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Monday, March 10, 2014

The Debt Snowball: Why It Works, How It Works

It's been 16 months since Dani and I first went through Financial Peace University, and in that time we've completed the first three baby steps. We're just now getting around to thinking about things like insurance and retirement planning, so I'm sure we'll have more to say on those topics in the months ahead.

For now, we're experts on the "debt snowball." What is a debt snowball? How is it supposed to work? Essentially the debt snowball is a behavior modification plan. It's purpose is to get you to start thinking differently about money. It's also designed to motivate you by getting you to pay off some smaller debts more quickly.

When you were a kid, making snowballs usually started with a small pinch of snow, then you added to it and added to it until you could roll it into a nice little aerial projectile of devastation. Rolling was key to making big snowballs because they got bigger quicker when you rolled them. That's exactly how Dave Ramsey's debt snowball plan works.

Start by listing your debts smallest to largest, and ignore the interest rates. It doesn't matter if it has a 2% interest rate or a 22% interest rate. Forget about it. This is behavior modification and motivation, not math.

Pay minimum payments on all the debts except the smallest one and then attack that one with a vengeance. Once it's gone, take the money you were putting toward that debt and add it to the minimal payment on the next smallest debt. Once that's done, take that combined payment and go to the next one. Knock them out one by one.

The reason you start with the smallest debt first is because if you start with the largest one you won't see it leave for quite some time. You'll see numbers going down on a page, but that's it. Eventually you'll lose steam and motivation and you'll probably end up quitting. But when you attack the small debts first you see progress. When you see the plan working, you'll be more inclined to stick to it.

The only time you might make an exception is if one of the debts is to the IRS. You don't want them hovering over you, so pay off that debt first, then proceed down the list of other debts, smallest to largest, using the debt snowball method.

Dani and I had about 19 months of payments on a car, a motorcycle, and a credit card when we started to employ the debt snowball method. In about six months our debt was GONE! This. Plan. Works!

If you want more details about the debt snowball including an example, Dave Ramsey explains it best here: How The Debt Snowball Method Works.

Keep pinchin' :-)

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