I’ve never been a scrimper, never one to flip up the couch cushions and dig under the car’s seats looking for enough change to buy whatever it was I was hoping to buy. I either had the money in cash or I didn’t… and then I used my card. I’ve never been able to save up for something either. I wait until I get a big lump sum from somewhere like a tax refund or a gift, or I got a big lump sum somewhere else like a loan company. And paying down debt has always followed the same pattern: minimum payments every month until it was paid off, or maybe a big payment if fate smiled in my direction.
Before Citibank only offered checking and saving accounts to gazillionaires, I had a checking and saving account with them. I also had, and still do, a credit card with them. The accounts were linked and I was able to access both accounts through an ATM. I was able to transfer money from one account to another although I didn’t often take advantage of this feature.
One month, after opening my credit card statement to discover in dismay the larger than anticipated balance due, I decided I was going to try my hardest to get rid of that debt. So I scrimped and flipped cushions and dug under seats. I sold back books and turned in bottles and brought my lunch to work. Every time I had a few extra dollars, I trotted down to the nearest Citibank ATM and transfered that money to my credit card.
I no longer remember how long it took me to pay off the Visa, but it was only a couple of months. I felt so proud the day I transfered the last bit of money and watched the balance refresh to zero.
The next month I bought a new couch and a new desk and a whole bunch of other stuff that I no longer remember. I spent so much in one day that the credit card company put a block on my card, suspecting theft. That was thirteen years ago. My Visa didn’t reach the exalted zero balance again until we took out a fixed rate loan here in France to be able to pay it off. That loan, at a little less that â‚¬200 per month, will be paid off in February, 2011.
I don’t know why I never really thought about snowflaking any of my other debts until recently. Maybe it was that it seemed like too much work: none of my other loans have ever been linked to my checking account and in France all bills are automatically deducted from your account every month. There was one, however, to whom I could send checks over and above the monthly minimum payment. So I started snowflaking bits of money here and there and at some point during the month I’d send in a check or two or three.
And then came our windfall and we were able to pay off the loan in one fell swoop. But you know something? I’ve gotten in the habit of snowflaking. I’m going to snowball the old payment into two: a paying off the car fund and increasing our emergency fund. But I’m going to continue to snowflake every little bit I can in order to reach those two goals as quickly as I can.