Get feverish about saving money or paying off debt with a savings thermometer.

A couple of years ago, I needed to save around $10,000 so I could leave my job and start freelancing full-time. I’d already saved $5,000 but still needed the remaining $5,000 and didn’t want to continue working two jobs for another year.

So, I drew my own mini-version of a fundraising thermometer posted by a local community center on a sign that I drove past every day. Then I stuck it on my refrigerator as a constant reminder of how much I’d saved and could continue to save.

This time, it took me only six months instead of a year to save the additional $5,000. That’s because I had visual motivation. Why not add a little visual encouragement to your savings or debt payoff goals? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

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Customize your savings thermometer

I sketched my own version, with the bottom bulb representing the first $500 of my $5,000 goal. Then I delineated $500 increments and colored those sections in little by little with red until I attained each milestone. That way, even a $200 gain was obvious before I reached the next mark.

You can also find printable savings and debt payoff thermometers online. Add a quote at the top that inspires you to meet your savings goal. One printable savings thermometer at $5 Dinners includes a scripture from the book of Proverbs, a Biblical plethora of personal finance advice.

Or, find a quote that better suits your life or goal. Here are links to a variety of savings quotes:

If a thermometer isn’t your style, get creative and find a picture related to your goal from a coloring book or a printable online image. For example, if you’re saving for a vacation, use an image of an airplane marked with savings increments along the body of the plane and color it in until you reach the cockpit goal amount.

If you’re saving for scuba diving expedition or other ocean adventure, print out an image of an octopus and designate each leg as an increment toward your goal. For example, if you want to save $4,000, color in each leg every time you save $500. When you reach $4,000, fill in the creature’s bulbous head, which also resembles the top of a savings thermometer. There’s no limit of online vacation images from which to choose, so take your pick.

Saving for a new car? Then color in a car image as your account grows. You can do the same with a cruise ship if saving for a cruise or an image of a home if a down payment is your goal. Who says saving money has to be boring? Have fun with it. You don’t have to color in with red, either. Try green to symbolize all that cash you’re accumulating.

Why using visual images works

Once the temperature on my savings thermometer started to rise, I never wanted to take it down and post a new one with a lower amount because I withdrew money from my account. I found cash to cover small emergencies in other places by tweaking or eliminating expenses like dining out or buying new clothes.

Also, watching the money grow in an image made me want to save as much as possible, as quickly as I could, and it worked. This method can work for you too. It’s also a great way to build an emergency savings fund so you don’t get derailed from financial goals by unexpected expenses.

Saving money doesn’t have to be drudgery. Once you gain momentum, it becomes easier. A visual indicator of your progress may be just the “get well soon” remedy you need to meet financial goals.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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