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!