Debt snowball reasoning

Dave Ramsey
September 26, 2017 - 3:09 pm

Dear Dave,

Why do you recommend paying off debts from smallest to largest when doing the debt snowball?


Dear Michael,

Lots of people think paying off the debt with highest interest rate first is the best approach. This seems to make sense mathematically, but I realized a long time ago if those people could do math they wouldn’t be drowning in debt

Debt is not a mathematical problem, it’s a behavior problem. Personal finance is 80 percent behavior, and only 20 percent head knowledge. The reason the debt snowball pays off debt from smallest to largest — even though it may be mathematically incorrect — is that modifying your behavior and inspiring you to get out of debt is more important than the math. Your probability of becoming wealthy has a lot more to do with your behavior than any sort of financial sophistication or academic degree. 

When you pay off a small debt you experience success, and that gives you hope. Then, you move on the next largest debt. When you pay that one off — and you’ve wiped out two debts — it energizes you. At that point, you really start to believe in yourself and the fact that you’re on the road to becoming debt-free!


* Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including The Total Money Makeover. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 13 million listeners each week on 585 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.

Comments ()