DebtFighting Debt

Debt Snowball Vs. Debt Avalanche

The debt snowball versus the debt avalanche

Paying off debt is a very difficult task to achieve.  No matter which way you slice it, it will take time and patience to cut your debt down to $0.  Many people that have reduced their debt live by the two methods that are used most: Debt Snowball and Debt Avalanche.  There are other methods our there, but these are the most common and practical methods.  Not only are they widely recognized, but they also work.  Choosing a debt reduction method for you comes down to how your mind works.  Lets break down the two methods.

The Debt Snowball

The snowball is famously accredited to Dave Ramsey.  This famous financial guru has figured out the method that works toward a person’s emotions.  When starting the snowball method, you are asked to write down your debts in order of balance ascending.  Here is an example:

Credit Card 1: $350

Credit Card 2: $900

Credit Card 3: $2000

Credit Card 4: $5600

To start the snowball, you must work on paying off the smallest balance first, while still paying the minimum monthly payment on the other debts.  Once you pay off the first debt, you move onto the next one, using the money you would spend paying the first debt to add on top of the second’s payment.  This action is what creates the snowball. Paying off a debt is a huge accomplishment and it helps build your confidence on being able to handle your debt reduction plan.  This plan is all psychological.

As you pay off more debts, you can add more money to your monthly payment.  The key to this plan as well as the avalanche is to pay more than the minimum payment on each debt you are working on at the time.  Here is a nice break down if you have an extra $50 per month to add to your payment.

Credit Card 1 Minimum: $20

Credit Card 2 Minimum: $35

Credit Card 3 Minimum: $100

Credit Card 4 Minimum: $180

You would add the extra $50 to your 1st credit card minimum to make a total of $70 per month.  Once that card is payed off, then you pay credit card 2 with the minimum payment, plus the payment from credit card 1.  You would end up paying $105 each month on credit card 2.  You would  continue this until all your credit cards are paid off.  Get started with the Debt Snowball Calculator.

The Debt Avalanche

This method is all about basic math.  It does not deal with your psychological mindset.  In order to start the debt avalanche approach, you would take your debts and list them by interest rate, descending.  Let’s use the example cards from above, but add their interest rates.

Credit Card 3: $2000  APR: 19.99%

Credit Card 1: $350  APR: 10.99%

Credit Card 4: $5600  APR: 8.99%

Credit Card 2: $900  APR: 5.99%

When you list your debts by interest rate, descending, you are effectively taking the shortest amount of time to pay off your debt.  You are also going to save the most money in interest.  When you take out the highest interest rate, you are effectively saving the difference in percentage rate from one debt to the next.  You have to pay off the debt in the same way as the snowball, by adding any extra you have toward the payment, and then using your first debt payment on the second debt.  You continue this until all your debt is paid off.  This method makes the most sense financially and mathematically, but it will not work if you don’t have the will power to continue the debt reduction plan.

The RoundUp

No matter which debt reduction plan you choose, you will have to have the dedication in order to reach success.  I used the debt avalanche method when paying off my credit card debt.  It allowed me to eliminate $50,000 in a little less than 4 years.  It took a lot of patience and will power.  I occasionally had to deal with large balances, so I had to stick with the plan.  There were many times when I wanted to deviate from the plan, but I continued it and it felt great in the end.

Only you can choose which plan is right for you.  Many people will tell you which plan is better, but it depends on how you connect with money and your debt.  If you are emotional and need little victories, then the Snowball method would be best.  If you a numbers person, then the Avalanche method would be your best option.

Try this great debt calculator, via, that allows you to choose between the snowball or avalanche method.

Let me know which method you chose, or which one you plan on implementing when you start your reduction plan.

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Grayson Bell

Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $50,000 in debt. I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a blog management company, along with another blog. It is Empowered Shopper, which helps people get information about products they want to buy. You can also check out Eyes on the Dollar, which is a great blog that I co-own.


  1. chrisno57
    August 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm — Reply

    I am currently using the snowball method. It works for me because I can see the debt being paid off. With each card that gets paid off, I get that much more motivation to continue.

    I understand the concept of the avalanche, but saving the money is not an issue to me. I would rather keep my mind from wandering from my end goal.

    Thanks for the article!

    • Grayson
      August 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm — Reply

      Thanks for stopping by Chrisno. I am glad you liked the article and am happy to hear that you are using the snowball method. It works for many people and that is all that is important. Continue the good work and hopefully you will see when your balance reaches $0!

  2. Jasmine
    November 22, 2013 at 1:19 pm — Reply

    Hi Darren, I used this AWESOME calculator:

    It compares the snowball vs the avalanche methods. In my particular case and the way my student loans are structured (i have no private loans, just government….some subsidized, some non-subsidized) it actually worked out that the Snowball method got me to be debt free two months sooner and saved about $80 in total interest paid. So, of course I am happy thinking I get the best of both worlds in that I get the short term enjoyment from knocking off each loan sooner AND i end up saving more in months of payments and interest paid.

    So, my questions is…is this (mathematically) possible or am I doing something wrong? I tripled checked my entries into the calculator and my actual loan information. I can’t find any other feedback from other people on the internet who found the same worked out for them (Snowball being absolutely better for them than Avalanche method) …Am I crazy? Hope not!

    Thanks in advance for you help/sanity-check?

    • Grayson Bell
      November 22, 2013 at 1:28 pm — Reply

      Hello Jasmine,

      Congrats on using the tool. It is great. Without knowing the exact specifics of your debt and how they are structured, it is hard to answer your question. While I do think it is possible, I have never seen an actual scenario when it was mathematically better to use the snowball method over the avalanche. That being said, who really cares? You identified the method that will get your loans paid off and that is what is important.

  3. star2
    March 16, 2014 at 1:30 am — Reply

    This is great information. I actually married in to $55,000+ credit card debt plus I had $35,000 of credit card and student loans of my own. We have cut “extra” expenses very low; we are daily roman noodle and can soup eaters and I coupon excessively to help with the debt. I am on the right track thanks to help from you and others but my husband has ADHD and is a very impulsive spender.

    We talk about our finances and we agree on actions to take but he on occasion he still can’t help himself and when it happens now it’s typically a big purchase. He used to be implosive with many little purchases that added up but has changed to few big impulse buys since trying to get debt free.

    I know it is part of an ADHD person but he’s killing all progress we make. We’ve talked and even brought his parents over to talk to him (we are in our 30’s) but it’s not that he doesn’t get it’s that he can’t hold the impulse control in forever and when he can no longer stand it he make a in the moment big impulse buy- typically that can’t be returned!

    any thoughts or advise?

  4. J. Bowers
    October 1, 2014 at 10:06 pm — Reply

    I practice and coach others to assess both aspects of your debts, whether measured as a factor of Total Balance owed, or Highest Interest Rate, and weigh the ordering of the debts you want to eliminate in both trends. In some instances, the lesser debt is a more feasible target, and in others the higher interest rate is a more necessary target. By evaluating and applying a tactical mix of both Snowballs and Avalanches, you can generate the needed revenue in accomplishing one, to allow you to successfully eliminate another. Neither one in my opinion is perfectly ideal for all situations. By using a considered mix of both, you can maintain a needed amount of flexibility while still making significant progress against the overall debt total.

    • Grayson Bell
      October 2, 2014 at 9:09 am — Reply

      Though I think the avalanche is more mathematically sound, both methods have their place. No matter which one you choose, you do need to choose one. I kind of did a hybrid method when I paid off my debt. I had a small balance and paid it off quickly, then I moved onto the avalanche.

  5. November 12, 2015 at 3:35 pm — Reply

    I think it’s great you’re motivating so many people to get out of debt! The calculator won’t work for me, but we recently invested in a calculator to help. Feel free to check it out here:

    Thanks for all you do!

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