Paying off credit cards with the snowflake, snowball, and avalanche methods works for some, but for those that have reached a point where their debt is actually unaffordable these strategies are often not enough. Each method assumes that you actually do have the ability to pay off your credit card debt, even if you don’t realize it yet. These strategies have their pros and cons, which we’ll get into here, but if you’re facing credit card debt that you truly cannot see a way out of, there are more drastic steps you can take.
Credit card debt is insidious. It sneaks up on you whenever you’re not looking. Your auto loan doesn’t increase every time you put gas in your car. Your student loans don’t go up every time you learn something new. But the modern world constantly screams at you to charge things to your credit cards, and with the rise of convenient automatic payments, it’s all too easy for your everyday expenses—as well as your other loans—to turn into a mountain of credit card debt. And if you’re only making minimum payments, that debt could easily haunt you for decades.
It’s no wonder American credit card debt topped $1 trillion in 2017, according to the Federal Reserve.
Get your head in the game
The first step to tackling credit card debt is getting yourself into the right mindset. Eliminating debt can be a slog. Instead of focusing on how stressful your debt is, start thinking about how good it’s going to feel when it’s gone, and what you’ll be able to do once you’re debt-free.
“Be positive about the steps you're going to take and how they're going to improve your life," said Chase Peckham, community outreach director for the San Diego Financial Literacy Center. “It could be that if I pay off my debt, my kids are going to be able to play on that club soccer team they've been really wanting to play for, or I might be able to start saving for that vacation that we haven't taken in 10 years."
Thinking about the positives of a life without debt? Good. The next step is picking a plan of attack that makes the most sense for you.
Debt snowflake method
With this method, you look for any small savings you can find throughout the month—anything at all, no matter how small—and apply them toward paying more than your minimum balance on your credit card. Saved 50 cents on grapes at the market? Great, that’s 50 cents toward your credit card bill. Every little bit counts. Enough snowflakes make a blizzard.
Pros: You don’t have to save a designated amount each month. You have the most flexibility around budgeting each month.
Cons: Because you’re only finding a little savings here and there, it’s hard to estimate how long it will take to pay off your debt. It’s likely to be a long road, and you need to be actively watching for every cent of savings that whole time.
Debt snowball method
Pay all your minimum balances, but then put any extra money you can find each month toward paying off the card with the lowest balance. When that card is fully paid off, move to the card with the next lowest balance, and repeat. In this way, you start the snowball rolling downhill, and it gets bigger and more impactful as it goes.
Pros: You get wins faster with this method than any of the others, and each win can help motivate you toward the next one.
Cons: Starting with the lowest balances means you’ll end up paying more interest in the long run.
Debt avalanche method
This works the same as the debt snowball method, except you pay off your cards in order from the highest to the lowest interest rate. This way, when you pay off a card in full, it makes the biggest possible impact on your overall debt.
Pros: You’ll pay less money in interest overall.
Cons: Your first big win will take the longest to achieve, which can be demoralizing.
If you still can’t pay
The debt snowflake, debt snowball, and debt avalanche methods all assume that you can afford to pay more than the minimum payment on your credit cards, even if it’s only by a little bit. But maybe you simply can’t afford to pay more than the minimum on huge balances month after month, no matter how hard you try. Maybe you’ve tried these methods, but it’s been too difficult to scrape together the extra funds on a regular enough basis to make a dent. Or maybe the stress of your debt is damaging your relationships or forcing you to put off major life milestones like buying a house or getting married (72% of American adults said debt would make them reconsider a romantic relationship).
If any or all of those symptoms feel familiar, your debt could be unaffordable. That’s where DebtCleanse comes in. If your unaffordable credit card debt is ruining your life and you can’t see a way out, following these steps may help you settle your debt for a fraction of its original value.
- Stop paying your unaffordable debt. Creditors will never accept a smaller settlement as long as they’re still getting money from you. Cutting off the flow is a necessary first step toward the negotiating table, and you’ll need that money later on.
- Put that money you would have been paying into your “settlement wallet.” Start saving the funds you would have paid each month toward your debt so you can ultimately pay it off as a lump sum, and/or pay for an attorney.
- Dispute the debt. Debt buyers, and even originating lenders, often have weak documentation to show the debt is accurate and that they really have a legal right to collect the debt. Send them a letter to make them prove you really owe.
- Find deficiencies. When your creditors make mistakes—and it happens more often than you might think—you can use them to your advantage in a negotiation or court case.
- Get legal help. Whether you need help scanning through loan paperwork for deficiencies or standing up for yourself in a lawsuit, having at attorney who has been specially trained in DebtCleanse’s debt-fighting techniques can make all the difference.
- Settle your debt at a big discount. Your creditors will eventually realize it’s better to get something than nothing and offer you a lump sum settlement, ideally for what you’ve saved in your settlement wallet—or even less.
(For more on these steps, read “A debt plan for when you can’t pay.”)
Clearing Unaffordable Debts with DebtCleanse
DebtCleanse’s methods, like any other method of eliminating debt, can take months to years. And withholding payments from your lenders will hurt your credit score (but then, so would failing to pay because you’re broke, or declaring bankruptcy). But if you can’t snowflake, snowball, or avalanche your way out from under crushing credit card debt, the best option left is to fight your unaffordable debt with every tool at your disposal. And DebtCleanse wants to help you do it.
Join our email list today to learn more about how DebtCleanse is leading the fight against unaffordable consumer debt.