Okay, so where were we? We established a $1,000 emergency fund, we set up a budget and envelope system, ah- yes, now it’s time for baby step number 2- working on your debt snowball! I’m not quite sure why Dave Ramsey calls them baby steps. They really should be called Giant Leaps. When you move from one baby step to the next, it’s quite an accomplishment and to me, it has never felt like anything a baby would do! Dustin and I are currently on baby step 2 and unfortunately, we’re going to be in this step for quite a while. It involves paying off all debt except for your mortgage. This includes, but is not limited to, vehicle loans, loans for a boat or RV, credit cards, student loans, medical bills, financed furniture and electronics, personal loans- any debt that is not classified as a mortgage.
So why is it called a debt snowball? It’s mainly about the momentum that can happen when paying off debt. It works a lot like a snowball rolling down a hill. You start with a tiny little ball and as it gets rolling, it builds more and more momentum and collects more snow until it becomes a huge, heavy snowball that knocks out anything in its way. Paying on debt can be very similar. To start, it is a good idea to make a list of all of your debts, how much is owed on each one, and the interest rate of each loan. It would also be a good idea to transfer all of your debt to fixed rate loans, of possible. You may be surprised at the total amount of debt you have outside of your mortgage!!
Next, take that list and organize it in the order of smallest to largest amount owed. You will want to pay on the smallest debt first. Yes, I know what you’re thinking and I thought the same thing too- “Wouldn’t it be wiser to pay off the loan with the largest interest rate first?” Yes, ideally, it probably would be the best option, however it has been proven time and time again that people are more motivated to pay off debt when they can actually see the fruits of their labor and they typically stop paying on debt when it feels like they are getting nowhere. This is true from our experience as well. Dustin and I have been able to knock out a few loans fairly quickly and it has really motivated us to keep going.
So, you’ve created your budget, filled your envelopes, and now you have some cash leftover per month. You don’t want that extra cash to just disappear on stupid purchases. You will want to designate this cash completely toward debt. When you account for every last dollar you make, you start to make your money work for you. So, let’s say you have $200 left over after everything else is accounted for. This $200 goes toward your smallest loan, on top of the minimum payment that you already make (let’s say it is $150.) This accelerated payment of $350 will allow you to pay off that loan much quicker. Once that loan is paid off, you will then apply that $350 to your next smallest loan, on top of its minimum payment and so on and so forth until you are throwing a huge amount of money at your last loan. So, you still continue to live exactly the same way, but your money is now working in a way that is allowing you to pay off your debts.
Believe me, it feels different to drive your car when it’s completely paid for, your couch suddenly feels a little more comfortable, and you really enjoy vacations with your family when your RV is truly yours. It is also rewarding to think of all of the interest that you saved by not just making minimum payments until each loan’s end.
A debt snowball calculator is pretty useful for seeing the big picture/timeline of financial freedom. I use this one.
So what are you waiting for? Get those snowpants on and create some magic!!!