Debt Snowball: How Long Does It Take To Be Debt-Free?


Getting out of debt is a process that looks different for everyone. It could take several years if you’re only making minimum monthly payments.

Using a technique like the debt snowball method for paying off debt will accelerate that, but don’t expect results overnight. It took some time to get into debt. Expect it to take some time to get out.

Debt snowball is a technique where you make all of your minimum monthly payments on credit cards and loans. You then add an extra payment, whatever you can afford, to the smallest balance.

Once that balance is paid in full, you start adding that extra payment to the next smallest balance. This continues until all of your debts are paid.

Time Frame Depends On How Much Money You Commit

Debt Snowball How Long Does It Take to Be Debt-Free

If you want to get out of debt quickly, you need to make higher payments. That’s simple math. Your first task before starting a snowball debt reduction plan is to determine how much you can afford to spend on payments each month. That can be determined by creating a budget and spending plan. These are two separate items.

A budget is a breakdown of what you pay out in essential and non-essential expenses. Examples of essential expenses include rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, auto loan payments, credit card payments, and food costs.

Non-essential expenses include takeout, entertainment, and premium cable channels or streaming services. These can be cut back or eliminated while you’re paying off debt.

A spending plan is an addendum to a budget where you categorize your non-essential expenses and set up a small “mini-budget” where you can allow yourself to be somewhat flexible on those extras.

Don’t leave yourself with zero margin because humans don’t function like that. Your debt repayment plan could take years. You need to have some fun during that time—maybe that Disney+ subscription is worth it if it helps keep you happy.

After calculating the budget and spending plan, the remainder is what you can use to pay off debt. Your minimum monthly payments are already included in your budget, so this money is separate.

For best results, use it all to pay down your debt, beginning with the smallest balance owed. When you see that paid off, you’ll gain momentum.

Debt Snowball Method vs. Debt Avalanche

Another method for paying off debt is called the “avalanche” method. Instead of paying the smallest balance first, you pay off the balance with the highest interest rate first, then go in progression by interest rate from there.

Is that way faster? Not necessarily, but you will see a difference in how slowly your overall debt balance grows after you knock out some of those higher rates. The avalanche method usually helps you save more on interest in the long run.

Keep in mind that you’ll never be out of debt if you keep borrowing and using your credit cards. Getting everything down to a zero balance takes discipline, no matter how long it takes.

Budget your money carefully (and establish some emergency savings first!), eliminate unnecessary expenses, leave yourself a little “play money,” and put the rest into debt payments. You’ll be done before you know it.

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Author Bio: Kevin Flynn is a former fintech coach and financial services professional. When not on the golf course, he can be found traveling with his wife or spending time with their eight wonderful grandchildren and two cats.