Honestly, I kind of grimace when I hear people talk about their debt-snowball. “Once it gets going, it’s just amazing how fast you can hit those debts and then all of a sudden they are paid off, earlier than you thought!” Um, yes, that may be true, but let’s be honest.
How many of us get stuck in the “once it get gets going” part? Let’s rewind for a second and make sure we are on the same page.
What is a Debt Snowball? Well, if you follow Dave Ramsey’s financial advice (and I’d strongly suggest it!) it means taking all of your debt and laying them out smallest to largest. Next, you pay only your minimum payments on each debt except your smallest. For that smallest debt, you hit it with everything you have. Not only its minimum payment, but also every extra penny. And I do mean penny. I once read of person who made any extra payments they could (including any change that they found) – it didn’t matter if their extra payment was $1.03 – they just went for it. After that smallest debt is paid off you take whatever the minimum payment was on that and add it to the next smallest debt’s minimum payment, plus throw everything else you have at this next debt. You continue this process until you are completely debt free.
The premise behind the Debt Snowball is that you start small and gain momentum with your repayment because you have more and more money available as you attack your debt. In theory it’s a fabulous idea. I’ve heard endless testimonies as to how great it works.
But here’s my problem with it: It’s the “once it gets rolling” part. People rarely talk about that part and personally it has been a really difficult part for my family.
We first started (to attempt) to implement the Debt Snowball two years ago. At the time, we were living in a pricey city and had just gotten a raise that finally provided enough money to pay all the bills and eat well at the same time. It might not seem like much, but for us it felt great. At that point we felt like we were conquering the world by not going any further into debt.
And really, that’s about all we did. For a whole year, our biggest accomplishment was not going further into debt. And you know what? It was ok. It was more than ok – it was fantastic. That year taught us that for some of us, our situations will just make the process slower, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t getting somewhere!
Though our income didn’t change, by year two (last year)we had stabilized a bit. After a year of making ends meet without going into any more debt, we began to work as hard as we could on The Snowball. What we were able to payoff is so tiny, I can’t even remember how much we paid off! Sad, I know, and it felt sad too.
It felt like the whole Debt Snowball thing was one big myth.
The traction needed to get the Snowball rolling was the hardest part. Every time we got a little extra, we needed money for something; an extra $100 to apply to graduate, an extra doctor visit, supplements and prescriptions, new dance shoes, a baby on the way (yeah!)… The things of life were keeping us from being able to roll that Snowball.
It’s like going out to make a snowman when there is lots of snow around but the snow isn’t sticky. You know, as a kid, you are so excited to go out and build a snowman only to get outside and find out that the snow isn’t “good packing snow.” No matter how hard you try, you can’t even begin to roll balls, let alone build a snowman.
Here’s the thing though. In time (and it could take a long, long time) that snow starts to stick a bit and you will begin to roll. There is hope.
After two years (two years!) of just keeping on and spinning our wheels, my husband received a raise. Not a massive one, but it’s enough that we can finally gain some momentum. Things are beginning to come together. I am excited to see how much we can pay-off in our third year of the Debt Snowball plan. Even if it’s not a huge amount, I know we are making progress.
So, be encouraged that the Debt Snowball does work. It is not a myth. The Myth is that it’s easy or that it will just magically roll for you. Maybe if your income is high enough or your debt is low enough it will roll easily for you, but that is just not true for everyone. Keep trying! Let’s keep going and try to get the snowballs rolling!
Need help getting control of your money? Check out The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness!
I’d love to hear how your debt repayment is going (or went, if you are done already!). Please share!
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