- Credit cards
- Student loans
- Home equity lines of credit
- Medical bills
- Personal loans
- Tax liens
These are just a few of the many types of debt that most people shoulder at some point or another.
It’s pretty scary how easy it is to borrow money, and that debt can quickly start to feel overwhelming when you get bill after bill after bill for all the balances you owe.
If you’re looking for a way out, then it’s time to get into a snowball fight with your debt.
In this post, you'll find:
- An explanation of the debt snowball method
- How to know whether it’s right for you
- A step-by-step guide on how to implement the debt snowball
Disclosure: Opinions expressed are our own. If you buy something through any of our affiliate links on this page, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting our site.
- Recommended resources
- What is a debt snowball?
- How does a debt snowball work?
- Is the debt snowball the best method for paying off debt?
- Does the debt snowball method really work?
- How to use the debt snowball method
- Best way to pay your debt snowball
- Debt snowball ideas
- Free debt snowball worksheet
- The Total Money Makeover* by Dave Ramsey
- A no-spend challenge guide* to help you save extra cash to pay down your debt
- A smart planner budget book* with stickers to track your money
What is a debt snowball?
The debt snowball is a debt repayment strategy that focuses on the sizes of your debt balances rather than the interest rates you are being charged.
One of the biggest fans of this method is none other than Dave Ramsey*, who incorporates this in step 2 of his baby steps to financial freedom.
You start by making all your minimum payments and then putting as many extra payments as you can towards paying off the smallest debt first.
Once that first debt is paid off, the money that’s freed up from no longer having to make that minimum payment will go towards helping to pay down the next largest balance.
Over time, the extra payments that you are making towards you debts will grow bigger and bigger, just like a snowball that’s been let loose down a hill. That’s how the debt snowball gets its name.
This debt reduction technique has exploded in popularity for several reasons:
You see more immediate results.
Paying down big balances can take forever. If, instead, you focus on knocking out a smaller debt in entirety, the accomplishment you feel from those quick wins helps you keep the momentum going.
Your progress gets faster and faster:
As you pay down debts, you free up more and more money to use for paying down the bigger balances.
It’s simple & easy to use.
No complicated spreadsheets or calculations here. Since you’re only honing in on one debt at a time, there’s no complex math or crazy balancing act needed.
Is the debt snowball the best method for paying off debt?
Some critics say the debt snowball is not the ideal way to pay off debt because it doesn’t take interest rates into account.
They argue for the debt avalanche technique instead, since that has the greatest potential for saving on interest charges.
But we think the “best” method is always the one that actually gets you to do something about your debt.
Even if there are faster methods, or ones that cost you less in interest, they’re useless if you hate them and bail on trying to tackle your debt.
For many people, seeing the debts drop like flies is incredibly encouraging, so if the debt snowball keeps you fired up about chipping away at your debt, ignore what anyone else tells you and just stick to what works for you.
You do you.
Does the debt snowball method really work?
A quick Google search for “debt snowball success stories” brings up 720,000 results. These are ordinary people, who decided they were over it with debt and dumped that burden with the debt snowball method.
How to use the debt snowball method
Starting a debt snowball involves only a few easy steps:
Step 1: List out all of your debts, sorted by the size of the balance you owe from smallest to largest.
Step 2: Mark down the minimum payment owed for each of the debts.
Step 3: Each month, pay at least the minimum payment due on every debt you owe. Any extra payment you can make should always go towards the debt with the smallest balance.
Step 4: As you pay off debts, the money for that would have gone towards those minimum payments are now freed up. Instead of pocketing that cash, use them to help pay down the next smallest debt faster.
One of the best things about this method is that it doesn’t require you come up with more money just to pay down your debt.
Instead, it repurposes the money you were already paying towards debt to build momentum and clear your debts off faster and faster.
You’ll love watching your extra payments grow while your balances shrink!
Best way to pay your debt snowball
The debt snowball will always work as long as you are making your minimum payments and aren’t taking on more debt.
But if you want to go from chucking little snowballs at your debt to firing huge snow cannonballs, do everything in your power to pay more than just the minimum due.
There are two strategies for finding the extra money to do this.
The first is to slash your spending. The biggest plus about this approach is that you already have the money and just need to find it.
Plus, learning to control your spending is hands-down the best financial skill you can ever develop.
A second way to get extra money is to go make more. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Pick up overtime or extra shifts
- Get a second job
- Start a side hustle
- Sell some of your stuff online
For the record, there’s no reason you can’t do both. Also, even if you can’t do them consistently month over month, any extra payment is better than no extra payment.
But those who are willing to regularly do either or both will have their debt buried in the snow in no time.
Debt snowball ideas
Here are some visual examples to give you motivation to pay down your debt snowball.
Below are a few sayings that can help inspire you on your debt-free journey.
The journey to paying off all your debt begins with a single dollar. -Aunty Chang
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you don't stop. -Confucius
Slow, steady progress is better than fast, daily excuses. -Unknown
Bullet journal trackersUse a bullet journal to track your finances? Try these spreads from Funding Cloud Nine:
- Debt snowball
- Debt priorities
- Debt payments
- Financial goals
Free debt snowball worksheet
Doesn't "worksheet" make paying off debt seem like a drab chore?
Instead, let’s go with “printable,” because printables are kind of like sprinkles - they just make anything more fun. Which is exactly what we tried to do with our colorful tracker.
And staying motivated to pay down debt isn’t exactly a trip to Disney World, so you need all the help you can get to make it appealing.
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The most productive snowball fight you could ever have! Use the debt snowball technique to pay off debt fast. See step-by-step instructions (including screenshots!) on how to start a debt snowball.
Snag our free debt snowball worksheet printable template to get your debt payoff rolling.
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