FORTITUDE

This snowball stuff is tough. I’ve been in a slump the past few weeks. Mostly feeling sorry for myself and having an impatient attitude. Why does debt take so long to go away?! Doesn’t it know I have other things I’d like to do with my income? Isn’t two years enough? WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!

Whew. Sorry. Had to get that out.

The snowball really is tough. It’s also brilliant. Have you tried it? When I first read about it in TTMM I understood the logic and immediately agreed to the method without fully realizing what it would feel like. After all, who was I to criticize the technique? Clearly my management of personal finance wasn’t getting the job done. I had to commit to big change. Trust fall.

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t read up on it yet, the snowball method is a way to pay off your debts, smallest to largest. You list all of your debts (yes, ALL of them) from smallest balance to largest. [Side Note: The controversy with this method is that a lot of folks focus too much on the math and miss the whole point of it being about behavior. The math folks believe you should list them from largest interest rate to smallest. This sounds great in theory. Hey, I’m an engineer, I get it. Math is my life. In this particular situation though, I disagree. Math is off the table at this point. If you (or I) were so smart and knew so much about applying math to your personal finances then why the hell are you (or I) even in debt?!

Sorry. Again. Apparently I’m a little hostile today.

Be humble enough to realize when you don’t know better. That what you are trying isn’t working. As a math lover, admitting defeat to something so numerically basic as debt was a tough pill to swallow. But it had to be done. You must want better for yourself. You deserve better! I digress…] So you list out your debts, then attack the smallest debt like your life depends on it. Throwing every spare penny at that little sucker until it dissolves entirely. Then move on to the next. And the next. After a while you will start to see the brilliance in this plan. The shift in your behavior you didn’t realize was possible.

It seems weird to say it now, but we were fortunate to have a good mix of the size of our loans. We had a lot of little ones, some semi-big, and large ones. Our snowball started small and scrappy and has grown rather large over the last two years. In the fury of paying off small debts every month and then attacking our semi-big loans one after another we didn’t realize how our behavior had changed. Those small victories meant more to us than we ever dreamed.

We are now in the process of paying off our last two loans – the largest loans on the list. Both started in the $40,000’s each. The smaller of the two is now down to $13,000. The other hovers around the $33,000 mark while we attack the first. Only now do I fully appreciate what the snowball does for behavior. Instead of small victories every month as we had in the beginning, we watch and wait as the numbers slowly sink to $0. Our motivation to scrape together every dime possible to make extra payments on our loans is now manufactured. Each month we watch the loan balance drop but the ending balance is still far from zero. Patience and perseverance are our friends. The motivation that was organic when we started now requires effort to maintain.

I find myself searching for others who have been through something similar and comparing notes to remind myself this is part of the process. Others have done this and we can too! Any goal is possible. You just need a plan – plan the work, work the plan. Debt freedom is worth it. Like anything in life, some day I will look back and realize that it went by in a flash and the daily struggles in the process will diminish until all that’s left is the memory of how we paid off our debt.

Thankfully, I have never felt like quitting. Quitting simply isn’t an option. Debt freedom is the life for me, this I know.