Using the Debt Planner (Prototype) Sheet

Overview

The Debt Planner (Prototype) template helps you build a comprehensive debt payoff plan to help you achieve debt freedom. You can use a variety of payoff prioritization methods to build your plan including “snowball”, “avalanche” or a custom ranking method which allows to to rank your debts in the order in which you’d like them to be paid off.

Once you’ve entered your debts, set your monthly payment amount, and selected a payoff method, the template will project a debt freedom date and display a recommended monthly-payment distribution. You will be able to fine-tune your plan based on your budget.

This sheet is intended to be used with the Foundation template for Google Sheets.

How’s It Different from the Debt Progress Template?

The streamlined Debt Planner (Prototype) template is a refresh of the old Debt Progress template with significant performance improvements, improved integration with Tiller Money budgeting best practices, and no script dependencies when recalculating.

The Debt Progress template included a few features that were removed from the Debt Planner (Prototype) template (in service to performance and usability):

  • Payment history chart
  • Scenario comparisons

Long-time Debt Progress users are under no obligation to migrate. At this time, the two sheets can be run in parallel. We encourage new users to use the Debt Planner (Prototype) version.

Installation

  1. Open your Tiller Money Foundation template
  2. Install or launch the Tiller Money Labs add-on
  3. Choose “Add a Solution” in the sidebar
  4. Click on “Debt Planner (Prototype)”
  5. Choose “Add to Spreadsheet”

Setup

Set Start Month

Select a start month in the upper right of this sheet. This will be the month that corresponds to when you want your debt freedom journey to “start” and the starting balance that’s reflected in the main table in the sheet. The start month has no bearing on the payment plan, but does set the baseline for your debt payoff journey.

Select Payoff Method

Snowball

The “snowball” method allows you to quickly see progress with your debt payoff by retiring the smallest debts early. It works by allocating the extra money to the debt with the smallest starting balance. After this debt is paid off, the next smallest starting balance debt gets the leftovers and so on and so forth. It’s highly motivating and more people see more success with this method than any other. The downside is that you will end up paying a little more in interest over the entire period of your debt payoff plan (than other methods like “avalanche”).

Avalanche

The “avalanche” method minimizes your total interest cost over your debt payoff plan. It works by prioritizing debts with the highest interest rates and retiring them first. The downside is that it may take longer to pay off your first loan with this method (which some people find demotivating).

Ranked

The “ranked” method allows you to fully customize your debt payoff plan. It works by allocating the extra money to the debt that has the lowest rank number in the Rank column in the main table. It’s great because it allows you to make progress on paying off the debt that’s most important (or most annoying) to you, but the downside is that it may take a while to see real progress, and it could cost you more in interest over the lifetime of the debt payoff period.

The rankings can be any numbers you like and can be non-consecutive. The lowest ranking is always prioritized (e.g. if your have loans ranked 30, 10 and 20, the loan with ranking 10 will be prioritized first).

Configure Your Debt Accounts

Nickname your accounts on the Console

For the best experience, head over to the Console (https://sheets.tillerhq.com/auth/google) and give your accounts a simple & unique nickname when using this sheet. These account nicknames should be 1-3 words max as you may end up using them as categories. Once you’ve nicknamed your accounts, open the Tiller Money Feeds add-on and click “update sheets” to update the sheet’s data with the new nicknames.

Select your debt accounts on the Debt Planner sheet

  1. Select the debt accounts you want to track toward payoff using the dropdown menu in the Accounts column in the main table in this sheet.
  2. Enter the interest rate for the debt account
  3. Enter the minimum monthly payment for the debt account

Accounts that have a “liability” class will appear in the dropdown list here. If you are not seeing a debt account you’d expect that is linked to this sheet, open the Accounts sheet and set the class override for the account to “liability.”

The “Interest Rate” and “Min Monthly Payment” can usually be found on your monthly statement. Keep in mind that the interest rate for some debt accounts can change over the life of the account. You should periodically check your statement to ensure this value is still accurate.

If you have selected the “ranked” payoff method, you should rank your debts using the Rank column at this time.

Budgeting Workflows

Accounts as Categories

Note: you should use this method if you’re using the Savings Budget dashboard

To gain the most insights when using this template, create a category on the Categories sheet that exactly matches the account name that you’re tracking in column A (hence why we recommended nicknaming your accounts with short and simple nicknames above).

You can copy the name of the debt account listed on this Debt Planner (Prototype) sheet and then right click and choose paste special > values only in the Category column on the Categories sheet to ensure the names are an exact match.

Organize these debt account categories in a Group on the Categories sheet called “Debt” and mark them as Expense types.

Set a budget amount in Column E in the Categories sheet for each Debt account you’re tracking here that has an exact name match. This budget amount should cascade to the right to all subsequent months.

The budget amount for the current month will populate (via formulas) into the Debt Planner (Prototype) sheet.

Once you’ve budgeted for all your debt accounts on the Categories sheet the Debt Planner (Prototype) sheet will give you an indication of how you might want to adjust your plan based on the payoff method, interest rates, minimum payment and so on. It will also give you a Projected Debt Freedom Date at the top.

The budget amounts you enter for each debt on the Categories sheet will equal the Total [Month] Budget at the top of the planner, but the Debt Planner will calculate recommended payments for each debt in the details table based on your payoff-method setting.

If your current budget for a particular account is under the recommended budget amount for your payoff plan the amount will be highlighted in red to give you a hint to increase the budget amount for this particular debt. You may need to adjust the amounts for other debts to stay within your available budget for all debts.

Help with Budget Targets

If you’re unsure what your budget targets for each debt account should be beyond the minimum monthly payment you can enter a value into the Additional $ field at the top of the Debt Planner (Prototype) sheet.

This should be the total amount you can spend on debt monthly.

Once you’ve entered this amount you will get recommended monthly payment amounts per debt and a Projected Debt Freedom Date.

You can use these recommend budget targets to set the budget amounts on the Categories sheet per account’s category and then remove the Additional $ amount at the top.

Alternative Budget Workflow

If you prefer not to set up a category for each debt account, or you’re coming from previous versions of Debt Progress or Debt Snowball templates you can simply enter your monthly debt payment goal for all debts into the Additional $ cell at the top of the Debt Planner (Prototype) sheet. In other words, it is not required that you input monthly budgets for each debt in your Categories sheet, but we do find that this process helps many users understand their cashflow.

Note: If you choose this method you will not see [Current Month] Budget information for any of your debt accounts in the main table of this sheet.

Fine-tuning Your Monthly Payment

Once you’ve selected & configured accounts and set up a budget for your debt payoff you’ll see your Projected Debt Freedom Date, how much your debt is costing you in interest each month and over the life of the debt, as well as estimated payoff dates for individual debt accounts.

You can hover over the name of each of the columns in the main table in this sheet to understand more about the information presented and how the calculations work.

If you want to test how additional (or reduced) monthly funding might affect your Projected Debt Freedom Date simply add the net amount (e.g. +200) into the Additional cell at the top of the Debt Planner (Prototype) sheet to see how that changes the date.

If you decide to allocate those extra funds to your budget categories just be sure to clear out the Additional $ cell afterward to get the most accurate picture of your debt payoff plan.

Categorizing Payment Transactions

When you make a payment for one of your debt accounts you’ll likely see two transactions in your Transactions sheet. One is the money leaving your checking account to make the payment and it’s an outflow (negative). The second is the money entering the debt account receiving the payment and it’s an inflow (positive).

Here we cover how to categorize these transactions…

If you don’t have both accounts connected and linked for automated data feeds you may need to manually track balances and manually add transactions to see the full picture.

Foundation Template

If you’re using the Foundation template’s Monthly Budget dashboard for your primary budgeting workflows you’ll want to follow this workflow for categorizing transactions.

Categorize the outflow (negative) transaction from your checking account to the debt account as an expense. This will either be the debt account’s name itself if you’re using the Accounts as Categories budgeting workflow or the “Debt Payoff” if you’re using the alternative budget workflow.

Categorize the inflow (positive) transaction for money entering your debt account as a Transfer.

Savings Budget

If you’re using the Savings Budget as your primary budgeting dashboard we recommend using the Accounts as Categories budgeting workflow. Make sure that you have chosen “Debt” in the Track column for all your debt account categories.

We recommend categorizing both sides (inflow and outflow) of the payment using the same category that matches the account name.

Choosing to track these categories as debt accounts by selecting “Debt” in the Track column ensures that the budget dashboard only picks up the outflow side of the payment transaction so you see that money being “spent” in your monthly actuals.

Reviewing Actuals

Once you’ve categorized the inflow to the debt account in the Transactions sheet you’ll see the payment amount reflected in the Debt Planner (Prototype) sheet. If any debt account is not automated you’ll need to manually add transactions for those inflows in order for the actuals to show up on the Debt Planner (Prototype) sheet.

We do not recommend updating the balance for the account at the time the manual transaction is entered if you’re using the Tiller Money Labs add-on to manually add transactions because often a portion of the payment is going toward interest so the balance will likely not be reduced by the total payment amount, but only some portion of it. You should update the manual balance after the payment has been processed to ensure an accurate balance is reflected.

You can also use Debt Planner (Prototype) sheet to check in on which payments haven’t been made yet this month. If there are no actuals for a particular debt account you’re tracking it’s a reminder that you still need to make a payment.