Creating Graphic Tools to Motivate Your Finances

When I think back to my post about 5 ways to motivate your savings, an easy but important method that comes to mind are graphic motivators.

Using visual tools in your personal finance tool belt is critical, because these unique helpers have some fantastic benefits:

  • Clear – Visual tools are both easy on the eyes and immediately understandable (if they are not – you’re making them too complicated!).
  • Motivational – What better way to motivate yourself than seeing your progress and how much closer you’re getting to your goals!
  • Easy to Share – It’s much easier to get your whole family focused on the same goal when you can share something everyone can understand, not a spreadsheet full of numbers.

Progress Bar

A progress bar expresses your savings progress using a single “thermometer” that indicates the percentage of the total you have attained. It’s a great motivator because it’s rock-solid at quickly communicating your total goal, how far you’ve come, and how far you have left.

Advanced software (or our trusty Excel and some math) can also give you a quick reference to where you should be based on your self-imposed savings time limit.

Using Excel, I created this quick progress bar with some sample numbers:


Balance Chart

This is great when charting goals over time, which can include savings, net worth monitoring, or debt repayment. It takes a controlled variable, like the balance in your savings account, and tracks it over a set period which you define.

What results can be even more motivating than a progress bar, because it gives you instant history to how far you’ve come to get to your present situation. Looking back can give you a small insight as to what’s possible in the days to come!

Once again, using Excel, I put together this quick chart using sample numbers:



This is one of my favorite flashy graphics, and works equally well with something that you’re saving up, or paying down. The basic idea of a step-ladder is similar to the balance chart, in that it tracks progress over time.

What’s great about the step-ladder is that it packs a bit more visual “punch” than a balance chart.

Here’s what I put together in the same spreadsheet:


Pie Chart

There are some situations where a line chart simply won’t do. When you need to express something in terms of percentages, like the various major parts of your budget, a pie chart is the most appropriate type of visual aid.

Pie charts also work well in comparison. For example, you might want to create two charts – one for the “current” situation, and one for your “desired” plan. Comparing the two on a regular basis will motivate you to get your actual numbers “in line” with what you desire.

Here are two pie charts I prepared to demonstrate:


Using any or all of these cools can be a fantastic supplement to your financial tracking system.

Bonus: Download my graphic tools template for Microsoft Excel.

5 thoughts on “Creating Graphic Tools to Motivate Your Finances

  1. Pingback: Personal Finance Buzz
  2. I think the progress bar is a great tool and I’ve used a similar thing with my stock portfolio for a long time. The only trouble is when the market goes down and the bars look much shorter than they used to. You don’t know where to hide your face then 🙂

    1. One thing I like about Quicken for investments is that it gives you a composite chart with a line graph (my second item) for your total investment cost basis, and a step-ladder bar chart (my third item) for the actual current value. It gives you a clear read on your performance, but I agree – hurts to look at in a down market.

  3. As a visual person, I think graphics are a great thing to add. I only wish I had better skills with graphics. I tend to only use free pictures on my site instead.

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