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Developing a Snowflaking Mentality

Welcome to Get Rich Slowly readers who have found my site through JD’s great post about snowflaking today! Putting the art of snowflaking into practice in my own life has really turned my entire financial picture around, and I can’t say enough good things about it. I have a long way to go until I am in a place of true financial health, but I have made more progress than I could have originally imagined in the past year, in large part due to the power of the snowflake.

Snowflaking is a concept that is easy to understand, simple to do, and its effect is magnified over time.

At first glance, it may seem oversimplistic and not very effective, for what difference does a few dollars here or there make if you are thousands or tens of thousands (or more) dollars in debt? The change doesn’t happen overnight, but repeated small savings and payments do add up much faster than one might think. In seven months of dedicated snowflaking, I have reduced my overall debt total by almost $10,000 and over $4000 of that was from snowflaking. I challenged myself every day, week, and month to earn a little more, save a little more, and pay down my debt a little more, and it has worked.

Snowflaking isn’t just for people in debt!

This concept of putting small amounts of money to work for you over and over again can be applied just as easily to a savings plan as a debt payoff plan. In fact, that is exactly what I intend to do once I am out of debt. I am hooked on snowflaking for the long term.

I’ve been using the power of snowflaking small amounts to debt for almost a year now, and the results really have been astounding for me. Throughout this process, there have been a few key subtle yet powerful changes in how I look at money management, and how I practice good financial principles in my own life. Here are some tips I’ve uncovered to develop the snowflaking mentality in all of us.

1. The small stuff matters.

This might be the most important habit to develop. Small stuff matters. I used to not bother to print my gasoline receipts at the pump, because I felt like I had to get gas anyway, so who cares how much I spent? This carried over to a lot of other areas of my life – anything that I just accepted as an inevitable expense I didn’t keep track of the details of. This led to me never exactly knowing how much less I spent than I earned, and therefore I had to keep a considerable cushion in my checking account just in case. No more. By keeping track of the details, I can find small savings to snowflake to my debt and not have to sacrifice those savings to “just in case”.

2. React immediately.

Learning to make immediate payments to debt or transfers to my savings account has also been key to developing the habit of snowflaking in my life. When I earn extra money through making a craigslist sale or getting paid for an online survey – I immediately log into my accounts and send that money as a payment to debt. If I can’t do that because of payment restrictions on an account, I instead immediately move it to my emergency savings account where I can keep track of it until payment time arrives. It is much too easy to just lose those small amounts in the shuffle. React immediately – preserve your small victories.

3. Find joy in the little things.

Honestly, snowflaking is fun! JD mentions in his post that it can seem a little obsessive, and that it is like a game, and both are true. But a little obsession with improving your financial health isn’t a bad thing – there are much worse habits to have. And making snowflaking a game in your mind to see where you can find snowflakes and where you might be able to stretch your dollar to save a dollar somewhere else can truly be fun if you learn to find joy in small accomplishments. Discovering snowflakes is an accomplishment, and big or small, celebrate it (in free ways of course!).

4. Challenge yourself to do even better.

Set goals for yourself, but don’t be satisfied to just meet a static goal week after week or month after month. Keep looking for little places to earn a little more or save a little more, and make those snowflakes grow. In my original snowflake primer I talked about averaging $200 a month in snowflakes. Since then, I have grown the average amount I snowflake to more than double that per month, mostly through exploring new avenues of earning money and finding ways to cut some of my variable expenses even further.

5. Look at the small picture, but reinforce with the big picture.

Snowflakes are great – but they are generally small taken individually. Just as a few snowflakes falling out of the sky don’t seem to make a difference on the ground, it may not seem that the small financial victories are making a big difference in the overall picture. So let those snowflakes collect into a great big snowdrift by tracking them. Once a week, once a month, or once every few months, whenever you need motivation to continue, add up how much you have been able to snowflake and the difference that has made in your debt or savings totals. You may be surprised how much of a difference it makes.

Just like any habit, snowflaking as an automatic reaction takes time. But the time spent reinforcing the ideals of paying down your debt or increasing your savings is, in my view, time very well spent. Join the snowflake revolution and watch your debt decrease or savings increase!

Comments

  1. Kelly Says:

    January 24th, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. I’ve already plegged to start making those little sums of money work for me, and towards my goal, instead of just having them disappear into the void. This has givin me even more motivation. They’re all great tips, but I think I needed to hear number two the most.

  2. I find it hard to snowflake honestly. I honestly think about getting out of debt, is looking at the big picture. Do you owe too much on the house and car and is that causing you to use CC to live a lifestyle you could afford if you didn’t buy too much house or too much car?

    And living on a budget, suddenly you know where your money is going and telling it where to do. Does that free up a lot of cash?

    I realize some people are struggling to make ends meet, but if you have a $300/car payment, maybe that needs to be the first to go. Then concentrate on the snowflakes.

  3. paidtwice Says:

    January 24th, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    @LivingAlmostLarge – Debt is about a lot of things, and different for different people. For some people it is the big things that need to change. Living within your means, and reasonably so, is very important. But for some people, the “little things” really honestly and truly do add up. I don’t claim to not need to change big things, or that this could go faster changing big things. But for us and our situation, small things have *really* mattered. We spent a lot of random money on small things that seemed insignificant at the time.

    Yes, it would be awesome to not have a car payment or have a house payment that is $300 less. Then I could snowflake that money ;) . And a big part of our goal has been to increase my income to create snowflakes as well as cut expenses wherever we can manage to, also creating snowflakes.

    Since I finally use my undergraduate degree for something I ought to start calling that good debt lol. But that’s a tangent.

  4. Darrell Says:

    January 24th, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Very well written article! We have been using these same methods for less than a month and have managed to already pay off an IRS tax bill (very old one) and are poised to destroy a personal loan 14 months early. It definitely works and works very well.

  5. Aaron Says:

    January 24th, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Great article & site. I stumbled over from GetRichSlowly. I’ve been doing some reading lately and starting to put together our plan for dumping debt (about 34k non-mortgage stuff) and am curious about snowflaking. The only thing I’m not certain about is the CC payments. Is it OK if I make multiple payments each month (4 * $50) instead of a single lump payment (1 * $200)? It seems like that would help me take small nibbles (snowflakes) but I’m not sure if it would incur the wrath of the bank.

    Or, should all my snowflake payments go in after my normal monthly payment. Seems like a really elementary question, but I’m having trouble wrapping my brain around it.

  6. paidtwice Says:

    January 24th, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Hi Aaron!

    Honestly, it depends on your bank/CC. You’ll have to investigate what their payment policy is. I’ve had one that I could make as many payments as I wanted (CapitalOne) and one that I am limited to 4 payments per billing cycle (Citi).

    As for the $50×4 vs $200 at once – it should be fine as long as your entire minimum payment arrives before the due date.

    I pay snowflakes generally after I make my monthly minimum, but you can do it in whatever order depending on what your CC policy is.

    Hope that helps!

  7. Jagular Says:

    January 24th, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Hello. I found your blog from the link at wereindebt.com
    I like the way that you write and the tips that you give, and I just wanted to let you know that I am looking forward to reading your blog in the future. I’ve bookmarked you and added you to my blogroll over at http://www.riverofdebt.com
    Thanks for all of your effort. A lot of the stuff that you have written is very helpful to me as I am just starting off on my road to get out of debt.

  8. Wayne Says:

    January 25th, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Hi,
    I was wondering where you take surveys and get paid for it? I always thoght those things were scams. I would appreciate any information on where and how to do so.

    Thanx,
    Wayne

  9. paidtwice Says:

    January 25th, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    @Wayne – I have a post over in my sidebar called “Surveys for fun and pocket change” and it details the companies I use and why. Hope that helps!!

  10. Livingalmostlarge Says:

    January 27th, 2008 at 12:26 am

    No totally, but sometimes there is no way out of debt other than to dump the house or the car. If the house is 50%+ of your income there might not be much left to pay off other debt and stop accruing debt.

    Or I know lots of people with $500-600/month for just 1 car payment.

    I’ve had a car payment for $150/month, 3 years. Starter debt. But seriously, snowflaking won’t matter when you are losing $1k/month.

  11. Kim Says:

    December 27th, 2008 at 11:31 am

    I don’t know how I missed this post the first time around (found the link on http://www.GreenPandaTreehouse.com.) Just wanted to let you know how much I like this concept. It is simple and so easy to visualize. Almost makes saving money a zen-like experience. Thanks!

  12. Steve in W MA Says:

    March 31st, 2010 at 4:10 am

    @ “I’ve had one (credit card account) that I could make as many payments as I wanted (CapitalOne) and one that I am limited to 4 payments per billing cycle (Citi).”

    Strictly speaking, this is most likely a cap on electronic payments that you have them initiate through their own website. It’s very unlikely (and probably illegal) for a credit card company to put a cap on how many times you pay them electronically if you originate the payment from your own checking account.

  13. Trisha Donaldson Says:

    June 21st, 2011 at 10:04 am

    THANK YOU! The devil is always in the details and your article has helped me to really be motivated on my debt free project. Just to give you a 50K overview..I am 66 and we purchased a house about 3 years ago and moved to the mountains – along way out in the country. The company I worked for (from home) went bankrupt and I got behind on my mortgage..so I went for a modification. The payment did come down but they put us on a FORTY YEAR mortgage. I would be 106 when it is paid off…but with a good debt reduction plan…it will be paid off in less than 10 years…or sooner with snowflakes!!!

Snowflaking – a primer – What is it?

I have had several questions lately about snowflaking – what is it, why do I do it, can we see examples of it – so I thought I would write a quick primer answering those questions and more.

Snowflaking is a spinoff of the Snowball approach to debt reduction popularized by Dave Ramsey. With the Debt Snowball method, you figure out what amount you can pay to debt every month, and then you keep paying that amount, even as your debts shrink and your minimums get smaller. To implement it, in a nutshell, make a list of all your debts, order them from either smallest to largest or highest interest to lowest interest (that is a debate in itself), and you focus all extra money above the minimum payments on a single debt (either the smallest total or the highest interest, I use interest order). As you eliminate debts, you apply the payment you were making to that debt to the next debt in line until the snowballing effect of decreasing minimums and increasing amounts applied to particular debts eliminates all the debts on your list.

Well, what are snowballs made of? Snowflakes!

I have a set amount I pay to debt without fail every month that is above my minimum payment due (about $800). On top of that, I also try to collect up little bits of money wherever I can and I apply those as well to my top priority debt as immediately as possible. I take surveys online, I sell possessions on craigslist and ebay, I have yard sales, and any money I get from these endeavors goes directly to my debt. I also keep a very strict accounting of all the money that comes in every month and what I spend and everything left over at the end of the month not earmarked for future expenses also goes directly to debt. These are my snowflakes. I have averaged over $200 extra going to pay down my credit card debt every month due to these snowflaking efforts.

Many small snowflakes make a snowball, and no amount is too small for me to snowflake.

I used to pay my credit card directly every time I collected a snowflake through their online interface, but now that I have moved my credit card debt to another card with a 0% interest offer, I collect the snowflakes and pay them once per week (I am limited to the number of payments I can make to this card a month). If you are able to and your debt is not at 0% interest, I highly recommend the pay snowflakes immediately” method. The faster your balance is reduced, the less interest you will accrue.

So, that is my snowflaking method. Small efforts matter, and many little things can add up to a huge snowstorm.  I use it because of anything I’ve tried, this has kept me the most focused and deliberate about debt reduction and eliminated debt the fastest. I cannot take credit for the idea or the implementation, many many other personal finance gurus and bloggers alike have used this method before me, and I first read about it on an iVillage Debt Support message board. I am just a subscriber to it. Maybe someday I should read some Dave Ramsey and learn from the granddaddy of the snowball himself.

Comments:

  1. Mrs. Micah Says:

    October 12th, 2007 at 7:23 am

    Dave’s pretty good for those getting started, but you’re already doing so well I don’t know if he’d have much more for you. There might be something in there you hadn’t read or thought of, though, so don’t let me stop you. :-)

  2. FinanceAndFat Says:

    October 12th, 2007 at 9:56 am

    You may want to try the Dave Ramsey podcast. It is free, only about 40 minutes a day, and you’ll get all of the info from his books, plus people’s personal stories. His Friday shows are extra inspiring because he opens the lines for people who have just paid off their last debts to call in and yell ‘I’m debt free!’. It makes me so jealous, but in a good way. :)

  3. SavingDiva Says:

    October 12th, 2007 at 10:39 am

    I think your method is working for you, so you don’t need to listen to any guru.

  4. Pinyo Says:

    October 12th, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Thanks for explaining. I was beginning to wonder what the heck you are talking about :-)

    Good work with knocking off your debt.

    @FinancAndFat – thanks for pointing out the podcast, I’ll check it out.

  5. plonkee Says:

    October 12th, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    You can do it all by yourself. I love the snowflake idea – I sort of guessed what you’d been talking about but I’m glad you’ve explained it properly.

  6. paidtwice Says:

    October 15th, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    You know, I never realized snowflaking was so mysterious :) . Sometimes it is the simple things I should be talking about!

    Thanks :)

  7. Jennifer Says:

    October 15th, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    I have been doing the same thing – but never heard it referred to as snowflaking. Cute! And you are so right, those extra small payments really make a difference. And I soooo love on line bill pay because it makes it soo convenient to send in an extra payment anytime you earn a little extra money. :)

    I added a link to your site on my blog. :)

  8. Tracie Says:

    October 18th, 2007 at 10:45 am

    I LOVE the concept of snowflaking. Once the idea is planted in your head to mow down the debt, it’s psychologically hard to wait until paydays to make any further progress. Snowflaking allows us to be creative during the rest of the week and make little dents in the debt while planning our big attack for paydays! I’ve done the eBay/survey thing too, but without any plan, those little bits just get sucked into daily expenses. Not anymore! I’m a flaker now! Thanks for the concept and the motivation!

  9. paidtwice Says:

    October 22nd, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    @Jennifer – yay for snowflaking! thanks for the link :)

    @Tracie – the little bits get easily lost, but they can really make a difference. I love snowflaking the little bits (and the big bits too of course)

  10. pat Says:

    December 18th, 2007 at 3:41 am

    I love the snowflake idea! And the “snowball” debt repayment plan originated with Amy Dacyczyn, author of “The Tightwad Gazette,” not Dave Ramsey.

  11. Heather Says:

    March 1st, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Thank you for your post on snocwflaking. I am new reader to your blog, and have gleaned so much knowledge from your entries. I am making my first fluorried attempts to snowflaking away one of my credit cards. Thank You for your advice.

  12. Wess Stewart Says:

    March 3rd, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    I think I would be wary of a company that said I could only pay off a debt (while being charged interest) with a set number of payments.

    It’s my debt, I’ll pay it off as fast as I can.

    I just had a friend that was asked (as he payed off a school loan) ‘Why are you paying off the balance rather than paying it out?’ His response – ‘Is there any reason that I shouldn’t?’

    That was followed by a stunned silence.

  13. Mike Hardin Says:

    March 19th, 2008 at 10:13 am

    If you have your credit card at 0% for a few months, why not put those snowflakes in a high interest online savings account, and just pay the minimum payment on the credit card until the end of the 0% offer. Then when the 0% offer expires, you can move the money from the savings account, and the interest you earned will be extra snowflakes!

    That’s what I’m doing. I moved all my credit card debt (about $7,000) to a 0% credit card almost a year ago. The 0% offer expires June 1. By then I expect to have put enough money in my HSBC direct online savings account earning better than 3% to pay off the card and have a little left over. In the mean time, I’ve just been making minimum payments on the card. The balance on the card is down to $5,800.

  14. Frugal Dad Says:

    March 19th, 2008 at 11:17 am

    I love the concept of “snowflaking” and first read about it on the My Total Money Makeover forums (probably based on this post). I set up a second checking account to collect the snowflakes and write one check at the end of the month to clear that account and pay down a little debt.

  15. paidtwice Says:

    March 19th, 2008 at 11:51 am

    @ Mike – I agree, what you are illustrating does make great sense. For me, the credit card was also an emotional debt that I honestly needed to purge and be done with. So I thought about doing something similar but eventually opted for just paying it off.

    @Frugal Dad – I’m not a member of TMMO forums but I was told by Ana that they had picked up on this post and posted about it there, so indeed, you did kind of find out about it from my site, in a roundabout way. Thanks for commenting!

  16. Paula Hewitt Says:

    March 23rd, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    This is a great idea – thanks for sharing it

  17. Debt Free Earth Says:

    April 5th, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Frugal Dad has the right idea. Unless you “seize the savings”, often times that money we save on gas, not doing Starbucks and brown-bagging it disappears into other areas. I actually teach a class in local community centers and schools based on the concept of snowflaking as well as another on debt elimination. We teach to calculate the approximate savings for a given month (reverse budgeting) and get that amount direct deposited into that separate account in advance from the employer, if possible. And like Frugal Dad, we use this extra amount to that debt we are focusing on paying off first. This only focuses on half of the “snowflakes”, the ebay selling and other found money is extra money to be deposited.

    Reading this blog (and other PF blogs) has been great for getting different points of view that aren’t in the textbooks I use. Thanks Paid Twice!

  18. Hywelda9 Says:

    April 6th, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with this post and with this message. Lo many years ago, I needed to begin to get myself our of a near-poverty situation. The “snowflake” method was the only one I had available. Once debt and other problems were out of the way, I could begin to save, and then to invest. I am now able to enjoy early retirement with a great-sized investment portfolio, and when I tell you it was all begun with $25 a week, I am not kidding.

  19. Teri Balch Says:

    April 8th, 2008 at 10:42 am

    I love this idea and it seems like it’s working great for you!

  20. Movingonup Says:

    April 8th, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Snowflaking Kicks Butt!

  21. Mike Says:

    April 18th, 2008 at 11:27 am

    The beauty of this idea is that you can start really small – how small is a snowflake? and you can build from there. As with almost everything in life but especially debt it is the little things that count. Build the momentum slowly – flake by flake

  22. jack rowsey Says:

    June 17th, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Thank’s for the post.
    You give quite a clear description on snowflaking.
    but still it takes a good deal of commitment.

    without proper discipline, a good debt elimination method would be useless.

  23. My Journey From Debt Says:

    July 11th, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Tonight is the first time that I have heard of this, I’ve heard of the whole snowball thing before, but almost like this better. I’m not sure how good I will be at implementing it though because any “snowflakes” I can think of lately have “melted” before I got them home (so to speak)

  24. Cathy | Mommy Motivation Says:

    December 12th, 2008 at 12:37 am

    I saw your button on another blog, and in maybe 2 clicks, got right here! Well done! :)

    I didn’t know of this before – thanks for posting it.

    BTW, I love this theme too – I’ve edited it to look like recipe cards for my food blog. It’s very cool… :)

  25. Kick Debt’s Butt Says:

    January 16th, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Hey, budget girl sent me here for your primer on snowflaking – I love the idea and the connection with snowballing the debt away. I’m going to see if I can turn this in to a game for the family!

  26. Are you the originator of this term/concept? Because I just gave you credit as being so!:) At the very least, your blog has given the concept a huge audience…

    http://budgetsarethenewblack.blogspot.com/2009/11/snowball-status.html

  27. John D Says:

    April 8th, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Super post and explanation and idea. I just did a little snowflake to Target. $20 doesn’t seem much compared to a 570 balance, but it made me feel good to get that extra in. Now I feel a snowstorm coming on! I am going to live each day wondering where I can get another snowflake to put in, and I feel I will see opportunities I didn’t see before. It’s inspiring me to go back to secret shopping too, and snowflake every payment I get.

    BTW, Dave Ramsey never claims to have created any of his baby steps or other advice. He gives credit to others. What you will find is that he has packaged the best advice into a system that gives us the greatest chance at being successful in eliminating debt despite unexpected emergencies along the way, and also helps us build a life on the other side, once the debt’s gone. His great contribution is in the order of the steps.

    Good luck to all!

September Wrapup – How did we do?

So the end of September is upon us, and it is time for a look at how another month went with our budget, and if we have anything left to make an extra snowflake to the credit card.

  • Our total income was $4027.37 (that includes the $430.35 carryover from last month)
  • We spent $3764.27 (that includes the $152.08 snowflake from last month’s surplus)

So another month of spending less than we earned! :insert happy dance here: That may seem elementary but I’m pretty darn excited about it. The difference is $263.10, and $180.30 of that is earmarked for irregular expenses and thus gets added to next month’s budget. That means we have an $82.80 snowflake left comprised of this month’s true surplus. It may not be as big as in some previous months but it is still exciting. We had an extra week of grocery expenses this month and an average month of earnings from my contracting work, so having a surplus to me is just great. I’ll be snowflaking that along with my “standard” $200 payment when my spouse gets his first October paycheck on the 5th. Oh and after all the”excitement” of my budget and bank account not agreeing at the end of last month, they agree exactly this month. Hopefully they will continue to agree going forward now that I am carrying over the difference between spent and earned from each month into the next month on paper.

As far as debt repayment was concerned, we paid:

  • $452.08 total to credit cards ($343.08 over the minimum repayment)
  • $1062.49 total to debt (all others than credit cards were paid the minimum)

And I took in $92.15 in alternative income which all went to the above snowflaking total (craigslist and ebay sales and survey payments). That was a little short of my $100 goal but close. The rest of the snowflaking number is from last month’s surplus which I carry over and then pay when my spouse gets his first monthly paycheck. I am happy we paid over $1050 in debt repayment because that number is my monthly goal. I have a few survey checks still outstanding that should come in in October and knock it down a little further. I fell short of my goal of getting the credit card debt number under $5000 but it is pretty close (it stands at $5049.61 as of right now) and after October 5th I will see a “4″ at the beginning of that number instead of a “5″. :cheer:

The two categories we went significantly over budget in this month were groceries and diapers. I addressed groceries previously, it just wasn’t a realistic number to shoot for. We don’t buy a lot of extras, we’re not eating fancy meals, and we still were coming up short. I am readjusting the grocery budget in months forward to reflect that. I trimmed a little bit from the “clothing” and “gifts” budgets to help offset that, not enough, but it should help. The diaper budget went over because Babies R Us had a big sale so I stocked up on some diapers. I expect to make up for that this month. And hopefully by the end of the month we’ll have our son potty trained and then that category will be able to be significantly reduced. I hope. I can dream.

Some categories we did pretty well sticking to the budget in were gasoline and utilities (natural gas, electricity, water). All of these came out under budget by a small amount. If you look at our budget as a whole, we went over budget this month (but still spent less than we earned), but part of that is that a big irregular expense, my son’s preschool tuition, was due this month. That makes the budget look like on paper that we went over, but in fact we had been saving up every month for this expense and had all the money saved to pay it. It just all happening this month threw the irregular expenses out of whack on paper. We did still go over our projected overall budget, but by closer to $100 instead of $300.

Looking ahead to next month, there are some challenges on the horizon. We have a large annual expense (~$185) for the furnace, a/c and water heater maintenance contract and we don’t have enough saved in the annual expenses fund to cover it yet. We have about $80 saved right now so the other $100 is going to have to come out of future months’ budget for that expense, even though I am paying it right now. Some of the pitfalls of not starting a budget until the middle of the year. By next year that should all sort out and we should have plenty saved in our annual expenses fund to cover our annual expenses by then. The fall is a big time for annual expenses, but once we get past this, we don’t have another significant one coming up until April. The amount I budgeted is correct over a year’s time span, the distribution just leaves something to be desired.

Another challenge next month is that my contracting work is lower than normal. I won’t get a statement and my check until the 15th with the exact amount, but my calculations put the number between $260 and $270. Our budget “expects” me to make $400/month from contracting work. So, well… that’ll be interesting. I am hopeful it will work out, because we should have much lower expenses in the diaper, grocery, and gasoline categories this month (we are working hard at potty training the three year old, and we also stocked up on diapers in a September sale, and with our upcoming trip we won’t be home for a week to eat groceries or use gasoline) so… we’ll see. I’m not expecting a surplus, that’s for sure.

The trip we are taking also concerns me. Not the cost of the trip itself – because it is for my spouse’s work, his employer is paying for the hotel, the transportation for my spouse, and the meals (they are provided by the conference). But for all of us to accompany him, we chose to drive (his employer would pay for his plane ticket but not ours of course, and the cost of two extra plane tickets would have made it impossible for us to come). My spouse will be fully reimbursed for the mileage but we’ll have to pay for the gas up front. I don’t know if we’ll be reimbursed in time to save October’s budget. It is about a 600 mile trip each way, plus any driving I do in the city with the kids. Once we get the reimbursement it will actually save us money in October to go on the trip (free gas and food for a week after all) but until then… well, it won’t be pretty.

So in short, I may have to use some of the emergency fund to fill the gap between payment and reimbursement. I sincerely hope not, but we’ll see how things shake out.

Here’s to spending less than we earn in October!

Comments

  1. Kris Says:

    September 30th, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    Way to go, PT. You’re doing so well. Keep up the good work!

  2. Lynnae @ Being Frugal Says:

    September 30th, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    That’s awesome!!! I need to run my numbers this week, and I don’t think they’re going to look quite as good. I know we don’t have any new debt though, so that’s good, right?

  3. PaulaB52 Says:

    October 1st, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Good job coming in under budget!

  4. SavingDiva Says:

    October 1st, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Congratulations on spending less than you earn. That is such a big deal! I don’t think people realize…

  5. paidtwice Says:

    October 3rd, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Thanks!!!

    And no new debt is great Lynnae!!

A Practical Illustration of the Power of Snowflaking

Snowflaking, the practice of using small (or large) “extra” amounts of money and using those to pay down debt or increase savings/investing, is the idea of small things make a big difference in action. These small amounts can come from anywhere – earning more temporarily through another job, making things, or selling things, becoming more frugal and saving money in one or more budget categories that you previously would spend, or any other ideas you have for generating extra income or money in your budget that can be earmarked to achieve your goals. The idea that these small things can make a difference over time is sometimes questioned, so I created this example to look at what consistent changes can do over time.

Our example debt is going to be $5000, with a $200 minimum paid per month. This is the minimum that is always paid – think of it as a car loan or student loan – something where the minimum doesn’t change as the debt shrink. Although you can certainly create your own fixed minimum with a credit card, and in fact, that was one of the small steps I took that eventually got me out of credit card debt completely. In our example, we are going to look at the effect of paying simply $1 extra per week, $10 extra per week, and $20 extra per week for three different interest rates – 5%, 10%, and 20%. It might be surprising that even just $1 per week extra will end up in some cases making a noticeable difference. The data was calculated using the snowball calculator.

First, a $5000 debt with a $200 minimum payment per month at 5% interest:

  • Paying simply the minimum: Paid off in 27 months, paid $268 in interest charges.
  • Paying $204/month ($1 extra per week) : Paid off in 26 months, paid $262 in interest.
  • Paying $240/month ($10/week extra) : Paid off in 22 months, $222 in interest.
  • Paying $280/month ($20/week extra) : Paid off in 19 months, $185 in interest.

In this example, just that $1 extra per week causes the payoff date to come a month earlier than without it. Of course, the difference is more noticeable the more extra you pay, but even just that $1 per week will save you a few dollars in interest in the long run.

Now the $5000 debt with $200 minimum/month at 10% interest:

  • Paying simply the minimum: Paid off in 28 months, paid $578 in interest charges.
  • Paying $204/month ($1 extra per week) : Paid off in 28 months, paid $567 in interest.
  • Paying $240/month ($10/week extra) : Paid off in 23 months, $466 in interest.
  • Paying $280/month ($20/week extra) : Paid off in 20 months, $391 in interest.

Here, just paying $20 extra per week ends up with a payoff date 8 months earlier and almost $200 less in interest charges paid. Even paying just $10 per week extra will save you over $100 in interest in the long run.

And finally that same $5000 debt with $200 minimum per month at 20% interest:

  • Paying simply the minimum: Paid off in 32 months, paid $1382 in interest charges.
  • Paying $204/month ($1 extra per week) : Paid off in 32 months, paid $1343 in interest.
  • Paying $240/month ($10/week extra) : Paid off in 26 months, $1071 in interest.
  • Paying $280/month ($20/week extra) : Paid off in 21 months, $868 in interest.

Paying $20 extra per week, you pay off the debt almost a year earlier, and save almost $500 in interest! Even just $1 extra per week will save you almost $40 in interest charges.

So you can see that snowflakes, even small ones, can make a difference in how much interest you pay over the life of a debt. The bigger the snowflakes, the more effect they can have, but even the smallest snowflakes can speed up your debt reduction and reduce the total you have to pay.

Comments

  1. frugalwannabe Says:

    March 26th, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Great illustration! I’ve been trying to get this through to my hubby but he hasn’t quite gotten it yet. I’ll be sending this post to him today!

  2. Jeff Says:

    March 26th, 2008 at 11:21 am

    I’ve only recently discovered snowflaking. It was one of those “duh” moments when I couldn’t help but wonder why I hadn’t thought of it before. I’m sharing the snowflake idea with others and if they understand the snowball plan, they eventually come around to snowflaking. Snowflake on!

  3. Ron@TheWisdomJournal Says:

    March 26th, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Wow. This is practical advice you can use! Great job putting this together.

  4. I’m curious again…what kinds of things did you spend your money on to get you into credit card debt? Was it ordinary household expenses or non essential items?

  5. paidtwice Says:

    March 27th, 2008 at 10:06 am

    @Jinger – a mixture of things. Some non-essentials. The vast majority was from our wedding and from my spouse’s subsequent unemployment which not only derailed our plans to pay off the wedding charges but also caused charges of its own while he was unemployed since we had no emergency fund.

  6. jinger Says:

    March 27th, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Thanks…unemployment, illness and major life events can certainly complicate life plans. Right now an ER visit has derailed my plans and I am afraid, the credit card will be coming out once again if my emergency fund won’t cover the deductible.

    Life, you only have one and gotta live it!

Five Golden Rules For Snowflaking

Welcome to I’ve Paid For This Twice Already… where frugality and careful money management is helping us get out of significant debt one penny at a time. As part of the 12 Days of Christmas – Personal Finance Style project, I bring you my contribution of the golden variety. No, not five golden rings (although I admit that might be nice) but Five Golden Rules to successfully snowflake your way out of debt or into saving.

What is a snowflake, you may ask? I’m not talking about the fluffy white stuff outside right now for many of us (although I think they’re rather pretty), I’m talking about small amounts of money saved or earned that are applied directly to debt or into savings before they melt away into who knows where. If you are new to the concept, I invite you to read my snowflaking primer to learn all about how snowflaking works. Basically, any extra money that you can come up with from earning more or spending less can be a snowflake. I earn money for snowflaking from doing online contracting work, surveys, and this blog, for example, and I also try to spend as little as I can and apply the savings to pay down our debt one snowflake at a time.

Here are my Five Golden Rules for Snowflaking:

1. Snowflake early and often

This is really the overarching theme to snowflaking success. Snowflake whatever you can whenever you can. The more often you snowflake, the more it will become a habit to look for snowflakes. Identify them wherever you can and keep making those snowflake payments. The more ingrained the habit, the more you will find.

2. No amount is too small to be a snowflake

I have snowflaked as little as $1.04 and as much as $1313.74 and everything inbetween. Any amount can be a snowflake, and any amount can make a difference. Especially when you are dealing with a debt that has interest charged to it (which most are) or putting money into savings earning interest, don’t wait to get to a certain amount before applying that snowflake. Whatever the amount – snowflake it.

3. Anything can be a snowflake

Did you just save $3.40 at the grocery store using coupons? Did you just spend $5 less on shoes than you budgeted? Snowflake it. Just like any amount can be a snowflake, snowflakes can come from any source. They don’t have to be from a specific income stream or a specific budget item. Find them wherever you can.

4. Snowflake as immediately as possible

When you save or earn money to snowflake, do it immediately. Transfer it to your savings account or make an immediate payment to debt. If you can’t do it immediately, keep very careful track of the exact amounts and pay them or save them as soon as possible. Right now, I am limited to 4 electronic payments a month on my credit card, so I keep track of all my snowflakes each week and make a payment once a week from my checking account. My past credit card, I could pay as often as I wanted, so I would send an electronic payment as soon as I could get to the computer after finding a snowflake. Don’t give yourself a chance to spend the snowflake on something else.

5. Keep track of your snowflakes to use for motivation

A lot of small amounts may not seem like a whole lot if you don’t keep track of them. As well as watching your debt total shrink or your savings total rise, keep track of the snowflakes themselves. Keep a running total once a month to see how much all those small amounts add up to. You may be surprised, I sure was. It may not seem like much while you are doing it but a lot of little bits add up to one big chunk of debt demolished or savings achieved.

These five rules sum up the secrets to my snowflaking success. Since really committing to and implementing this strategy in June, I’ve paid off over $7000 to the principal on my debts, close to $5000 of that to my credit card debt alone (my snowflake target), almost as much progress as I made the 3 years before that combined. Snowflaking really works, and I hope you’ve picked up a tip or two! If you have any questions or tips of your own, please share them in the comments!

Follow the entire 12 Days of Christmas – Personal Finance Style project:

 

Comments

  1. Amanda (Me vs Debt) Says:

    December 14th, 2007 at 8:37 am

    Thanks for the tips. I’m a big fan of the snowflake method. Its surprising how quickly they add up!

  2. Mrs. Micah Says:

    December 14th, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Woot! :)

  3. debtdieter Says:

    December 16th, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    I’m such a fan of your snowflaking method, I’m going to make it my new years resolution over and above my 2008 goals.

  4. InTheHole Says:

    December 17th, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    I really really love the snowflaking concept. Once I get my monthly budget planned out, I plan on snowflaking a lot.

    It’s amazing how much money gets “lost.”

    Thanks!!

  5. Dividends4Life Says:

    December 18th, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Debt elimination is always good! thanks for sharing how you approach it.

    Best Wishes,
    D4L

  6. dawn Says:

    December 18th, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    Ok I am going to try this method. I was “snowflaking” in a way before I read this, but into a savings account for rainy days, however I now have freed up enough money to contribute to that on a weekly basis. So now that snowflake money will go toward a credit card that is charging interest. I am excited to see what effect this has over the next year! It is projected to be paid by Dec 08, I’ll see how it gets bumped up with the snowflakes….I’m so excited!

  7. kentuckyliz Says:

    December 21st, 2007 at 6:54 am

    Hi! I’m here because we’re discussing snowflaking over at Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover discussion forums and I followed a link.

    We DR koolaid drinkers believe in the debt snowball, and the snowflaking concept is a great complement to the snowball idea. Kudos! On the DR TMMO boards, we’ve done a challenge to snowflake the rest of December and to share what we did and how much it’s yielding. I started yesterday, found three pennies on the floor in the back office workroom area where I eat my lunch. LOL

    Your site looks interesting, I’ll read more.