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TheStreet Open House

Using the Snowball to Melt Debt

What is the best way to reduce debt? It's a question that everyone with debt asks at some point.

The most-efficient means of debt reduction is probably the snowball method. There are two main variations of the snowball method, but you must consider your personality to determine which of the two is right for you.

The Classic Snowball

The classic snowball debt reduction method works as follows:

  1. Make a list of all your debts, ordering them from highest interest rate to lowest interest rate.
  2. Set aside a specific amount of money that will go toward paying these debts each month.
  3. From the amount you set aside, make the minimum payment on all debts. Whatever money is still left over goes toward the debt with the highest interest rate.
  4. When you finish paying off the debt with the highest interest, continue the same method. You make the minimum payment on all debts, and all of the extra money goes toward paying down the debt with the now-highest interest. The payments made toward the first debt that was paid off get "snowballed" into the next-highest-interest-rate debt.

This is the most efficient way to pay off debt, as you will pay the least amount in interest charges by reducing debt this way. This is the reason most financial experts recommend this method.

The problem is that for many people, it's not necessarily the most practical way to approach debt reduction. This is due to the fact that people don't always use money in a rational manner but instead use money emotionally. If everyone viewed money in a purely rational way, there would be far fewer people in debt than there are today.

If your largest debt happens to be the one with the highest interest (which is common), you could end up feeling that paying off that amount of debt is hopeless since it's so huge and daunting. Many people begin the debt reduction process but after several months don't see any significant progress being made. If they don't feel as if they are accomplishing anything, they get frustrated and give up.

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