The emotional snowball

By glblguy

Snowballl on a hill
Photo by: redjar

We paid off our Chase card last week. It was an amazing feeling and one that has kicked in the afterburners on knocking out our Bank of America card next. My two remaining cards, Bank of America and Wachovia are our last two. While I don’t like the debt, I do like both of these companies. There customer service has been great, they have both been very fair and have not causing any unexpected rate hikes nor refusing the reduce the rates when I’ve called and asked. They are both the opposite end of the spectrum from Chase, whom I grew to abhor. So good bye and good riddance Chase, you will never be in my wallet again.

The debt snowball and snowflaking

We’ve been following Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball method of paying off our debt, along with snowflaking payments as frequently as possible. Since we started, my wife and I have paid off 4 different credit cards. As Ramsey recommends in his book, we started with our low balance cards and are working our way up paying off the higher balance cards last. The Chase card had a fairly large balance on it, so paying it off was a big win.

What we’ve both noticed as we’ve gone through the process is that with each payoff payment we make, there is a huge emotional boost that comes along with it. Even more interesting is that the emotional boost seems to be directly tied to the progress we’ve made down that path. With each card, the dark cloud of debt becomes a little less dark, the weight of the debt a little less heavy.

The emotional snowball

In addition to debt snowball, there is another snowball I’ll call the emotional snowball snowball. Each debt we payoff results in an emotional high that further increases our desire to finish off the remaining cards. As we begin to make progress and cross off those debts on our list, the light at the end of the tunnel comes a little closer. The closer to the light we get, the quicker we want to get there and the more confident we feel we can.

Total Money MakeoverWhen we first started the debt snowball method, it looked good on paper and our thought process was we had really nothing to lose. We started our payments and had the first card paid off in a couple of months. Amazing…one down. Then our second, which was also paid off in a couple of months. Hey, this is really working, let’s get rocking on the next. As we continued the process, we gained confidence, we say the process working, and become excited…very excited. Our gazelle intensity become exponentially more intense with each card that we paid off.

This whole concept is truely amazing, and really made something I had read on Dave Ramsey’s site crystal clear for me: “Paying off the smallest debt first allows you to get some immediate, positive feedback and encourages you to keep going. Once the debts start getting paid off, it is addicting, and you will stick with it”. I wasn’t sure if I believed this whole concept of paying off the lowest balance first a year ago, especially after reading articles that said Dave is bad at math. What I’ve realized is that while that may be true, he is really good at understanding people and what makes them tick. There in lies the key. Getting into debt is an emotional experience, and so is getting out. Like Dave frequently says “If you were good at math, you wouldn’t be in debt in the first place“. Exactly.

Moving right along

So we’re absolutely on fire to start really making some progress on our Bank of America card now. We should be able to throw around 1,000 – $2,000 each month at it and knock it our fairly quickly. Given we’ve paid off 5 cards now, I know we can do this. Our emotional snowball is pretty big at this point, and the momentum it has is really helping us blow forward. I’ll keep you posted on how we’re doing!

Have you experienced the emotional snowball? What are your thoughts on the debt snowball process? Are you using it? Add a comment!

21 Responses (including trackbacks) to “The emotional snowball”

  1. Frugal Dad Says:

    As Dave Ramsey frequently says, “Personal finance is personal.” What you describe as the “emotional snowball” is the personal side of finances comin out to help you win. Congratulations on getting Chase out of your life! Keep it up!

  2. Leeann Says:


    We’ve been fully on board with Dave’s plan since the beginning of February, 2008. Since then, we have paid off 32K in debt and the only remaining debt (besides our house) is 7,676.00. Paying off debt is definitely an emotional lift. For me, the biggest thing has been a feeling of security and control that was previously lacking in my life. I no longer feel like a gerbil running in a wheel and getting nowhere fast.

    The thing is, that once we get out of baby step two, I think it will actually be harder. That emotional payoff won’t be there as much. I think we will have to make some charts and visuals to show our progress and keep ourselves focused on our goals!


  3. That One Caveman Says:

    It really is a thrill to finish paying off a debt. I have yet to remove one from the books, but even the thrill of knowing one of my debts will be paid off next year is doing me some good.

  4. FPU Counselor Says:

    Great job paying off your debt. You are exactly right about the emotional impact debt elimination creates. I will add a comment aobut credit cards: as a DR counselor and FPU coordinator I can tell you that both BOA and WAC are just as bad as Chase when it comes to unexpected and unexplained rate increases, fee adds, late payment postings, etc. Count yourself lucky if that has not happened to you while a customer of either. As Dave says, “if you play with snakes, sooner or later you will get bit”. Great job and great blog.


  5. sara l Says:

    I haven’t gotten anything paid off yet but there is definitely an emotional high seeing the numbers go down. Congratulations on your determinations and success!

  6. Tiffany Says:

    We are fortunate to not have any credit card debt, but we have a mortgage, student loans and a car loan.
    We are set to pay off the car in two months. That is going to be very exciting! We made the decision to focus on maxing out our Roth IRAs after paying off that debt, though, because we are young enough (27) that the IRA has lots of time to grow, but we are also old enough to feel deep pangs of regret that we didn’t open IRAs a long time ago. While paying off those student loans is going to feel beyond incredible, we factored in the emotional cost of letting our IRAs languish for a few more years, and we just couldn’t do it. We’ll still be plugging away at those student loans in the meantime, though, and will have money to throw at them after the IRAs get maxed out.

  7. Stacy Says:

    We have followed a modified Dave Ramsey plan for about a year. Our debt wasn’t that big to begin with, but having a plan helped get us to our goal. Today we are paying CASH for a new-to-us car. What an amazing feeling to be in control of our money, instead of others being in control of us and our money because of debt.

  8. Mr. Imperfect Says:

    Great job! We just started our Total Money Makeover, and news such as this is wonderful encouragement. We have yet to complete step one, but are very excited about the whole process. Keep it up, and keep us posted!

  9. notworriedaboutmoney Says:

    That’s great news! I also paid off one card this week and it feels great. It’s not a big amount but it still made me feel good accomplish the goal.

    Congratulations and good luck on the next one.

  10. No Debt Plan Says:

    Glbl, awesome man. Had no idea you had that much free cash flow. Keep knocking out that debt!

  11. debtdieter Says:

    I know exactly the feeling you’re referring to, I’ve paid off 2 of my 7 credit cards so far, and expect to pay off another one next month using a snowball. It’s great isn’t it?

  12. ecoria7 Says:

    Thank you for this post…I subscribe to your post but I havent seen this one because…Well today I found my pinhole light at the end of the tunnle. (The shove of the snowball of my debt).I was so excited that I went online just to read to motivate me…and I found this post…It sent me on cloud nine….To know that other pople out there are the same as me makes me feel not so alone in this revolving debt world!…Thank you so much!

  13. Greg Says:

    I paid off one this week, too, and it really does feel great. We’ve been working the debt snowball for several years, and it’s great to go back and look at the (excel) snapshot of our finances from 5 years ago and see just how far we’ve come when we get discouraged sometimes. We’ve got 2 more small ones (less than $500 ea) then a handful of the big ones… but we’re making it happen, little by little. :)

    Thanks for another great post (as usual!)

  14. a1supersport Says:

    I’ve actually done the opposite, and it works just as well, if not better. Once I got past the first 2 cards (6 altogether), things really started to snowball!! Each card gets progressively smaller, hence they get paid off faster…the snowball grows insanely huge very quickly, and so does the emotional high. Glad I did it this way, because I’d lose confidence if the big cards were saved for last…then I’d lose focus, and eventually start “using” again.

  15. glblguy Says:

    @a1supersport – I think it’s all about finding what works for YOU. For me, facing the large cards with a small payment would seem overwhelming, but sounds like for you it worked great. The point her is just do what works. Paying off your debt is the point, not how you do it.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!