The Total Money Makeover: The Debt Snowball

This is the sixth of twelve parts of a “book club” reading and discussion of Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, where this book on debt reduction is teased apart and looked at in detail. This entry covers the seventh chapter, finishing on page 132. The next entry, covering the eighth chapter, will appear on Wednesday.

ttmmYou’ve got a big pile of debts in front of you. They’re scary. The totals of all of the debts takes your breath away when you think about it. You don’t know where to start. You need a plan.

Dave Ramsey calls his plan the “debt snowball,” and it’s based on psychology, not math. If you’re going for pure math, the best way to pay off your debts would be to start with the one with the highest interest rate, since that will save you the most interest per dollar that you pay back.

Dave’s plan is different – he encourages people to pay back their debts from smallest balance to largest balance. The smallest balance debt gives you a “win” as early as possible in your debt repayment – which is a huge psychological boost.

Do I buy it? I played with the numbers a while back and my conclusion was that the difference between the plans – unless you’re talking about enormous debt loads with huge disparities in interest rate – doesn’t save you enough to not try the debt snowball method.

Identify the Enemy
On page 109, Dave makes a worthwhile point about figuring out what you’re working against:

The bottom line is that it is easy to become wealthy if you don’t have any payments. You may get sick of hearing it, but the key to winning any battle is to identify the enemy. The reason I am so passionate about getting rid of debt is that I have seen how many people make huge strides toward being a millionaire in the short time after they get rid of their payments.

I agree with this to a large extent, but I don’t think Ramsey really spells it out fully here or even later in the passage. If your goal is financial freedom, the enemy is unnecessary spending, not the debt. Debt is merely a symptom of that problem.

Let’s say you spend $100 more a month than you bring in without anything in the bank. This behavior means that you’re building up debt. Make a handful of spending changes and now you’re spending $100 less than you bring in. Put that extra $100 towards the debt and it goes away. Then you can start saving that $100 (and probably more, since you don’t have those debt payments to cover) towards a big goal.

It all comes back to getting your spending under control. If you can’t get your spending under control on a consistent basis, all of the debt planning in the world won’t do a thing.

Debt Repayment Is Hard
Ramsey argues that repaying your debts is hard on page 111:

This is the toughest of all the Baby Steps to your Total Money Makeover. It is so hard, but it is so worth it. This step requires the most effort, the most sacrifice, and is where all your broke friends and relatives will make fun of you (or join you).

Is it that hard? I think it’s hard in the sense that when you’re standing there at the starting line of a marathon, the finish line looks impossibly far away. Then you start running and you’re caught up in the race. You get into a rhythm, you’re gliding along, and before you know it, the finish line is there.

Lao-Tzu was absolutely right. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

That first step is the hardest part.

It definitely was the hardest part for me. I knew for a long time that “someday” I’d have to fix my debt problems, but that “someday” was always put off into the future.

Then, finally, I was forced into taking that first step. The fear of not taking a step grew greater than the fear of getting started.

But once I took that first step, the second one was easier, the third one was easier, and before you know it, I’m well along the path and it’s like a slow train coming around the bend, clickety clack.

Math Versus Behavior
The idea of psychology versus numbers comes to a head on page 111:

We have discussed that personal finance is 80 percent behavior and 20 percent head knowledge. The Debt Snowball is designed the way it is because we are more concerned with modifying behavior than correct mathematics. [...] Being a certified nerd, I always used to start with making the math work. I have learned that the math does need to work, but sometimes motivation is more important than math. This is one of these times.

As I mentioned earlier, I ran the math myself, comparing the “optimum” strategy (which means you repay your debts in order of interest rate, highest to lowest) to the “debt snowball” strategy (which means you repay your debts in order of balance, lowest to highest). What I found is that the math difference isn’t that big of a deal if you’re really hitting those debts with a strong force.

At the same time, it’s easy to see situations where the psychological difference is enormous. Let’s say that your smallest debt is your lowest interest debt and your highest interest debt is much bigger. If you throw the kitchen sink at the smaller debt, it goes poof pretty quickly – and that feels good. If you throw the kitchen sink at the bigger debt, it takes a long time for that debt to go poof. It’s a real slog – a painful one.

Some people get irritated if they think they’re doing things in a way that’s even slightly suboptimal and are also self-motivated enough to push through. Frankly, there aren’t too many of those people – those that are out there are probably not considering the “debt snowball.”

So, I think Dave’s plan works quite well.

How It Works In Detail
He lays out the plan in a single paragraph on page 114:

The Debt Snowball method requires you to list all your debts in order of smallest playoff balance to largest. List all your debts except your home; we will get to it in another step. List all of your debts – even loans from Mom and Dad or medical debts that have zero interest. I don’t care if there is interest or not. I don’t care if some have 24 percent interest and others 4 percent. List the debts smallest to largest!

This is a very good first step, but I don’t think it’s quite the final step.

Once you have that list, it’s worthwhile to call up each of your creditors and negotiate a bit. The big move is to ask for a lower rate on each of your credit cards. Some people get paranoid with this, asking things like “What if they cancel my card?” Well, what if they do? If you’re committed to reducing your debt, that shouldn’t be a real problem.

Another step you should take is stopping by your local credit union and seeing what they can do to help you consolidate some of those debts. You might be able to drastically reduce some of the interest rates via a personal loan or some other vehicle. Don’t get involved with a “debt reduction” company – use your local credit union.

Once you’ve tried those things, your list will be different – and easier. Cross off those debts that you consolidated – they’re done! At that point, rewrite your list, again with the debt with the lowest balance on top.

Then comes the hard work – paying them off.

The Big Payoff
Dave explains why it’s a snowball on page 117:

After you list the debts smallest to largest, pay the minimum payment to stay current on all the debts except the smallest. Every dollar you can find from anywhere in your budget goes toward the smallest debt until it is paid. Once the smallest is paid, the payment from that debt, plus any extra “found” money, is added to the next smallest debt. (Trust me, once you get going, you will find money.) Then, when debt number two is paid off, you take the money that you used to pay on number one and number two and you pay it, plus any found money, on number three.

It’s like a snowball rolling down the hill. Your extra payments on that first debt are small, but it’s rolling along. Eventually, it’s paid off, and your extra payment picks up the minimum payment of the first debt. The snowball gets bigger as it rolls. Your next debt is done, and the snowball gets even bigger, picking up another minimum payment.

The part I found interesting here is this one: Trust me, once you get going, you will find money.

This is absolutely true, but it’s something people can scarcely believe when they first start. Once the debt starts slipping away, you start to really get into it. I know I certainly did. Watching the debt getting smaller and smaller is really exciting, and you want next month to be even more awesome. So you start looking for ways to save. You start looking for things to do differently.

And you find them.

After all, you wouldn’t be in debt trouble to begin with if you were spending your money in an optimal fashion.

There’s Not Enough Money To Get Started!
There usually is if you do things the right way. On page 124, after a story about a logjam on a river:

When the dynamite blew, logs and pieces of logs would fly into the air. After working so hard to cut the trees, some of them were a total loss. They had to blow up some of the timber to get the rest of the crop to market. That’s the sacrifice the situation required. Sometimes that is what you have to do with the stopped-up budget. You have to dynamite it. You have to get radical to get the money flowing again.

Radical usually gets people uncomfortable. I know this from experience – people don’t mind frugal tips as long as they’re easy, but I start getting flamed if I suggest something personally challenging. Cancel the cable? You’ll pry the remote from my cold, dead hands. Sell your car? Get a rope.

Here’s the thing, though. When you sit down and rationally consider getting rid of something you consider beyond question, quite often you find that it’s not really a bad move at all to get rid of it. Getting rid of cable is completely unthinkable to many people until they think about it. What are they getting from the cable that isn’t fulfilled by other avenues, like Hulu.com or over-the-air television or a $1 DVD rental once a week?

What about selling a car? I can’t stand the loss of freedom! What freedom? How often do you use the car in a way that isn’t served by the metro or a short walk or a bit more careful planning? Is it really worth the insurance cost to keep it around?

Look at something big. Ditch your house and move into an apartment. Rent out a room. Give up all beverages but water. Sell your television. The impact of a truly big move will be like a tidal wave over your debt – or any other big financial goals you have.

Do you have any other thoughts on this chapter of The Total Money Makeover? Please share them in the comments – and feel free to respond to any of my impressions as well. After all, a good book club is all about discussion!

On Wednesday, we’ll tackle the eighth chapter – Finish the Emergency Fund.

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  1. Jessica says:

    I just wanted to say that the finding extra money is so true. Snowflakes seem to fall from the sky and when you’re paying attention and making each dollar count, you tend to notice them more. Your friend payed you back 10$, snowflake. Tax refund, snowflake.

    As a side note, I absolutely LOVE every single time you use the phrase: you can pry my ______ out of my cold dead hands. Coffee, laundry detergent, remote… it’s EPIC every single time :D

  2. Luke Grand says:

    This is by far my favorite chapter in the book, and the area of TMMO that requires the most discipline. I’m only half way through baby step 2, and have found it to be a grueling, uphill climb out of debt.

    Early on, we enjoyed quick victories with smaller debts, but now we are looking up at a small mountain left on one credit card and one student loan. We’ve eliminated just about everything from our lives we can cut, and still it will take months to clear these debts. But clear them we will!

  3. KC says:

    People don’t fully understand how much cars effect your budget. Cars are a true luxury. When you factor in the cost of a car (just to buy it), insurance, taxes (sales tax at purchase and annual property tax), tags, fees, gas, routine maintenance (oil, tires, belts, etc) and unexpected maintenance (repairs) you are looking at several thousand dollars a year minimum – now multiply by two if you are a 2 car family. My family estimates we spend $7k a year on our cars when you spread out the cost of the car and maintenance over the 10-12 years we expect to own them as well as the other associated costs I’ve mentioned. We have modest cars paid for with cash and have < 5 mile commutes daily. Cars truly area luxury and can be a big strain on a budget if not kept in check.

  4. Jason says:

    I’m working through my debt using the snowball now. The quick win part is a huge psychological boost. My wife and I were motivated to keep going the rest of the way after a couple of debts were conquered.

    There’s another benefit that I’ve found. Once you have a couple of debts paid off and you are paying into the next, you start to get a new sense of financial security. Not only do I have the emergency fund but now I have, just in case, the debt repayment funds which can be used for an emergency. I have more flexibility now and for me that’s almost more important that being debt free.
    The trick is to not lose focus on that debt snowball.

  5. I definitely am finding that I need the psychological boost of tackling the smallest debts first to help push me forward to the next debt!

    I wonder if people are having more trouble getting the card companies to lower their rates in this economic climate? I know I definitely got a big fat no when it came to dealing with a company that arbitrarily raised rates across the board.

  6. L says:

    I agree about cars being expensive, but for so many people they are necesary, not luxury. We live in a rural area – my job is close, but my husband has to drive 45 mins away. We can’t move, for many personal and financial reasons, and our schedules are insanely different, so we have no choice but to have two cars. In some cities I can see using public transportation, but many of us live in areas where this is not a choice, and yet it seems like the car is always the first thing mentioned in PF blogs..

  7. Agree about finding extra money. It’s out there.

    Something anybody in this situation might find helpful to supplement Dave Ramsey’s strategy, is a book called “10-Day Money Makeover.” It’s a bit new age, but I feel it’s worth a look if you’re open to that kind of thing.

    http://www.amazon.com/10-Day-Money-Makeover-Prosperity-BoldThoughts-com/dp/1608420000/ to check it out.

    Bottom line is you have to change habits. The way most people spend money is the “path of least resistance.” We make quick, reaction-based decisions based on what feels good now, rather than what is good for us in the long term. These two things are almost always opposite. It’s like eating Big Macs. Feels good now, but in the long term, it’s definitely not the best thing to put in our bodies.

    Good article!! Keep ‘em coming!

  8. Java Monster says:

    I’d love to use public transportation–if there were any, and if LA would devote some REAL roadspace for bicycles as an alternate way to get places. I would love that!

    But since I live in Los Angeles, there are none of those things. Even walking is annoying here because of the constant whistles women get from jerks riding along in their cars, and the distances necessary to get anywhere (even the local downtown).

    Yes, I’d say a car is a necessity here. My family has done the one-car thing before, and believe me, it was a huge relief for me and my husband when we were able to afford a second car.

  9. Java Monster says:

    As for the TV and cable? I’d love to get rid of *that*–but hell would have to freeze over first before the rest of my family would give it up.

  10. Adam says:

    We are 2 months away from finishing our snowball (on my birthday!) and it has been a challenge.

    We got rid of cable and we really don’t miss it at all!

    The main factor of the debt snowball is patience and focus. It takes awhile, but, and that total gets less and less, it really gets your excitement going.

  11. Verzamelaar says:

    The fact that people realize that they can do something about their financial debts is in my opinion the biggest gain (or profit) they can make. The actual method comes second and during the proces of reducing the debts more efficient ways will be found.

  12. Mary W says:

    A couple of other thoughts to consider in determining what debts to pay first:

    Late fees are a killer. If you pay off smaller debts first, that simplifies future payments and less possibility for late fees. (Yes, I know if you’re organized that wouldn’t be an issue but not everyone is organized.)

    Pay off debts with variable interest rates (e.g., most credit cards) first rather than fixed rates (e.g, car loans). While the rates may be similar enough now to not make a difference, that could change in a month or so.

    Pay off debts/cc that won’t reoccur. For example, pay off your piano loan first rather than a cc. You’ll never buy another piano again, but you’ll likely want to use a cc again even if you pay the balance every month. This is largely psychological rather than mathematical.

  13. Amateur says:

    I’ve heard a lot of arguments about adding bike lanes in the city, making the city bike friendly for commuters. Now, that seems nice and all from the outside, but in the northeast, foul winter weather and cold weather covers more than half the year. Bikes are not very useful in high winds and 20 degree temperatures and nonetheless as much as you can bike across bridges to work, most coworkers will not tolerate working near someone who is baked in their own sweat first thing in the morning.

    I’m waiting for the northeast to implement some sort of motor scooter (think Vespa) or low speed vehicle lane where commuters can safely move without competing with trucks and buses.

  14. Geektronica says:

    This is by far the most important chapter in Dave’s book. I think he makes a good point that you don’t get anywhere by trying to chip away at 10 different debt payments all at the same time – pay the minimum on all except the smallest, and tackle the smallest debt with everything you’ve got. Rinse and repeat.

    Another psychological benefit of the debt snowball is the increasing reward of focus: as you pay off each little debt, you get more and more focused on the big ones.

  15. Kai says:

    To comment #10-
    As a bike commuter who does it despite all those problems you mentioned, I’d really like the bike lane. I unfortuantely know many people who would seriously consider biking but for the traffic issues. I go anyways, but definitely don’t care for the danger level.
    The online converter I have found has translated your (presumably fahrenheit) 20degrees to a nice mild -6.7. If that’s the worst it gets in your parts, you really have no excuse for not biking!

    The inevitable sweatiness of biking is the only valid point. Luckily, many workplaces have showers, so you can bike in in your biking clothes, then shower and get dressed for work there. Alternately, I know a number of people who are members of the gym I work at – bike downtown to the gym, do their workout, then shower, dress, and walk to work. Convenient even to leave the bike and biking stuff at the gym.

    For those without this nicety – well, that’s another small infrastructure change that would enable more people to bike-commute. It doesn’t take much work to put a shower stall in one of the bathrooms, and that would make a big difference. Much smaller even a change than the bike lane.

    (I don’t own a car, because I can’t afford one. Nor am I foolish enough to go into debt to do so. That said, it is definitely a pain to not own a car for anything. Groceries in small trips only, hour-long train rides to visit some friends, and dependence on others for some trips. As a devoted mountain-person, I get out of the city a couple times a week, and get by going with other people (for a share of gas money), but that means that I get to live without a car only because others dont. And no, you can’t get out to my mountains without a car.)

  16. For those in urban areas, ZipCar and here in the Bay Area also CityCarShare are viable options to owning a car. I haven’t owned a car for 3 years, but use CityCarShare for errands, even overnight. There are 3 cars within walking distance. The concept is growing by leaps and bounds in larger areas. However, in smaller and rural areas, public transportation or shared car usage just isn’t an option (yet).

  17. anne says:

    hey #12- kai

    i don’t know if it’s the same everywhere, but here in connecticut i bought a family ymca membership, and it allows us to go to any ymca in the state-

    that could be very helpful to someone who lives in one town and bikes to another

    and stop and shop and shop rite will deliver groceries- that’s another way to help w/ the grocery shopping w/out a car

    for a while we were a one car family, and i was able to walk to work, so we were ok.

    i think you’re smart to not get a car if there’s any way to avoid it.

  18. Kacie says:

    Another advantage to paying off your smallest debt first — you get rid of that minimum payment ASAP.

    If a crisis comes up and you need to temporarily halt your snowball, that’s one less payment you need to factor in.

  19. Katie says:

    I think it was this blog that mentioned the psychological snowball. I am the most upset about one card that is not my smallest balance. If I pay that off (and I am working on it!) I’ll feel GREAT so I am focusing my efforts there.

  20. Lenore says:

    This is completely off-topic, but I wanted to say it before I forget. Trent, I think it would be really helpful and important to your readers if you delved into the proposed U.S. health care reform. Could you break it down into simple terms, do a cost-benefit analysis or discuss some of the major goals or stumbling blocks? Whether it passes or not is going to affect all of our financial futures, so I thought you might want to address it in the near future. Thanks! (And keep plugging away on the weight loss, 5K, creative writing goals, etc. You bring a lot of sunshine to a lot of lives and deserve all the best!)

  21. Caroline says:

    On finding things to give up – so true! Once the cable is gone, you don’t miss it! Having read “How To Live Well Without A Car,” I’m convinced to ditch that too. Renting is usually better than buying (when it comes to most things). I’m trying to figure out how to enjoy cooking….eating out is my real Achilles heal. At least I usually drink water with everything.

  22. sophia says:

    I fully realize that Dave Ramsey isn’t saying anything that isn’t common sense, but something about his delivery, the way he sets up his plan, and the simplicity of it really affects people. I knew a family that all subscribed to this plan, and I’m telling you seeing what they did motivated me even more. We’re talking two very young couples (married at 21, first children within two years, second children shortly after) that were committed to stay at home moms, and for a while had the husband still in college AND working.. on a teacher’s salary one couple paid off $18,000 in debt and purchased a home with 20% down in a little under two years, all while adding another child and getting pregnant with their third, AND buying a new van in cash, and saving up 6 months expenses… it’s crazy what can be done with motivation. The other couple paid off all of their debt, had a second child, and like the first maintained a stay at home mother arrangement. About 3 years ago I started paying off my debt, while working full time and going to school full time for a master’s degree, and I’ll be debt free this fall. I’ve passed the book along to everyone I know, just because I think it’s such a good first step, especially this part, where you get focused and aim to get out from under debt. I think many areas of Dave’s book can and should be tweaked, and it creeps me out when people kind of worship him, but it certainly jumpstarts a lot of people because he just understands how to get into the psychology of it.

  23. Amateur says:

    Response to Kai:

    You must live in a really great city! There are not showers in many workplaces, unfortunately, here in the states in the northeast unless you worked at a sports club, spa, hospital, or some facility equipped for showering.

    The other issue with biking to work is the lack of bike racks for the bikes or workplaces that allow storage of bikes. Most folks end up chaining their bikes to random lamp posts and no parking signs. In addition to that, bike seats and front wheels (for nicer bikes) must be removed or they will be stolen here (New York City).

    It gets extremely cumbersome to bike with a set of work clothes, shoes, lunch, laptop perhaps, and having to lug the front wheel, bike helmet, and bike seat into the workplace. This will be especially ugly when it sleets or rains.

    The bike lanes are still a nice addition and it would be even nicer if there were secured parking lots (like cars, but for bikes) to ensure bikes don’t get stolen and are protected from vandalism.

    Most people have to rely on public transportation or cars, there aren’t too many ways around this. Public transportation is for the able-bodied, there are many many staircases and a stampede of people running around in the major terminals/transfer points. If someone cannot move fast enough or have back or knee problems, most transit stops do not have elevators or escalators. Big cities have 24hr public transportation, but if someone works a late or very early shift, personal safety becomes an issue and the car becomes a necessity.

  24. Lynne says:

    When my husband was diagnosed with cancer and we knew he would not survive I realized I had to take charge of some debts that I would not be able to carry on my income alone. We didn’t have credit card debt, but we had a large car payment, and our house payment. I paid off the car first even though it had a 0% financing. The monthly payment was actually a higher dollar amount than our house because I had been paying down on it, and they kept re-adjusting the payment. So I added extra $$ to the car payment. As soon as it was paid off, I added that much extra to the house payment & soon that was paid off. I figured it would be better to be left with the smaller monthly payment than the larger one if it came to that. My husband did pass away, and the extra money we had in our regular account was quickly depleted dealing with his illness & the expenses involved. Fortunately I have a reserve fund I had built up, and there is a small IRA that was all we were able to salvage when his company’s retirement went the way of so many other peoples funds. I’m not complaining–we had a good life while it lasted (35 years of marriage), and I am getting by. I have my family & my church & my job, so I am more blessed than many others.

  25. DB Cooper says:

    “Is it that hard? I think it’s hard in the sense that when you’re standing there at the starting line of a marathon, the finish line looks impossibly far away. Then you start running and you’re caught up in the race. You get into a rhythm, you’re gliding along, and before you know it, the finish line is there.”

    I realize this was meant as a metaphor, but – obviously – you have never run a marathon. I’ve completed several, and never, not once has the finish line simply been there before I knew it!

    Regarding debt snowballing, it is what has worked to get us out of over $35,000 in credit card and auto loan debt in just two years.

  26. Kandace says:

    I echo the previous commenter’s post: running a marathon is not easy nor does the finish line come any time too soon.

    To run a marathon takes months of training–perhaps Ramsay’s earlier baby steps prior to the debt snowball makes a good analogy.

    Running a marathon–and getting out of debt with a snowball–is more of a mental exercise than a physical one. Once the body is tired or hits a wall, it’s the mental training that takes over in order to finish the race.

  27. Ro says:

    We are in step two and I feel like it’s been forever, and some days it feels like it will be forever until we move on to step three. However, we keep trying to find more areas to cut back on and add that to our debt snowball, and I know we’ll get there.

  28. Brad says:

    I wrote a blog entry about this very topic a couple of weeks ago. Everyone I know likes to pay off the small balances first for that psych boost. I know I am the very same way.

    If I was to put everything on my higher limit cards I’d get disgruntled pretty fast. I know this because I have done that before and been there. Now that I see my smaller cards disappearing, I feel much more confident in my ability to control my debt. Sure I lose a few $ in interest fees but I feel more in control which to me is more important. I know it makes no sense to people who are snowballing but to me it makes all the sense.

  29. Kami says:

    How I negotiated with my credit card company was that- I didnt. I called said I couldnt afford it anymore and what were they going to do about it. After a couple of transfers, the rep put me on a payment plan that lowered my interest on my Chase card to 6% and the minimum to $80/mo. To get it though you have to close the account. I didnt care because it wasnt my oldest card and I had already cut up the card a couple of months ago. Now I am on my way to paying it off quicker!

  30. Easylivingsherpa.com says:

    The problem with Dave Ramsey is that his advice is like reading Dear Abby: it appeals to everyone but is useful to no one. Add to the list the Robert Kyosaki and most others that sell books with gold foil embossed titles.
    Dave ramsey is mediocre, and he is no “financial guru”.
    Ramseys only legitimate experience that qualifies him to speak as he does is due to his real estate background. I will give him one thing though, he is a tremendous marketer of himself. Who else could become a millionaire by telling people not to carry any debt, invest in your future, and buy term insurance. Wow, gotta give him some credit (not the bad kind).
    There are no gurus, but there are useful sources of information: Morningstar and Yahoo Finance (as a compendium or repository), to name but two.

  31. Dan says:

    Big Question from any “Snowball Pro”!!!!!

    We are just started (about 2 months in) and I have a major question…we are supposed to pay minimum on every debt except the one where you roll all other cash into. Got that. The next month, however, many of the credit cards had reduced their minimum payments. What do I do? Do I continue to pay the “new” minimum, meaning I’ll now have a couple more bucks for the snowball, or do I maintain a fixed pmt once I start the program?

    If someone can do, or already did, the math on this, I’d be interested in knowing. Maybe it’s just a wash with the overall amount of debt to be paid. Maybe it makes the first snowball pay off faster. Maybe it actually costs more? I don’t know.

  32. Dave M says:

    Dan, I’m not a “pro” by any means, but I am snowballing a couple of credit cards for the next few years. I’ve actually thought about the downward-adjusting minimum payment, and I think as long as you can keep track of it in some way that makes sense to you, go ahead and make the smaller minimum payments each month – if one payment goes down by $5, that’s a snowflake you can put towards your primary target. Otherwise, I’d say adjusting every 3-6 months might work better.

    I’d like to see more comments on this aspect of snowballing as well!

  33. Kai says:

    To Anne at #14-
    That sounds like a pretty nice deal. They don’t have that kind of thing way up here where our provinces are the size of your whole region, but I also live in a large city, which has 4 ymcas. It is actually our local downtown Y that I know many people pass through on their way to work.

    As a single person, I don’t require large grocery trips, so I get by alright with a large knapsack, but I could see the worth shifting for a family with significantly bigger weekly foodloads.

    At the moment, I am smart not to get a car, because I simply could not afford it. But someday, I do wish to have a car that I can use for occasional errands, and regular city-leaving. While I hope always to be able to located myself within biking distance of work (driving commutes are horrible and soul-crushing), there is no practical alternative to a car when you want to get out into the wilderness for a few days. :D

    To Amateur at #19-
    I think my city is pretty awesome, but its overwhelming car culture and lack of bike-commuter-friendly infrastructure is one of my biggest issues. I do, however, live in a rich oil-city, so I know many people at large companies with some extra amenities. I realize that showers are not in every workplace. Like I said, this is a reasonably simple adaptation that more businesses could do to encourage away from cars. And bike racks too are needed in many more places.
    As for locking them up, keep in mind that you don’t actually need to remove the front wheel and seat – you just need to lock those both. A decent cable lock can wind around all your peripherals (including helmet, if desired), and hook up with a good U-bar. Lots of people carry the seat because it’s simple enough, but it’s very easy to just wire it all together at the lamp post.

    Regarding public transportation, isn’t New York supposed to be one of those great places where everything is linked by subway and most people don’t need a car? I’ve never been, but that’s the impression I got. My mediocre (for a city this big) transit system is almost all busses on 20-40minute rotations (more than an hour in off-peak times).

    Public transportation is for the able-bodied, with stairs and nothing else? Really? Not here. It’s illegal to have a public place that is not wheelchair accessible. Wheelchair-people have to be issued a key, or hit the call button to get into the elevator, and occasionally escalators might go down, but barring rare circumstances, any person with any level of mobility must be able to access all transit. Actually by law. You can’t even have work buildings without ramps.
    Is this a Canadian thing?

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