Building a Payoff Estimator

Aside from working on designing and developing a new website to call home, I have also just recently started thinking about, and working on, a new side project. A number of years ago, I built a Tax Calculator from scratch using JavaScript. It was a very ugly site to behold, as the entire program was dependent on prompts and alerts, but it could take your salary, and location, and determine every penny of tax you were supposed to be paying out.

I’m a bit of a numbers person. And to say “a bit” is an understatement. I thrive on numbers. I love finances, and happily handle the budget for my family. I’ve been like this for years. There is no saving me.

Recently, my husband and I bought a new house, and decided that we wanted to really tighten up our budget, and pay off some of our other existing debts, to free up some cash every month for expenses that might pop up (houses, by the way, are the very definition of “money pit”), or just to save up for a family vacation, or something nice.

We decided we would try the “snowball” method, where you pay down your smallest debts first, and then instead of freeing up the cash previously allocated for making that payment, you instead put it toward the next debt in line. By doing this, you’re snowballing your payments, and in theory, it helps to pay things off faster. (We decided to work from highest interest rate down, instead of lowest balance up, but it’s really a personal choice).

Now, I’m fine running all of these calculations by hand; in face, I’ve done it a number of times; a lot of times, just because I’m bored, and want to run numbers. But last week, I was sitting around, working on another project utilizing JavaScript, and I thought back to my Tax Calculator. It dawned on me – though it would be a bit more challenging of an undertaking (maybe not for most people – but taxes are a sweet spot for me) – wouldn’t it be nice to create a program where I could input all of my debt accounts, with their balances, interest rates, and monthly payments, and then using the snowball effect, calculate when all of the debts would be paid off? I could even display a fancy little payment table in the results, to show when each item would be paid off. How exciting! (I’m weird)

So that is exactly what I’ve decided to do. Over the next few weeks, I am going to be working on a “Payoff Estimator”, using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, that will allow the user to add as many accounts as they want, along with their balance, interest rate (to make for a more accurate calculation, since payments made on interest-baring accounts generally don’t go entirely to principle), and monthly payment amount, and in turn receive the time duration it would take to pay the accounts off, and a nice table displaying each month’s payments until all debts are cleared.

At the moment, I have created the input table, where users will be able to input their data, and sometime over the next week, I will begin working on the actual calculations, and getting something simple going. I would really like to have this project done within a month or two, but work and family definitely come first, so we’ll see how quick I can pump this out. I am much more concerned about quality, and accuracy, than I am about speed. That is definitely one of the up sides to personal projects – very little deadline pressure, and more time to pump out a quality project.

Let me know what you think! Is this a project that interests you? Is this something you could see yourself wanting to use? (I’ll definitely put this up on GitHub when it’s finished, so you’ll have that chance!)

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