How to use 'snowflake savings' to pay down card debt

Saving a little every week adds up, then apply that to erase your bills

Susan Ladika
Personal Finance Writer
Expert on fraud, travel and debt.

How to use the snowflake method of saving to pay down your card debt

Living in Florida, I rarely ever see snow, so it seems a bit odd I’ve adopted the snowflake method of saving to pay down my credit card debt.

What is the snowflake method? You’ve seen how quickly tiny snowflakes can accumulate on a winter day. Tiny payments also can pile up to pay off your debt.

The snowflake method reminds me of my mom’s way of saving up for something special when I was little. She’d take all the dimes, quarters and dollar bills she saved from clipping coupons and from grocery store sales and tuck them away in a tin can that once contained frozen orange juice concentrate.

After reading about the snowflake method recently, I decided to try it. If small savings worked for Mom, maybe this would work for me, too.

How to implement the 'snowflake method' to pay down card debt

I’m already focused on paying off a credit card with a too-high interest rate, so I decided to add snowflake savings to that effort.

I’m a big comparison shopper – checking Publix (a Florida-based supermarket chain), Target and Amazon to find the best prices on groceries, pet supplies and household items.

To test my snowflake strategy, I decided to track all the savings I racked up from buy-one-get-ones, coupons, sale prices and my Cartwheel app from Target for four weeks, and use the savings to make an extra payment on my credit card bill each week.

On day No. 1 of implementing my snowflake strategy, I saved $2.28 - 98 cents at Target for two on-sale plastic bottles of orange juice, $1.30 buying bread and popcorn on sale at Whole Foods (plus getting 10 percent off as an Amazon Prime member).

Three days later I saved $3.67 at Publix on sales and BOGOs. That gave me a grand total of $6.65 for the week, which I rounded up to $7. I transferred this savings from my checking account to my Visa bill, erasing $7 off my card debt.

The next week I had even better results – paring my card debt by $16 from my couponing and other savings. For example, $5 came from a coupon for contact lens solution, while 85 cents came from ordering kitten milk replacement for kittens I’m fostering. With PetSmart.com, you can order online and save 5 percent by picking up your items in the store.

Week No. 3 was even more lucrative – saving $21.20 with sales and discounts at Publix, Target and Walgreens. Cha-ching. An extra $21 transferred to my Visa bill.

In week No. 4, my car’s oil change turned out to be on “ladies day,” saving me 10 percent, or $2.19. Amazon had a $2 coupon for a solar lantern I purchased for the start of hurricane season, something top of mind for Floridians. Add in my Publix savings, and I transferred another $12 to my Visa bill.

That gave me a grand total of $56 extra paid to my Visa bill in just four weeks.

How 'snowflake savings' can add up over time

My $56 in savings over four weeks is a decent amount. If I saved that much every month, it would generate an extra $672 to pay toward my Visa bill over the course of a year.

Since I currently owe $1,100 on this card, if I make only the monthly minimum payments of $35, it would take me around eight years to erase this card debt. By sending the minimum payment plus my snowflake savings every month, this card will be paid off in less than a year.

You may be able to save even more than I did with my snowflake strategy.

For example, if you’re a regular Starbucks customer, cutting one coffee a day would give you an extra $25 per week to pay to your debt. Or maybe bring your lunch to work one day, and transfer that extra $10 to your credit card bill.

If you take on extra work, such as mowing lawns or cleaning houses, you could add that to your credit card payment.

Adopt a snowflake strategy that works best for you and is tailored to your spending and lifestyle. However you collect your snowflake savings, the most important thing is to start paying down your debt.

See related: 8 steps to reduce your credit card debt, 9 free or cheap apps to help you get out of debt


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Updated: 11-16-2018