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!!!