If you haven’t warmed up to the snowball or avalanche debt payoff methods, think smaller. Much smaller.
Consider the debt snowflake strategy for tackling debt. Unlike its better-known siblings, the snowflake method doesn’t involve a structured budgeting system for paying down your debt — think of it more like an easy way to throw a little extra money toward your debt.
Just like snowflakes, tiny payments might not seem like much when tackling a mountain of debt. But when they pile up, your snowflake payments can add up to a lot of help. Here’s how.
How Does the Debt Snowflake Method Work?
First, although they all sound frosty, debt snowflake is not another variation of debt avalanche and debt snowball, two popular methods for tackling debt. Here’s a summary of those methods, in case you’re unfamiliar with them:
The avalanche method prioritizes paying off debts with the highest interest rates first. After the biggest balance is paid off, you move on to the next-highest interest debt, and so on. It’s the best way to save the most money on interest as you’re paying down your debt.
For the snowball method, you pay off the smallest amount of debt first, then work your way up through paying off progressively larger debts. It’s great for people who are motivated by small wins as they watch individual debts disappear faster.
Both options involve creating schedules for making payments and putting any money toward the targeted goal — that’s not the case with the debt snowflake method.
Accumulation is the key to making snowflake work. It requires you to realize all the ways you can save and/or make extra money each day — above and beyond your usual strategies.
Consider this scenario:
On your drive to work, you stop for a jumbo coffee that costs $6. If you downsize to a medium for $5, you save $1.
At lunch, you and your coworker head to the deli to buy $10 subs. By splitting one instead, you’ll add $5 to your snowflake pile.
After work, your neighbor asks if you can babysit her toddler for a couple hours. You consider it a favor, but she insists on giving you $10 for your trouble.
At the end of the day, you’ve saved/made $16 that you immediately pay toward your credit card balance.
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Does the Snowflake Method Actually Work?
We’re not trying to pull some snow job on you (like you didn’t think I’d go there) — collecting the money you save by splitting a sandwich is not your quick and easy way to pay off $20,000 in credit card debt.
In fact, the snowflake method is likely to produce such small results that you might want to consider it more of an add-on to your other debt payoff method.
But that doesn’t mean snowflakes can’t help you pay off your debt faster. And if you start looking for ways to save/make money each week — yard sale, anyone? — those little snowflake payments can add up fast.
Let’s look at another example:
You’re trying to pay off a credit card with a $3,000 balance that’s charging you 17% interest and requires a $90 minimum monthly payment. Check out the difference you could make if you could accumulate $100 extra through the debt snowflake method:
Monthly Addition to Your Payment
How Many Months It Will Take to Pay Off Balance
Amount of Interest Paid
You’d save about $670 and shave 28 months of your debt payback timeline. Let it snow!
Where to Gather Your Snowflakes
Here’s the thing about snowflakes: They melt fast. If you’re going to use the snowflake method, you need to move quickly before your micro payments disappear into the abyss of other expenses.
So how do you capture them? If you’re using cash, you can start a change jar to collect your savings at the end of the day — just make sure to deposit your savings into your bank account and use the entire amount to pay off the debt on a regular basis.
If you’re using a debit card, you can transfer the amounts into a separate account in real time.
Contact your lender to request that your payments be applied toward your principal balance — it will help you save money on interest and pay off your loan faster.
But beware: Many banks have a limit on the number of transfers you can make in a month, and you don’t want all your snowflakes paying for transaction fees.
Instead, keep a running tally of your savings for a specified period (like every two weeks), then pay the total amount at the end of the period. Also check with your lender to ensure that you won’t get dinged for making multiple payments in a specified period.
However you save it, do yourself a favor and track the additional amount you paid each month as a reminder of how much those little snowflakes can add up — you can use it for motivation when Uber Eats beckons you.
Less debt? Now that’s cool.
Tiffany Wendeln Connors is deputy editor at The Penny Hoarder. A journalist for 25 years, she has been with The Penny Hoarder since 2018 covering debt and ways to make money.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.