the snowflake revolution

December 29th, 2007

The Snowflake Revolution

When I started this blog, I didn’t know much about the personal finance information that was out there. Because I didn’t know much, I mistakenly assumed the little I did know must be common knowledge, and acted as such. But after several questions about “snowflaking” from visitors, readers, and commenters, I realized that just because the “Debt Snowball” popularized in recent times primarily by Dave Ramsey was known and understood by most people that came across my site, snowflaking as a related but slightly separate concept was not.

I learned about the concept of snowflaking from a Debt Support Messageboard at iVillage that I began to frequent when I decided to find a way, no matter what, to get rid of our credit card debt once and for all. I didn’t know who Dave Ramsey or what a debt snowball was, and I certainly had no idea what snowflaking meant. Through that board I learned about the idea of saving or earning small extra amounts of money and paying it directly to debt, and calling those extra-over-minimum payments snowflakes. I really embraced the concept and the method (and I don’t know the origination of the term, if it was coined by that messageboard or was adapted from somewhere else) and started challenging myself to find snowflakes whenever and wherever I could.

When I branched out to starting my own blog about debt reduction, I talked about snowflaking as if it was a commonly understood concept because, as I stated in the beginning of this post, I had no idea it wasn’t. Once I realized my constant reference to snowflaking wasn’t necessarily understood by my everyday visitors, I wrote my snowflaking primer. I continued to snowflake down my credit card debt, and a few weeks ago, as part of a 12 Days of Christmas – Personal Finance Style project, wrote my Five Golden Rules of Snowflaking.

And then something interesting happened. I submitted that post to the Carnival of Personal Finance, and the host that week, JD of Get Rich Slowly, chose it as one of his editor’s picks. Mrs. Micah: Finance for a Freelance Life had submitted her post asking for people’s choices for best personal finance practices of the year (in which she had chosen my snowflaking primer as her choice) to the same carnival, and her post was subsequently picked up by The Consumerist, which also mentioned my snowflaking primer. And people started visiting. And reading. And learning about snowflaking, and talking about it themselves.

The snowflake revolution has begun.

Every day it seems I get another notification of a link to one of my snowflaking posts, where someone is talking about it on their own blog or website. Both my Five Golden Rules and my Primer posts get dozens to hundreds of hits a day from visitors who saw the snowflaking concept referenced elsewhere and followed it here. And I can’t be more delighted.

I didn’t create the concept of snowflaking. I don’t claim to be the end-all of information about it either. All I am is a very enthusiastic follower of the concept and practicer of the ideals and principles behind it. And with it, I’ve been decimating my credit card debt at a fantastic rate. Find ways to save money and pay that saved money directly to debt. Find ways to earn more money and pay that earned money directly to debt. Someday in the future, instead of snowflaking to debt, I’ll be snowflaking to savings, and my future will greatly thank me for it.

The revolution has begun. Why don’t you join the revolution, too? There’s room for everyone on board.

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13 Responses to “The Snowflake Revolution”

  1. Very cool. For the record, I first learned about the snowflake concept here on your site. So even if you aren’t the creator, you certainly promoted the idea very well. :)

  2. I’ve totally joined the snowflake revolution! You are definitely the blogger I’ve seen best describe and exemplify the benefits of snowflaking. I will continue to link back to your posts as I refer to the concept :)

    Best wishes in the New Year!

  3. Congrats! I think “enthusiastic” is the keyword in that post!

    Mike

  4. You’ve done a great job of promoting the concept! After all, I learned it here. :) I’m so glad that it’s getting spread.

  5. I started to make additional snowflakes to my National City Bank VISA card and noticed something curious. I discovered that I earn 25 reward points each time I make a credit card payment. The previous month I earned 125 points for credit card payments, and this month I earned the same. I also earned 25 reward points each time my account is debited for car, renter’s, and life insurance premiums plus any debits on my debit card and any checks I write.

    So not only am I paying down my balance faster by snowflaking, but by snowflaking I can also earn cash rewards. The rewards are automatically deposited directly into my checking account where — you probably guessed this — I use them for additional snowflakes to my VISA card. :-D I earned $19 in rewards this month, and in another few months I will be able to cash out again, albeit for smaller amounts.

  6. Watch the timing on your payments. Be sure that when you’re pushing snowflake payments to the cards that you they’re not processed during the period between an invoice date and when your regular payment is processed. Some of the smaller payments will not meet the minimum and incur creditor wrath – so make sure the regular payment is received first. Maybe this doesn’t apply here, but for people who pay off their cards every month, paying small payments during this period may allow the creditor to apply interest on the remaining amount on the card, whether or not you expect to pay off the card before the actual due date.

  7. @ding – I don’t think the “snowflaking” to debt thing is really for people who pay their cards in full each month – at least not to credit card debt. Idsn’t it treated more like a bill then vs a debt? I would think it would be.

    I can’t vouch for every card and how every credit card debt is treated, but mine, as long as the minimum is met before the due date, all is good. Sometimes a few snowflakes add up to that minimum before I make my standard minimum payment, and then it just tells me my minimum due is $0. Same with the CapOne card I transferred this debt from.

    Hopefully in the next few weeks I banish the cc debt and stop thinking about it entirely. on to snowflaking to the student loan! Which will take a new strategy and I shall have to carefully ponder it. :)

    Thanks for visiting!

  8. I like this concept of a debt snowflake, and the snowflakes turning into a debt snowball. A scary thought though is that it can work the other way too: all those little expenses — a latte here, a nice bottle of wine there — can add up to an avalanche of debt :-(

  9. @paidtwice – Agreed, this isn’t a snowflaking situation, but it may imply that some cards are better for snowflaking than others… Had finance charges occur with a citicard. I was paying the card off multiple times a month to keep my average balances pristinely low while I shopped for car loans (read somewhere this helps credit score, but maybe I was just being anal retentive about it). I called citi about it and they told me finance charges are accessed after the first payment after the invoice date (assuming it meets minimum and isn’t late).

    I was surprised, because I always made sure the full balance was paid by the actual due date, assuming that finance charges were only assessed after the due date. I guess if it’s getting paid off, anyway, it’s a good problem to have. But it may mean that if you’re snowflaking, that depending on the card terms, your finance charges are being calculated from the payment date instead of the due date, which may add up over the long run if you pay small and early.

  10. I actually have a citi card which is what I have been paying off. that stinks they would play such evil finance charge tricks! My debt is at 0% so it doesn’t incur finance charges but it is good knowledge to have for the possible future. (Not that I’ll be getting in any more credit card debt if I can possibly help it).

    thanks!

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