At a Glance

Sure, debt snowball is a great way to pay off your debt. But people make mistakes—that’s how some of us end up in debt in the first place. Below, you’ll find 7 big mistakes you need to avoid while using the debt snowball method.

  • Not tracking your progress
  • Focusing on multiple debts
  • Losing momentum
  • Neglecting your other bills
  • Racking up more debt
  • Not having emergency savings
  • Forgetting your ‘why’

One of the most common debt repayment mistakes people make is not using—or even considering—the debt snowball method as a payoff option. If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you’ve at least considered using the debt snowball approach to pay off your debt (and didn’t want to go to that other guy’s site for help). So, you’re off to a good start.

But there are so many more debt payoff mistakes you need to avoid, especially when paying down debt with the debt snowball method.

Related: How to Start a Debt Snowball

Mistake #1: Not tracking your progress

The whole reason the debt snowball approach works is that you can see small, quick wins and build off that momentum. But how can you build on your progress if you can’t see it?

How to avoid:

As you make payments toward your debts, track how much you’ve paid and how much is remaining on each balance. This way, you’ll be able to see your progress and use it as motivation to continue paying off your debt.

Mistake #2: Focusing on multiple debts

With the snowball method, you put extra toward your debt with the smallest balance and make the minimum payment on the rest until that first debt is completely paid off. Some people falter by trying to put extra money toward more than one debt at a time instead of focusing solely on that smallest balance first.

How to avoid:

Don’t overwhelm yourself and resist the urge to focus on more than one debt.

Trust the process.

Mistake #3: Losing momentum

Once you pay off your smallest balance, you’re supposed to move on to your debt with the next smallest balance. It can be tempting to take some of that extra money and splurge on something you want, but at what cost?

How to avoid:

Can’t believe we’re saying this, but DO NOT TREAT YO’SELF. Instead, keep that snowball a-rollin’.

Mistake #4: Neglecting your other bills

This should go without saying but paying off your debt does not mean forgetting that your other bills and expenses exist. You still need to pay for your rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, childcare, etc. If you miss a bill, you can also hurt your credit score—not to mention accumulate additional debt.

How to avoid:

Creating a detailed budget could help, so you can see your monthly expenses at a glance. It may also make sense to set as many accounts as you can to autopay.

Mistake #5: Racking up more debt

Speaking of additional debt, it’s important not to rack up unnecessary debt on your credit cards while you’re trying to snowball your way out. High credit card balances on top of your current debt could leave you buried.

How to avoid:

Stop using credit while paying off your debt, if possible, and focus on that smallest balance.

Mistake #6: Not having emergency savings

If life—and the year 2020—has taught us anything, it’s that the unexpected can and will occur. If you face an unexpected medical, auto, or other expense, you’ll need to find a way to pay for it that doesn’t put you further in debt.

How to avoid:

Before you shift your focus to the debt snowball method, it could be a good idea to stash away about $1,000 for emergencies. Once you’ve fully paid off your debt, you can add to your emergency fund so it’s at least three months’ worth of expenses (though, six is recommended).

Mistake #7: Forgetting your ‘why’

Without a clear vision of why you want to be debt-free in the first place, it can be hard to stay motivated, even with the small victories the debt snowball method offers.

How to avoid:

Identify your short- and long-term financial goals before you commit to the debt snowball payoff method, and remember that the work you put in while paying off your debt can have lasting effects on your financial health and lifestyle.

Related: How to Live a Debt-Free Lifestyle

Staying on track with the debt snowball method

It’s very easy to lose focus when paying off your debt. The reason the debt snowball method prioritizes smaller debts first is to help you see progress early with quick wins, so you can build momentum as you knock your debts out one by one. A debt snowball calculator can help you see how quickly you’ll be able to pay off each debt and when you can expect to be debt-free.

By avoiding these popular mistakes people make while paying off their debt, you’ll be able to stay motivated and focused on the end goal: a debt-free lifestyle.

Related: Debt Snowball Checklist 2021