Updated on 09.22.14

15 Ways to Get Started on Snowflaking

Trent Hamm

snow ghosts 2.  Photo by foto3116.One of the best personal finance articles I’ve ever read is Snowflaking: A Primer, at I Paid For This Twice Already. Here’s an excerpt so that you get the idea:

Snowflaking is a spinoff of the Snowball approach to debt reduction popularized by Dave Ramsey. With the Debt Snowball method, you figure out what amount you can pay to debt every month, and then you keep paying that amount, even as your debts shrink and your minimums get smaller. To implement it, in a nutshell, make a list of all your debts, order them from either smallest to largest or highest interest to lowest interest (that is a debate in itself), and you focus all extra money above the minimum payments on a single debt (either the smallest total or the highest interest, I use interest order). As you eliminate debts, you apply the payment you were making to that debt to the next debt in line until the snowballing effect of decreasing minimums and increasing amounts applied to particular debts eliminates all the debts on your list.

Well, what are snowballs made of? Snowflakes! I have a set amount I pay to debt without fail every month that is above my minimum payment due (about $800). On top of that, I also try to collect up little bits of money wherever I can and I apply those as well to my top priority debt as immediately as possible. I take surveys online, I sell possessions on craigslist and ebay, I have yard sales, and any money I get from these endeavors goes directly to my debt. I also keep a very strict accounting of all the money that comes in every month and what I spend and everything left over at the end of the month not earmarked for future expenses also goes directly to debt. These are my snowflakes. I have averaged over $200 extra going to pay down my credit card debt every month due to these snowflaking efforts.

Many small snowflakes make a snowball, and no amount is too small for me to snowflake. I used to pay my credit card directly every time I collected a snowflake through their online interface, but now that I have moved my credit card debt to another card with a 0% interest offer, I collect the snowflakes and pay them once per week (I am limited to the number of payments I can make to this card a month). If you are able to and your debt is not at 0% interest, I highly recommend the “pay snowflakes immediately” method. The faster your balance is reduced, the less interest you will accrue.

Snowflaking is, quite simply, a great way to get aggressive with your debts. It gives you a little extra push towards achieving your goals. Even better, you can also “snowflake” towards any savings goals you might have.

Don’t know how to get started? Here are 15 ways you can get snowflaking going in your own life. These are low-impact ways – far from starting a side business – to earn a few bucks without devoting countless hours to a major project, things that sync very well with what you already do or can be picked up whenever you feel like it.

15 Tips to Get Start Snowflaking

1. Have a yard sale.

Go through your house, identify the items you don’t use much, and sell them. Put them out for sale in your yard over a weekend (with reasonable prices) and put that money straight towards your debts or other goals.

2. Keep your aluminum cans separate.

In Iowa (and in many other states), there is a nickel “deposit” that one pays for each aluminum can (or bottle) purchased. Keep these cans and bottles separate from other trash, then occasionally return all of them for $10 or so. It helps the environment and gives you a bit of snowflaking cash.

3. House-sit.

If someone you know goes on vacation, offer to house-sit for them, look after their pets, and so forth. It’s pretty easy work and can earn you some quick cash to knock down some debts.

4. Walk pets.

If you already walk your own pet in the morning, it’s not much of a stretch to stop by another house or two, pick up their pet, and walk that pet as well – for a fee, of course. Put that fee straight towards your financial goals.

5. Blow snow.

Got a snowblower? You’ll be blowing the snow from your own lawn anyway, so why not set up an arrangement where you’ll blow the snow from your neighbors’ driveways and walks for $10 or $20. Then, take that cash and put it towards your goals.

6. Eat a “free” meal.

Freeze your “utility” leftovers, then make a meal out of them once in a while – mix your leftover rice, vegetables, and chicken pieces to make a “free” meal. That’s worth $5, easy, so just snowflake $5 when you do it.

7. Take surveys.

It’s a great way to make a few bucks at your computer while watching a TV show or a movie. It’s not a great money maker, but it’s low-intensity and can be done whenever it fits your schedule.

8. Mow lawns.

Got neighbors who can’t mow very often? Mow their lawn whenever you mow theirs for a few dollars. You’ve already got the mower out, right?

9. Write.

You don’t have to start a blog and post regularly (though there’s success to be found there, too). Instead, just write articles and submit them to services like Associated Content or make “lenses” at Squidoo. It’s a great way to burn an hour or two on a lazy evening and earn a few bucks in the process.

10. Do simple tasks.

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk will pay you a few cents for a mindless task that just takes a few seconds. One of my friends does this on her laptop during commercial breaks when she’s watching a television show and makes enough to cover basic cable.

11. Babysit.

If you already have kids at home, put out your shingle as a babysitter. Most evenings, you’re already at home, so you’ll be getting paid just to mind another little one around the house. I know several people who do this.

12. Deliver groceries.

If you know of any elderly folks or shut-ins who have difficulty getting out to buy groceries, give them a ring whenever you shop and offer to pick up what they need. They’ll often pay you several dollars extra for the service (and even if they don’t, it’s a great way to help someone in need).

13. Make crafts.

Many people enjoy some sort of craft as a hobby. Create projects that reflect the best of your work, then sell them on sites like etsy. Anything from knitting to woodworking to scrapbooking to jewelry making can make you a few dollars in your spare time.

14. Be a “search guide.”

If you’re just browsing the ‘net, why not help others find what they’re looking for online and make a few bucks? Cha Cha does just that – people send text messages to the service with questions, they pop up on your computer, you figure out the answer, send it back, and earn a bit to throw towards your debts.

15. Give charitably.

Give what you can to charities – goods and other donations. Then, when you get the receipts for tax deductions, figure up how much you “get back” on your taxes and contribute that to your debts.

Good luck!

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  1. Nick says:

    I was a chacha guide for a few months. It was actually pretty fun and I found I could do it while watching TV or something.

    The more internet savvy you are, the more successful you will be. If you could answer a question every few minutes you can make a few bucks an hour.

    At one point I was pretty good at it and answering a few questions a minute which brought in more than minimum wage and I would just do it while watching the office or something.

  2. Matt says:

    I’m not sure how you can mention Mechanical Turk, where you can make, at most, $.05 every 30 seconds, but then say $9+/hr for selling DVD’s on eBay is a bad deal compared to ditching them at a Blockbuster….

    IF you can tolerate looking up addresses of professors or celebrities, and it really only takes you 30 seconds to do, that’s only $6/hr, and you (should) get taxed on that amount. If you only do it during commercials, you can’t possibly pay for your cable bill each month this way.

    Survey are a much better way to go, if you insist on making a pittance online.

  3. Johanna says:

    Remember that charitable donations don’t get you anything “back” on your taxes unless you itemize your deductions (which is only a good idea if the total of all your deductions exceeds the standard deduction).

    Also, it would be interesting to see a “time value of money” analysis applied to the question of whether to make snowflake payments immediately or to wait until the end of the week (or month) and make them all at once. If, for example, you have a $50 snowflake payment to make on a credit card with 20% interest, waiting a week to make it will save you about 20 cents in interest. Now, 20 cents is 20 cents – and why waste 20 cents if you don’t have to? – plus there is the psychological benefit, perhaps, of paying down your debt as quickly as possible. But if making the payment earlier rather than later would cause you any kind of inconvenience at all, it might not be worth it.

  4. lurker carl says:

    If you’re truly set on paying down debt, get a second or third job. It’s harder to spend money when you don’t have the extra time, you know exactly how much money is coming into your pocket on a regular basis and you don’t have to calculate how many pennies per hour any particular task can generate.

  5. draper says:

    Anyone happen to know of any good websites for surveys that are reliable?

  6. leslie says:

    I would like to take up dog walking but am not sure how much to charge. Any ideas?

  7. almost there says:

    Leslie, do a search for dog walkers in your area and charge what they do or a little under.

  8. Sophie says:

    ChaCha is no longer hiring.

  9. Arkadiy says:

    ChaCha is not hiring, plus having a real job that pays 75k a year its hard for me to justify working for 3$ an hour, even at my own leisure.

  10. John says:

    I just read this article and checked out Amazon’s Mechanical Turk – what a joke. Most of the stuff on there was in the vein of “go to this webpage, click on the image in the middle. Fill out the entire form and when finished, copy and past the first paragraph of the final confirmation page. Well, it turns out that each link posted was a referral link to either eHarmony.com or Match.com, which in turn you’d have to sign up to be a new user of those services. The person posting the link obviously recieves some sort of kickback or bonus from them. I can’t imagine someone earning enough money each month from that service to pay a $30 – $40 cable bill.

  11. AaronO says:

    I’ve never heard of getting paid to take surveys. To me, that would seem like an online scam. Now you’ve peaked my interest.

  12. Aaron, a lot of the survey companies just put your name in a drawing. I hate that, because of course, you never get anything for your time.

    Pinecone Research does pay, but they’re down to $3 from $5, so I’m less inspired than I used to be. Plus, you can only sign up with them at certain times.

    If I had no other way to earn extra money, I’d probably be more motivated, but I can play the piano, which gives me jobs at weddings, funerals and the like, and I can also do photography. Both of those earn me a far better hourly rate.

  13. friend says:

    … Now you’ve peaked my interest.

    AaronO @ 11:43 am June 11th, 2009 (comment #7)


  14. Damester says:

    Trent writes:
    Instead, just write articles and submit them to services like Associated Content or make “lenses” at Squidoo. It’s a great way to burn an hour or two on a lazy evening and earn a few bucks in the process.

    As a professional writer, I’ve never written anything that only took “an hour or two on a lazy evening” to write. Research alone for both business and consumer articles I’ve written consumes far more time. But then this is original material with relevant information for a specific audience, not just the personal opinions and ideas that pass for “articles” online today.

    There’s research, drafting, writing, fact checking, time spent interviewing people, checking resources, working with editors, graphic designers, etc.

    If authentic writers could crank out articles in an hour or two, and somebody paid real money (not a penny a word or even less), we professionals would be billionaires.

    NOT the way it works. Especially when anyone who can type thinks they are a writer.

    I loathe when people admonish others to just “write” as if anyone could do it.

    It’s especially painful to see you say that Trent, because you actually can write, which distinguishes your blog from so many others out there. (And you do write articles that require research and fact checking.)

    Just because someone has photoshop doesn’t mean they’re a graphic designer, artist or illustrator.


  15. Ollie Hicks says:

    Haven’t you previously vociferously disapproved of Associated Content, Helium and the like, Trent? Even when disputed point by point?

    Not that I think they’re the Devil’s work, anyway. Just wondered when you changed your mind.

  16. Elderly librarian says:

    Damester is exactly right. But you can’t change people’s perceptions. Every time someone walks into a library, they may think that every staff member is a “librarian”. not so.

  17. Charles Cohn says:

    Snowflaking your tax deductions from charitable donations is a limp way to save money. Much more effective would be to skip the donation and snowflake the whole amount that you might otherwise give. Especially if you have debts, you can’t afford to give to charity anyway. Just remember that, if you refuse to pay your taxes you will go to jail, but if you refuse to give to charity, nothing will happen to you.

  18. Lisa Owens says:

    Ouch, people! I thought this was a great post. I spend a lot of time online because I’m disabled. It’s amusing, informative and if I can make some money while doing something I like (research, for example), that’s lagniappe. And financially helpful as well.
    I read emails for cash (MyPoints, InboxDollars), take surveys (Gongos & Harris Poll Online) and now I’ll be writing and researching, too. Sure, they don’t pay much but right now we need every penny I can bring in.
    Love these specific ways to do things, Trent. Keep ’em coming.

  19. Lisa Owens says:

    Charles, you said “Snowflaking your tax deductions from charitable donations is a limp way to save money. Much more effective would be to skip the donation and snowflake the whole amount that you might otherwise give.”
    I think you’re confused. I think “donation” in this case doesn’t mean cash, it means goods. You don’t get any cash from donating goods so wouldn’t have any cash to give. I certainly don’t.
    So I choose to donate goods rather than have yard sales – it’s my only way to give right now. The only cash value of my donations is what I can take off my taxes (which dollar amount, by the way, I wouldn’t have any idea how to calculate so I could snowflake it-if I could. Any suggestions, Trent?).
    Just a little clarification.

  20. Angie says:

    Since you mentioned surveys I’ll put one in for Pinecone Research. Payments next day, every survey is $3 and only takes 10-15 minutes. I get a few a month and have made around $50 in 2 months. Not a lot, but its easy!

    Well its invite only and since I got lucky finding an invite immediately on a blog (I’ve heard some people wait months!) I’ll post mine here to return the favor. I got it a few weeks ago so I don’t know if it will work.


  21. Angie says:

    Can you give more info on the whole survey thing? Links or suggestions? Thanks!

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