If you’ve heard of the debt avalanche method, you might be confused as to how it differs from the debt snowball method. Maybe you’re facing a mountain of debt, and you’re looking at how to pay it off with the least amount of struggle.

Debt interferes with daily life and costs us freedom financially. You know you need to pay off your debt, and you’ve been trying to avoid bankruptcy and credit counseling programs.

The problem is, most of the common information you’ve heard about paying off debt seems to ignore one thing: the interest rate.

While the snowball method instructs you to list your biggest debt first and disregard interest, the avalanche method takes a more mathematical approach.

Here’s what both debt management plans have in common: They require that you:

  1. Stop Borrowing Money. You can’t pay off debt if you’re still taking out loans and buying things with credit. You’ll need to cut your budget down to a cash-only plan by reducing expenses.
  2. Have Laser-Focus on Debt. Cancel everything that gets in the way of paying off your debt. This means you don’t invest in stocks, you don’t take an expensive vacation, and you don’t decide to remodel the house. All spare cash goes into your debt program.

Ultimately, the best method is the one you’re more likely to stick with, but you’ll need the details to make an educated decision. By the end of this article, you’ll have a good explanation of the debt avalanche method and whether it’s right for you.

How the Debt Avalanche Method Works

The idea of the debt avalanche method is simple. You place the highest-interest debt at the top of a list and pay them off first. Meanwhile, you make minimum payments to all other creditors at the same time. This way, you minimize the rate of interest accrual by deprioritizing the lower interest debt.

When you pay off your first debt, you give yourself a pat on the back and move your focus to the second debt on the list. You then use the amount that you were paying on the first debt and add it to the second.

If you keep following this method, you’ll have eventually tackled the entire list while paying minimal interest to your creditors.

The main benefit of this method is that you are saving money because you’re paying less interest. The avalanche method will be the perfect plan for you if you can’t stand high-interest rates and giving too much money to your creditors.

You’re likely to have success with the avalanche method if you are:

  • You’re not swayed by short-term gratification or emotional purchases. You’re in it for the long-haul, and you know that if you stay on track, you’ll come out ahead.
  • Detail-Oriented. You make good decisions when you have the facts and numbers at hand. Keeping track of personal finances is a numbers game that you can win if you do your calculations correctly.
  • Tactical and Deliberate. You can’t stand throwing more money at your creditors than they deserve. With a smart plan and solid follow-through, you can save money and pay off debt quicker.

Let’s take an example list of four debts. We’ll say that you are willing to throw in an extra $999 more than the minimum payments each month to pay off debt. Here are the four debts using the debt snowball method:

Debt Snowball Method

The Debt:

Debt A: $4,569 for a car loan with a 6% interest rate and $435 monthly minimum payments.

Debt B: $11,859 in personal loan debt with a 7.6% interest rate and $315 monthly minimum payments.

Debt C. $12,119 in credit card debt with a 16% interest rate and $300 monthly minimum payments.

Debt D. $163,845 in school loans with a 4.750% interest rate and $770 monthly minimum payments.

The Results:

Debt Total (Principal): $192,392

Monthly Payments Total (Minimum Payment of $1820 plus an extra $999): $2819

Payoff Date: February 2024

Interest Paid: $34,429.49

The total amount of interest paid was $34,429.49 with the snowball method. Not pretty. Let’s check the avalanche plan.

Notice that Debts A, B, and C are switched according to highest interest first in the list below:

Debt Avalanche Method

The Debt:

Debt C. $12,119 in credit card debt with a 16% interest rate and $300 monthly minimum payments.

Debt B: $11, 859 in personal loan debt with a 7.6% interest rate and $315 monthly minimum payments.

Debt A: $4,569 for a car loan with a 6% interest rate and $435 monthly minimum payments.

Debt D. $163, 845 in school loans with a 4.750% interest rate and $770 monthly minimum payments.

The Results:

Debt Total (Principal): $192,392

Monthly Payments Total (Minimum Payment of $1820 plus an extra $999): $2819

Payoff Date: February 2024

Interest Paid: $33,660.79

See the difference? The total time to pay off the debt stayed the same when comparing the two methods, but the interest paid changed.

The interest on the avalanche method is not pretty either, but paying off the debt in the debt avalanche order would have saved you a total of $768.70 in interest payments.

The results can be more extreme if you have several high-interest rate loans. Sometimes the debt avalanche method can shave off a few months from repayment time too.

Using an Excel spreadsheet will allow you to add a new sheet for each month so you can go back to check progress quickly and see how far you’ve come.

Conclusion

Using the debt avalanche method can save you money and time in paying your creditors. It might take you longer to pay off the first debts on the list than if you’d used the snowball method, so there is no quick emotional gratification. But knowing that you’re minimizing interest payments to your creditors may be just as rewarding.

Ultimately, the goal is to pay your way to financial freedom by choosing the best debt plan that works for you.