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The Debt Snowball Method Really Works

Updated on March 21, 2013
How to Become Debt Free Using the Debt Snowball Method
How to Become Debt Free Using the Debt Snowball Method | Source

Why Does the Debt Snowball Work?

Dave Ramsey is one of the major figures who supports the debt snowball method. He states that mathematically, paying off the debts with highest interest rates makes the most sense financially. But, most people don't have the willpower or determination to do it this way.

The debt snowball method is successful because it works with the concept that personal finance is 20% head knowledge and 80% behavior. It uses positive reinforcement of our behavior by attacking the smallest balances first. This gives us something solid, sooner, to show us that what we are doing is working. Once we realize we are succeeding, we are likely to be excited to continue the behavior.

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Debt Snowball Steps

  1. Identify your debts. Make a list of all your debts in order from the smallest balance to the largest balance. Include the name of the debt, the balance and the minimum payment. For the typically person, there is no need to list the interest rate unless you have two debts with the same balance. If this is the case, list the debt with the higher interest rate out of the two first.
  2. Determine how much extra your budget allows. Create a budget including all of your bills and all of your income. Make sure the minimum payment on your debts is included in your bill count. Determine how much money is left over from your budget, that is available to pay as extra toward your debts, once all bills are paid. Even if it is only 20 dollars, it will add up and be useful.
  3. Make the minimum payment on all of your debts. Make sure that you are still making your minimum payments on all of your debts. You don't want to be adding anything to your balance because of missed payments or late fees. But, you do not want to pay anything more than the minimum on any debt, other than the debt with the smallest balance. You want to focus everything extra you have on that debt.
  4. Pay the extra toward the debt with the smallest balance. When you are making your payments, add the extra amount from your budget to the payment you make on your lowest balance debt. This should be in addition to the minimum payment.
  5. Move on to the next smallest debt. Once you have paid off the lowest balance debt, you will want to repeat steps 3 and 4 using the next debt on the list. But, now that you no longer have the minimum payment for the debt you just paid off, you can put that amount towards the next debt as well. This is what creates the snowball effect. Every Time you pay a debt off, the money used for it's minimum payment can be combined with the previous one to make a larger payment. This is the momentum you create that encourages you to keep going.
  6. Repeat.Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 until all of your debt is gone. Congratulations, your debt free. Now, focus on staying debt free.

Sample Debt Sheet

Debt
Balance
Minimum Payment
Credit Card A
300
50
Credit Card B
450
50
Student Loan
5000
100
Auto Loan
7000
200

Debt Snowball in Action - Balances

Month
Credit Card A
Credit Card B
Student Loan
Auto Loan
Beginning Balance
300
450
5000
7000
1
200
400
4900
6800
2
100
350
4800
6600
3
0
300
4700
6400
4
 
150
4600
6200
5
 
0
4500
6000
6
 
 
4250
5800
7
 
 
4000
5600
8
 
 
3750
5400
9
 
 
3500
5200
10
 
 
3250
5000
11
 
 
3000
4800
12
 
 
2750
4600
13
 
 
2500
4400
14
 
 
2250
4200
15
 
 
2000
4000
16
 
 
1750
3800
17
 
 
1500
3600
18
 
 
1250
3400
19
 
 
1000
3200
20
 
 
750
3000
21
 
 
500
2800
22
 
 
250
2600
23
 
 
0
2400
24
 
 
 
1950
25
 
 
 
1500
26
 
 
 
1050
27
 
 
 
600
28
 
 
 
150
29
 
 
 
0
This table does not account for any accrued interest for simplicity purposes.

Explanation of the Debt Snowball in Action

In this example, we have determined that our budget will allow us to pay an extra $50 towards our debt.

Months 1 - 3: Make the minimum payment of $50, $100 and $200 on Credit Card B, Student Loan and Auto Loan respectively. Make the minimum payment of $50 + the extra $50 from your budget on Credit Card A for a total payment of $100.

Months 4 - 5: Make the minimum payment of $100 and $200 on Student Loan and Auto Loan respectively. Make the minimum payment of $50 + the extra $50 from your budget + the $50 minimum payment from Credit Card A on Credit Card B for a total payment of $150.

Months 6 - 23: Make the minimum payment of $200 on Auto Loan. Make the minimum payment of $100 + the extra $50 from your budget + the $50 minimum payment from Credit Card A + the $50 minimum payment from Credit Card B on Student Loan for a total payment of $250.

Months 24- 29: Make the minimum payment of $200 + the extra $50 from your budget + the $50 minimum payment from Credit Card A + the $50 minimum payment from Credit Card B + the $100 minimum payment from Student Loan for a total payment of $450.

Comments

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    • poshcoffeeco profile image

      Steve Mitchell 

      5 years ago from Cambridgeshire

      Becoming debt free is one of my goals and I agree with what you say here. Most commentators say pay off the debt with highest interest rate then move on to the next. I like using the pay the smallest balance off and then pay it forward and so on.

      Great information. Voted up and sharing.

    • rosika profile image

      rosika 

      5 years ago

      you have shared very useful steps to free oneself from debt! Great job here!

    • Learning in Life profile imageAUTHOR

      Megan Smith 

      5 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for the comment and share HoneyBB!

    • HoneyBB profile image

      H Lax 

      5 years ago

      This is very practical, sound advice and will work well for most people because most people need that pat on the back (to themselves) to help them continue on the right path or the path to being debt free. It's a great feeling to eliminate one debt and start working toward the elimination of the next and then the next. Thanks for sharing. Voted++++ I will share this on my facebook fan page.

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