a few different visual aids before settling on my current one. Past visual aids include a thermometer that I colored in as I paid off each debt and an excel spreadsheet where I listed all my debts and then highlighted each one as they were paid off. Both are still viable visual aid options. Lastly, I settled with framing a poster sized graphic complete with stenciled in graduation caps where each cap represents $1000 in student loan debt. I created the graphic with a poster board from a local Dollar General Store, a frame from Hobby Lobby, a few Happy Planner stickers from Michael’s stores and a stencil purchased here. My goal was to create something that was very visible but also fun to color in. Once the graphic is fully completed, I will have paid off $64,000 in student loan debt. Here is the final product:

Graduating Out of Debt Tracker

I discovered Amanda from DebtfreeinSunnyCA on Instagram and noticed that she also used a visual aid during her journey out of debt. Amanda made a visual in a bullet journal to track her progress out of $133,763 of debt. Her and her husband paid off this amount of debt in 3 years and 7 months. (Wow!) 

Here is our interview:

Sugar and Money: Amanda, thank you so much for agreeing to share your visual and some of your debt free story with me today. So, let’s dive right in with a few questions. First, tell me a little about yourself and your journey:

Amanda: I’m Amanda Williams and I’m the owner of Debt Free in Sunny CA! I started sharing my debt free journey on Instagram 3 years ago. My goal was to stay motivated and find other like-minded people. Since there weren’t a lot of people sharing their journey back then, I created #debtfreecommunity to make it easier to find people who are getting out of debt. My mission is to show people that living a debt free life is possible by sharing tips and providing motivation. 

Sugar and Money: You knew your goal of debt freedom so what prompted you to create a visual aid while paying off debt:

Amanda: Ya know when you get really into something to where you’re borderline obsessed? That’s how I was at the beginning of my debt free journey. I had a coloring chart that came with the Financial Peace University (FPU) kit, but I didn’t get to color in it often. A small payment was a speck compared to the amount of debt I had. I wanted a way to celebrate each payment, so I looked to Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration on creating my own debt free tracker.

Takeaway: A visual aid can help you in celebrating those small wins to keep you motivated.

Sugar and Money: How did your visual aid motivate you? How did it feel to see the progress?

Amanda: The visual I created was a bullet journal page with lines drawn to create boxes. Each box was worth $240, so every time I made a payment in that amount, I would get to color in a box. Every payday I would get so excited to color in more boxes and see the page fill up. I used a different color of the rainbow for each debt. My favorite part was taking pictures of my tracker and looking back months later to see how far I had come. It’s an amazing feeling to go from being terrified and thinking how you’re going to pay your debt off to putting in the work and seeing your progress.

Takeaway: Take pictures of your progress of your visual aid so you can reflect on the progression of reaching your goal. Also, you have to put in the work to pay off debt.

DebtfreeinSunnyCa Visual Aid for Tracking Debt Payoff

Sugar and Money: Tell me again, how much debt did you and your husband pay off?

Amanda: My husband and I paid off $133,763 in 3 years and 7 months. We also cash flowed our wedding during that time.

Takeaway: That’s a lot of debt to tackle but they did it and so can you! 

Sugar and Money: Would you recommend that other people use a visual aid and why?

Amanda: Yes! Getting out of debt is not an easy task. You need something to look forward to, track your progress, and keep it in your face as a reminder of the goal you set for yourself. Visual aids do exactly that and they are fun! There are so many different ways to track your progress. Coloring, paper chains, and moving coins/marbles over from one jar to another are a few ideas. Plus, you’ll want the memories later on.

Takeaway: Create a visual and don’t be afraid to get creative. Feel free to look to pinterest for ideas also. There are numerous ways to create a visual aid to track your progress.

Sugar and Money: We are wrapping up, anything else that you would like to add about using a visual aid or where you are currently on your financial journey?

Amanda: Once you’ve completed your debt free or savings tracker, laminate it and keep it as a memory. It brings me so much joy looking at mine and all my paid off notices. (Amanda printed out and laminated every paid off letter from her student loan company) I think you’ll feel the same way.   Here’s the debt free tracker I made and used during our debt free journey. I counted up how many boxes were on the page and then did the math to figure out how much each square was worth. I left a row empty for boxes for interest, but it ended up not being enough. Word of advice: only color in principal balance. It makes it a lot easier unless your interest rate is low.

I created a debt free tracker printable that will be available when my online store opens on February 6th, my three year Instagram anniversary. You can sign up for my email list to get a discount and early access here:  Thank you for the opportunity to be featured!

DebtfreeinSunnyCa Debt Free Progress Tracker available online on February 6th.

Sugar and Money: And Thank you for chatting with me! I really appreciate it. 

Takeaway: Get on Amanda’s mailing list at if you would like to get a discount on the debt tracker pictured above and you can find Amanda via her blog at and she is very active on Instagram @debtfreeinsunnyca so follow her for inspiration.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I recommend that you use a visual aid to track your progress while paying off debt or even saving up for specific goals. Goals outside of paying off debt can include: 3-6 month emergency fund, vacation fund, house down payment or maybe even buying a house in full. The options are endless but a great visual aid will keep you motivated as you make progress on your journey. You will enjoy seeing the visual progression towards reaching your goal. As you create your visual aid or download one off the internet  here are a few tips in closing: Clearly define your goal and how progress will be tracked, make it colorful and make it fun!

Let me know any thoughts in the comments…Did you like the interview with Amanda? Would you like to see more interviews? Do you plan to create a visual aid to track whatever financial goal you are striving toward? Do you already use a visual? Let me know below and also please share this blog with anyone that it may inspire. Can’t wait to hear from you!



5 Awesome Financial Gifts for Kids

piggy bank

Between birthdays and holidays, it seems like there is always an occasion to buy a gift for a kid in your life. Planning ahead is the key to avoid giving gift cards or a toy that they will discard. Nothing against gift cards or toys if that is what the recipient wants but most cases, you could probably give a more intentional or thoughtful gift. Here are 5 awesome personal finance related gifts for kids.


Goalsetter is a savings platform (FDIC Insured) where your kid can learn to save for things that matter to them. Or you can give a Goalcard – instead of a giftcard – to another lucky kid on a birthday or holiday and help them start saving toward something they care about.

Goalsetter gives the options to either “Start Saving” or to “Give a Gift”. You can sign up to start saving towards a goal for your child. Goals that jump out to me are: extracurricular activities, a bike, a computer, summer camp fees, high school graduation trip, college savings or college tuition/fees but a goal can be any goal you and your kid want to save for.

Once you finish setting up your kid’s account, you will get a personalized link to share with friends and family so they can give your child a GoalCard – real money to support real dreams.

If you choose “Give a Gift”, you can gift another kid a personalized GoalCard (even if they don’t have a Goalsetter account yet),  to help them achieve one of their goals. Goalsetter is a great option over buying a plastic toy that will likely be tossed away in a month or two.  Click here and here to learn more about Goalsetter.

Amina’s Bracelets: A kidpreneur story

What better gift to give than a book to inspire your child to become a kidprenuer. A kidprenuer is a kid that owns their own business. This book shows how Amina wanted a tablet but her parents wouldn’t buy it for her. Instead her parents empowered her to earn her own money to reach her goal. I think we can all agree that showing your child or any child that they have the ability to make their own money and have their own business is powerful. Consider giving this book as a gift to the special kid in your life. Consider purchasing “Amina’s Bracelets: A Kidpreneur Story” and learn more about the financial literacy company that created “Amina’s Bracelets: A Kidpreneur Story” here.

Moonjar Classic Moneybox: Save, Spend, Share

This twist on the classic piggybank grabbed my attention immediately. We all know that there are more steps to managing money than just earning it and spending it. Beyond earning and spending, you should also give. This moneybox separates the three areas: Save, Spend and Share/Give. If you are anything like me, you learned about money later in life and wish you learned it earlier. The Moonjar Classic Moneybox is a great gift to give to show a child how to divide money into those three areas. This gift will help the special child in your life learn about money.

Cash or Play Money

I think we can all agree that cash is still king. Eventhough it seems that we are moving away from using cash as often, cash is still being used and kids need to know how to count and handle cash and coins. If the child is too young to handle real cash then you can give them play money for them to get used to recognizing money and counting.


The gift of communication is priceless and can be combined with any of the gifts above. I urge parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or any financially empowered person to have a conversation with the children in their life to talk about money. Money is still such a taboo topic but if you know have learned something about money that would help someone else, especially a young person in your life then have that talk. On the flip side, if you have older kids or adult children but need to talk to them about the family finances like retirement, insurance, etc. then have that talk. Any day is a good day to talk about money.

Have you ever given a financial gift to a child? What financial gift do you wish you received as a child?




How to Pay off Thousands of Credit Card Debt

pay off credit card debt

In this post, I am going to break down exactly how I paid off thousands of dollars in credit card debt in six easy steps. Actually, I paid off $20,000 in credit card debt. Yes, once upon a time, not long ago – I was saddled with $20,000 in credit card debt. The total balance was paid off between the years 2014 – 2016. I had a mix of credit cards including store cards with balances of a few hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars on my Visa, Mastercard and Discover cards. Ultimately, I took 6 steps to finally get out of credit card debt:

1st Step: Got fed up with making credit card payments.

Simply put, month in and month out I got tired of making numerous payments to the credit card companies. It became exhausting to keep up with who I owed, how much I owed, due dates, etc. So, I made my mind up that I was tired of making those payments and decided to get out of credit card debt once and for all. I wanted the bills and payments to stop so my mindset became set to being just plain tired of being in credit card debt. So, I created a plan to get out of credit card debt for once and for all.

“Do you know what you can do with your money when you don’t have any payments? Anything you want!”

2nd Step: Stopped charging items on my credit cards.

If I didn’t have the cash to purchase something then I simply went without. Afterall, you cannot get out of debt while doing the same thing that got you in debt.

3nd Step: Created a payment plan using the debt snowball.

I had recently read, “Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey and was definitely inspired to get out of debt. Therefore, I listed out all of my credit card accounts from the smallest account balance to the largest account balance with a plan to pay them off using the debt snowball which I had learned about from Dave Ramsey’s book.

“Debt snowball is a method of debt repayment in which the debtor lists each of his/her debts from smallest to largest (not including the mortgage), then devotes extra money each month to paying off the smallest debt first while making only minimum monthly payments on all of the other debts.” – Investopedia

4th Step: Reviewed my income and expenses to determine did I have an income problem or a spending problem with the amount of debt that I had.

At this point, I’ve had credit cards since the age of 18 and honestly couldn’t remember if there was ever a time that they were all 100% paid off at the same time.  I pulled a month of my paystubs from work, 2 months of my most recent bank account statements and a couple of highlighters and starting marking 2 main areas: Food and shopping. Those were the two areas that I figured I could back on first.  What I realized was that there was room to cut back in the areas of food and shopping but I definitely had an income issue. I simply wasn’t making enough money to cover all of my bills and have enough for food, gas, etc.

Check out this post:

How to Create a Budget in 6 Easy Steps

5th  Step: Realized that I needed to make more money.

Since I had an income issue, I picked up a part time job. In fact, it was a retail job and I even created a spreadsheet to track my paychecks from my part time job to make sure that the money was tracked as it came in and then paid toward debt to work my set debt snowball. However, my part time didn’t offer that my many hours which equated to income and I admit, I was shopping at the store so my checks really didn’t make a huge difference since I was spending my paychecks back in the store. (Note: Please don’t work at a place to earn money where you will also be tempted to shop/spend.)

5B: Personally, I still needed to make more money because the part time job wasn’t cutting it so I went after a promotion at work and got it. That is when the snowball really got traction. Getting the promotion, did take some work and even took moving out of state but the increase was worth it. (Let me note, If you have a spending problem, then you will need to cut back on your shopping.)

From there, I was able to work my snowball and pay off each debt one by one from smallest debt balance to highest debt balance.

Step 6: (Optional Step) Completed a balance transfer.

One of my credit cards had an offer for a balance transfer. I used that offer to transfer a higher interest credit card to a very low interest credit card with the plan to pay the card off before the balance transfer rate expired. It proved to be a good way to save on interest while paying off my $20,000 in credit card debt. I know this isn’t a perferred option for some people but if you are committed to not getting back in credit card debt and you are  committed to paying off your credit cards for good, this could be a good tool to use to save on interest fees while paying off your debt.

In conclusion: To pay off your credit debt, it will take a few steps but it can be done. Steps include: Getting fed up with credit card debt, no longer changing items on credit cards, listing out all debt/balances using the snowball method (however, you could also use the avalanche method), determine do you have an income problem or a spending problem and fixing that specified problem, considering a balance transfer option and then lastly, work that payoff plan you created and stick to your plan until all of your credit cards are paid off. Please remember that by believing that you can pay off your credit card debt, you are halfway there!

So let me know of any questions you have? Do you believe that you can pay off your credit card debt? How long do you think it will take to pay off your credit cards in full?


August Debt Payoff Report


August Debt Payoff Report

August was a great month because I paid off another Student Loan Group. Yes! Student Loan Group D bit the dust. When this loan was disbursed to me in college, it had a balance of $4,934.00 but due to interest that accrued while I was on the Income Based Repayment plan (that didn’t cover all the interest) an additional $1,151.24 was added or as the student loan people like to say, “capitalized”. So a balance of $4,934 became $6,085.24

Income Based Repayment Plan: This is where your monthly payments will be either 10 or 15 percent of your discretionary income (depending on when you received your first loans), but never more than you would have paid under the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan.

Capitalization: This occurs when the lender adds the interest to the principal balance of the loan. Then the capitalized interest becomes principal.

When I started targeting this loan in May of 2018, the balance was $5,901.05 ultimately it took about 3 months to pay if off.

Drum Roll Please

My payoff for the month of August wasn’t as large as other months but progress is still progress. I paid off an additional $425.00 this month which paid off Loan Group D and started the payoff process of Loan Group H which is starting with a balance of $5,889.34. The goal for paying off Loan Group D is December 31, 2018.

Just Say No

As with all months, there were somethings that I had to say no to but it was completely fine and life still went on. I don’t believe that you can yes to everything, everyone, every event and still achieve your financial goals. Therefore, the following things received a no from me:

  1. Recommended car repair of $700.00
  2. Taco Crawl event – $100 because of event cost and cost of babysitter
  3. On the Run Tour with Beyonce’ and Jay-Z – $100-$200

Debt Recap

Currently I only have student loans and a mortgage – 5 student loans to be exact and at one point I had 10. The snowball method is the current strategy for paying off my student loans.  I pay the minimum required payment on my student loans via monthly auto debit and then throw all remaining money on the student loan with the lowest balance. This plan will continue until I get down to the last two loan groups. When I get to the last two loans and will have one loan with a 2.125% percentage rate and one with a 6.3% percentage rate. I will pay off the 6.3% interest rate loan first and then the 2.125% interest rate loan, even though the balance will be lower on the 2.125% loan. Therefore, the last two loans will be paid off using the avalanche method. The avalanche method is where you pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. This will save me some money on interest.

How do I pay on a specific loan group?

When making monthly payments on my student loans, I pay the extra money by group and my servicer is Nelnet. Nelnet provides an option to pay by group. Of course, any accrued interest would be paid first and the remainder will go toward the loan’s principal. Sometimes I make large payments, usually around payday and other times I make small random snowflake payments. August payments looked like a month of snowflakes:

3rd 16.95

9th 200.22 – This paid off Loan Group D

15th 110.00

27th 82.83

28th $242.58 (Standard monthly payment – not included in payoff total)

29th 15.00


2018 Numbers and Progress YTD:

January – $2450.00 – Last Credit Card Payoff!

February – $900 .00– Paid off Student Loan Group G. YAY!

March -$126.00 – Cash flowed a beach house rental for April, purchased spring/summer items and cash flowed some other expenses that came up. Honestly, just did a lot of spending this month.

April -$899.00- I planned to pay $1000 but I didn’t fully submit the payment so it was added to May’s payoff amount.

May – $2000.00 – This payment put me under the $50,000 mark! It was great to see $49K….

June – $1175.12 – I set a goal to pay off $1350.00 and honestly, I am a little disappointed that I did not meet that goal. Even though, I was only off by $174.88, I was still off! But now I am super focused to meet my goal for July – which will include the payoff of a loan group so there will be strict budgeting for July and saying, “No” to more events and non-essential shopping. However, I am a real believer of making  short-term sacrifices now for long term successes in the future.

July – $1200 – I set a goal to pay off $1447.83 – Which would have paid off Group D and it was a stretch but I wanted to try. Group D will definitely get paid off in August.

August – $425.00 – Group D paid off and started on Group H and my total balance is under $47,000.

The numbers reflected show payments made above the minimum payment required.  The payoff amounts show actual debt reduction.

Sugar and Money for the Month of July

Sugar for the Month- Moments with my family and friends to include a family beach trip to Isle of Palms, brunch boat ride with friends and rewarding myself with the 2019 Erin Condren Deluxe Planner!

Money for the Month – Paid off $425

Now Let’s Imagine… What could I have done with $425 if it didn’t go toward debt…

Sugar – We would have went to see the On the Run Tour in Atlanta, GA and made a weekend trip out of it.

Money – Continue funding the imaginary Roth IRA that I would have opened in May. I could add $425 to it and I would only be $700 away from the 2018 contribution limit of $5500.00.



In Conclusion:

For the month of August, I paid off $425 from my student loans and I know the number could have been higher. However, every month won’t be a high payoff month in the sugar and money household because some months there will be more sweet living than paying off debt. I’m currently targeting Group H which now has a balance of $5,783.64. My current total balance on my student loans is now $46,771.17 – Under $47,000! I remember when my balance was $61,000.

A Question for you and Thanks…

Do you have any Student Loan Debt? If so, how much and do you have a plan in place to pay it off? Do you even plan to pay it off? Are you on a repayment plan?

Thank you so much for reading and all of your support!

Recommended books to get you started paying off debt and taking charge of your personal finances:

The Richest Man in Babylon

The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Girl, Get Your Money Straight: A Sister’s Guide to Healing Your Bank Account and Funding Your Dreams in 7 Simple Steps

Rich Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan for Getting Your Financial Life Together.Finally

My blog on creating a budget and setting a monthly goal:

How to Create a Budget in 6 Easy Steps

How to Create a Budget in 6 Easy Steps


Creating a budget in 6 easy steps is the perfect way to know the ins and outs of your money. You will be able to see your income and expenses to know exactly where your money is going. A budget will keep you from wondering where your money went. A budget will also tell your money where to go. So, let’s dive in…

Step #1: Grab your desired tools to make your first budget. I recommend a pen, paper and a calculator – Or if you are fancy, feel free to create an excel spreadsheet and build in the necessary formulas or create a digital budget online with an app like Mint or EveryDollar.

However, I always recommend to manually write out your first budget because there is just something about putting pen to paper and making the necessary subtractions, additions, doodles, etc. This is how you really FEEL the numbers and the process.

Step #2: Start with A Goal! At the top of your sheet of paper/budget write out your goal for creating this budget.

Examples of Goals: Determine where every dollar of my income is going. Find any money leaks because I feel like I make enough money but still come up short before the end of the month. Determine how much I am actually spending on shopping, eating out, etc. Find an area I can cut back on so I can save more money, cash flow a vacation or pay more money toward my personal debt.

Now it is time for the numbers

written budget

Step #3 List out all of your Income (All sources: Paychecks, business income, side hustles, etc.)

If you have inconsistent income take the average of 3 months and use that as your income.

Example: In the last 3 months your income was: $2000 (month one), $1000 (month two) and $1500 (month three). To find the average you will add up all of the income and then divide by how many months there are. So, $4500 (sum of all numbers) / 3 (amount of numbers or months) = $1500. $1500 would be the average and therefore use that amount as your average monthly income to budget off of. If during the month you are budgeting for  your income is higher than your average then the additional income can be applied toward your goal or rolled into next month. This is great way to handle additional income since your income is inconsistent and you based your budget off of a lower number.

Step #4 List and add up all your monthly necessary expenses then subtract them from your income

Non-Discretionary expenses are the expenses that are absolutely due each month: Housing, Electricity, Water, Sewer, Trash, Insurance (life, car, medical, long term disability, etc. – if these aren’t deducted from your paycheck)

Other necessities to include:

Gas/fuel/ transportation costs



Pay your future self fund – because you need to save for your future self – so pay yourself just like you pay a bill

Debt Minimums: Credit Card(s)/Personal Loans/Car Loan/Student Loans/Medical debt, etc. (It would be great if this number was zero)

Stop here and see what you are left with…circle or highlight that amount

Take a moment and look at what amount of money you have left after covering your non-discretionary expenses because everything in the next step are expenses that are discretionary and are what you have control of. This is an area in your budget where you can possibly eliminate items or reduce amounts spent in this area.

Step #5 List and add up all of your discretionary expenses and then subtract them from the last number you calculated.

Discretionary expenses are flexible and sometimes optional. This is where you can find money to help you achieve your financial goals like growing your savings account, adding to retirement, putting more money toward debt, etc.

Entertainment categories like dining out



Personal care (hair care/styling, manicure, pedicure, waxing, grooming)



Subscriptions and Memberships

Step #6 Clap for yourself because you have successfully created your very own budget.

Fingers crossed your budget ends in the “black” with a positive number meaning you have some money left over. If you end up in the “red” with a negative number then you have some more work to do. Time to think about… can you cut out an expense, cancel a subscription, reduce spending in a certain area, pick up overtime or pick up a side hustle to put you in the “black” because you don’t want to come up short.

“Tell Your Money Exactly Where to Go and You’ll Not Wonder Where It Went”


Have a goal for your monthly budget then get to work by adding up your income and subtracting your expenses from your income.

Good News – you got a positive number so you have money left to attack your goal.

Bad News – you have a negative number so you will need to revisit your expenses and see where you can cut back because if you have a short fall, either something isn’t going to get paid or you may end up going into debt to make ends meet. Another awesome option is to make more money. Especially if you don’t want to cut back or you simply can’t cut back anymore so you will have to bring in more income to cover the gap.

And now the best part! Stick to the budget you created so you will know where your money is going and then start to smash your financial goals! I know the word budget has a negative connotation but it is truly the only way that you will know where all of your money is going.

Thank You and Please comment with your thoughts surrounding budgets. Do you create one? Why or Why not? Do you have any questions about making a budget?