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Should You Snowball Student Loans? (Free Excel Tool Download!!)

The 0% interest rate on Federal Student Loans come to an end on August 31st, 2022. At that point, interest rates will activate again and payments will be expected monthly, just like they were a few years ago (in our pre-covid world). Instead of ignoring those student loan payments like you have been, maybe it’s time to start paying them off with a vengeance! But, should you snowball student loans? Or should you pay off student loans via the debt avalanche method?

These are great questions! We’ll explore them in this post, along with many other great questions around student loans! 

Related: Debt Snowball vs Avalanche Excel Spreadsheet (FREE Calculator!!)

Should You Snowball Student Loans? Most of the time, yes!!What is the average student loan debt in America?

When people ask the question, “What is the average student loan debt in America?”, they’re really asking, “Do I have too much student loan debt?”…and…”How much trouble am I in with these student loans?”

According to Value Penguin, the average student loan debt in America (for those that borrow) is $32,731. 

So, if you have less than $30,000 in student loan debt, you’re not sitting so bad. If you have more than $30k, you’re worse than the average. 

Now you know…

But regardless of where you’re at vs. the averages, this is your time to actually do something about it! Keep reading, and we’ll show you how to get rid of your student loan debt. We even have a free student loan snowball tool that might just change your life! (Read more about this and download the tool in the sections below!)

Related: When Do You Have to Start Paying Back Student Loans?

What is considered a lot of student loan debt?

If the average student loan is $32,000, what is considered a lot of student loan debt?

Some would say “anything over $32,000 since that’s the average”…but it’s really a matter of opinion. Let’s take a look at a student loan debt chart so we can get a better feel for how much people are actually borrowing — and what the spread of that borrowing is.

Value Penguin Average Student Loan Amounts

I’d say if you’re in the top 20% of student loan borrowers, that would be considered a lot of student loan debt. So how much do you need to owe to be in the top 20% of student loan borrowers?

Per the chart…

  • There are 44.7 million student loan borrowers
  • 20% of 44.7 million is roughly 9 million people
  • The top 9 million borrowers all took out more than $50k of student loans to cover their college tuition
  • 80% of borrowers have less than $50k in student loans

So here you go…

If you have more than $50k in student loans, you absolutely have a lot of student debt!

  • If you have more than $75,000 in student loans, you are in the top 9% of borrowers
  • Have more than $100,000 in student loans? You are in the top 6% of borrowers
  • More than $150k in student loans? You’re in the top 3% of borrowers
  • And, if you have more than $200k in student loans (*gulp*), you are nearly in the top 1% of student loan borrowers in the United States!

If you have a ton of student loan debt, don’t give up hope. You CAN get out of debt! And, you can likely do it faster than you think (like, way faster than 10 years)!

How do I pay off 100k in student loans?

What if you recently graduated and discovered that you have 100k in student loans? How can you pay off 100k in student loan debt? Is this even possible?

Sure it is!

It’s going to take some work on your part, but with proper planning and understanding of how you can snowball debt, it might only take you a few years to pay off that seemingly huge sum of student loans!

How Extra Payments Really Make a Difference

Let’s say your monthly payments for your student loans are $1,000. You’ve been paying the minimum…which means that it will likely take you 10 years to pay off your debts.

…But could you put more toward your student loan debt each month?

What if you…

…You could make an extra $1,000 a month pretty easily. 

What if you did that? What would that mean for your new payoff timeframe?

According to my FREE student loan debt snowball tool, if you paid an extra $1,000 toward your student loans each month, you could be out of student loan debt in just 4.5 years (instead of 10 years! That’s pretty amazing!)!

Download the FREE student loan debt snowball excel template here!

So how do you know what student loans to pay off first? Well, I already eluded to the first method, which is the debt snowball method. The second, lesser known, method is the debt avalanche method.

Download the FREE student loan avalanche excel template here!

We’ll dive into these a lot more in the sections below!

(Need more room for your snowball? Check out our expanded versions!)

 

Snowball student loans - 16-debt excel template on Etsy

 

Snowball Student Loans - 32 debt version on Etsy

How Does the Snowball Method Work?

So what is the debt snowball? And how does snowballing student loans work?

The debt snowball method is pretty simple.

Here’s how it works:

  • List out your debts from smallest to largest
  • Pay the minimums on all the larger debts
  • Put as much money as you can toward the smallest debt until you pay it off, then tackle the next largest debt
  • Continue until all your debt is paid off!

Super simple, right? Anyone can do it!

How do you snowball student debt?

So how do you snowball student loans?

It really isn’t any different than we described above.

  • First, list out your student loans from smallest to largest
  • Pay the minimums on all of the larger student loans
  • Pay as much as possible on the smallest student loan debt until it’s fully paid off
  • Then, move onto the next largest debt, pay that off, then the next one, etc. etc. until you’ve fully paid off your student loans!

Related: The BEST Debt Snowball Excel Template (…And It’s FREE!!!)

Should you snowball student loans?

So now here’s the big question…Should you snowball student loans?

If the interest rates on your student loans are all pretty similar, then snowballing your student loans absolutely makes sense. 

If, however, you have some student loans that are 20% and others that are 0%, you may want to check and see what the debt avalanche (ie. the high rate method) would do for you.

Why?

Because if your highest debt balance is a 20% interest, you really don’t want to wait till the very end to pay it off. That would result in many months of high interest payments. If, instead, you paid your debts by highest interest first, you could get rid of these high interest payments immediately and pay much less over the course of your debt payoff journey.

So should you snowball your student loans? 

That all depends on your situation. We’ll go through this more in the sections below.

How do I calculate my snowball debt?

How can you calculate your snowball debt? 

Laying it out yourself is pretty easy. BUT, figuring out how long it would take you to pay off all your debts is actually pretty difficult. 

This is where my FREE student loan debt snowball calculator comes in handy (download the snowball debt worksheet here!). 

Just enter in the amounts, the percentage interest, and the minimum payments, and you will instantly see how long it will take you to pay off all your debts!

Snowball method for student loans

While the method to snowball student debt is pretty simple, it always helps to go through an example just to see how easy it really is! AND, you can see how powerful the student loan snowball really is!

Student loan snowball

Let’s say you have $30,000 in student loan debt, and this is the breakdown of your current loans:

  • $15,000 student loan
    • 12% interest
    • $200 monthly minimum payment
  • $10,000 student loan
    • 9% interest
    • $122 monthly minimum payment
  • $3,000 student loan
    • 6.8% interest
    • $45 monthly minimum payment
  • $2,000 student loan
    • 6.8% interest
    • $30 monthly minimum payment

Setting up your student loan snowball in this case is pretty simple, right? 

You just line them up from smallest to largest, like this:

  • $2,000
  • $3,000
  • $10,000
  • $15,000

And, you start paying as much as you can toward the smallest debt, the one with the $2,000 balance. While doing this, you simply make the minimum payments on the others.

When you pay off the $2,000 debt, you start tackling the $3,000 student loan.

And when you pay that off, you put as much money as you can toward the $10,000 student loan. Finally, you pay the $15,000 loan off and have a HUGE celebration!

But…like I said before… How long is that going to take you? 

10 years?

15 years?

You really have no idea! It’s not easy to calculate! 

This is why I built the student loan snowball calculator! There’s a free version for up to 8 debts, there’s a larger version that can handle 16 debts (currently on Etsy for $3.99), and there’s a super-beefy version that can handle 32 debts (on Etsy for $9.99)!

I’m excited to show you how to snowball student loans with this calculator. Instead of taking 10 years to pay off your student loans, I bet you can use this tool to pay them all off in 4 years or less! Wouldn’t that be AMAZING??

Let’s dive into it.

Student loan snowball calculator

I built a general debt snowball calculator quite a few years ago because I thought it might help my readers. Little did I know that the tool would be so powerful and prompt so many people to push their way out of debt and tell me about their success! 

Because of this, I recently built the snowball student loan calculator!

(If you missed it before, here’s the student loan debt snowball download link)

Here’s how it works, and you’ll soon see why it’s so powerful!

(Also, if you have more than 8 loans, but you still want to buy this snowball tool, check us out on Etsy! Here are the links for the 16-loan version, and the 32-loan version!)

Enter the student loan debts into the student loan snowball calculator

First, we simply enter our debts into the tool from smallest to largest, and include the minimum payments along with the interest rates for each.

Snowball Student Loans - How to Get Out Of $30k of Student Loan Debt

You can see we started with the $2,000 student loan on the left, and then added the other debts in sequence (with interest rates and minimum payments).

Immediately, the snowball Excel tool starts inputting the payment amounts and the rolling balance of each debt by month. If you scroll down to the bottom, you can see how many months it would take you to pay off your student loans by making only the minimum payments. In this example, it takes 120 months, or 10 years to pay off your student loans in their entirety. Personally, for me, that’s just WAY too long to hang onto student loan debt!

How to snowball student loans with the student loan snowball tool

Want to know how to snowball your student loans with this free student loan snowball tool? 

I made it so simple, it’s crazy. You’re going to love this (and this is why people are willingly pay $3.99 or $9.99 for the expanded version of this tool!).

To pay off your student loans faster, you can do 1 of 2 things (or do both!):

  1. You can dump a bunch of money toward your student loans up front (maybe you sell something, or have savings stashed away that you can use)
  2. You can find a way to put more money toward your student loans each month (either by cutting costs or earning more!)

Or, like I said earlier, you can do both! Put some money toward your debts initially, and then pay extra along the way!

The impact of putting money toward your debts up front

Let’s stick with our $30,000 student loan debt example from above. Let’s say you sell some of your stuff and earn $2,000. You immediately put that toward your student loan snowball. 

What impact will that have?

Snowball Student Loans - Impact of $2k on $30k of loans

We simply entered $2,000 into the “One-Time Start-up Payment” cell at the top of the tool, and you can immediately see the impact it has!

Obviously, that $2,000 student loan goes away immediately, and then that $30 minimum payment gets applied to the $3,000 student loan monthly payment!

This simple act will take down your student loan payoff journey from 10 years down to 9 years! Not bad!

But…what if we put extra money toward the student loans every month? How quickly could we be out of debt then?

The impact of putting money toward your debts each month

Let’s say in addition to that $2,000 initial payment, you’re able to cut your costs and make an extra $1,000 a month on the side. All in all, you’re able to put an extra $1,500 a month toward your student loans. 

Now instead of 9 years to pay off all your student loans, what is your new timeframe for getting out of student loan debt?

Again, we simply head to the tool and put $1,500 into the cell marked, “Extra Monthly Payment”, and then scroll down to see how quickly that final debt will pay off!

Snowball Student Loans with initial payment and extra monthly payments

Whoa!

As you can see, this made a HUGE difference!

Instead of it taking 10 years or even 9 years, the extra monthly payments of $1,500 allow you to pay off your student loan debts in just 16 months! That’s just over 1 year!

BOOM!

Wouldn’t that be awesome? 

The coolest thing is that it’s absolutely possible! You’ve got all the tools to make it happen. All you have to do now is make a plan and do it! 

High Rate Method For Paying Off Debt

Now that I’ve got you all excited…What if I told you that there was a way to get out of student loan debt even FASTER? By using the debt avalanche method (ie. high rate method) to get out of student loan debt, you might actually be able to shave a couple more months off your get-out-of-debt timeframe!

Let’s check it out. Then, we’ll decide which method is actually best for paying off your student loan debt (Hint: It may not be the fastest way!).

Here’s the freebie download: Student Loan Avalanche Free Excel Download

And here are the larger versions if you need them!

Student Loan Debt Avalanche Excel Template - for 16 debts

 

Student Loan Debt Avalanche Excel Template - for 32 debts

Debt avalanche method

So what is the debt avalanche method?

Instead of lining up your debts from smallest to largest like you would for the debt snowball method, you instead line them up from the largest interest payment to the smallest interest payment. 

Makes sense, right? The higher the interest, the more you’re going to pay per month, so tackle that debt first to get rid of those higher payments!

And, just like the snowball method, while you’re working to pay off that first debt with a vengeance, you’re simply making the minimum payments on the other debts – in this case, the lower interest ones.

Avalanche student loans

So how do you avalanche student loans? How do you pay off your debts with the avalanche student loan method?

Let’s stick with our example numbers. 

Let’s say we have four student loan debts that total up to $30,000:

  • $15,000 student loan
    • 12% interest
    • $200 monthly minimum payment
  • $10,000 student loan
    • 9% interest
    • $122 monthly minimum payment
  • $3,000 student loan
    • 6.8% interest
    • $45 monthly minimum payment
  • $2,000 student loan
    • 6.8% interest
    • $30 monthly minimum payment

Which one has the highest interest payment? 

The $15,000 student loan with 12% interest. So, we’ll start paying that debt off first. 

Next is the $10,000 debt with 9% interest. 

Then it’s a toss-up with the next two since they both have the same interest of 6.8%. But we’ll list the highest dollar amount one first (since the interest will technically cost more money each month with the higher balance).

Related: Using a 401k Loan to Pay Off Credit Card Debt? (Hint: Don’t Do It!!)

So, for the high rate method (ie. debt avalanche method), we’d pay off our student loans in this order:

  • $15,000
  • $10,000
  • $3,000
  • $2,000

…Which is actually the exact opposite of how we would pay off the student loans with the debt snowball method!

So which one will pay off first? Let’s use the student loan avalanche calculator to figure it out. 

Student loan avalanche calculator

If you pay off your debts using the student loan avalanche method, it actually doesn’t save that much time or money. 

Without putting any extra dollars at your debts (ie. you just make the minimum payments), it will still take you 10 years to pay off your debts. And, you’ll save only about $100 in the process as well.

Student Loan Debt Avalanche with no extra payments

The impact of putting money toward your debt avalanche up front

What if we follow the same example as the student loan snowball and put $2,000 toward your debts up front? Only this time, you’d be applying the money to the $15,000 debt instead of the $2,000 debt.

Will this make a big impact toward paying off your student loans?

It actually does! Even I was surprised.

By putting an extra $2,000 toward your debt with the debt avalanche method vs. the debt snowball method, you’ll actually save yourself $1,700 AND you’ll pay off your debts 4 months sooner. That’s pretty awesome!

Student loan debt snowball vs student loan debt avalanche - one time startup funds

The impact of putting money toward your debt avalanche each month

Alright. Let’s take this one step further. What if you could put $2,000 toward your debt avalanche initially AND put an extra $1,500 a month toward your loans? 

First off, how quickly would you pay your debt off? And second, how does this compare to snowballing the student loans?

Student Loan High Rate Method - with up front payment and extra per month

Based on our student loan excel template, you’d pay off your $30,000 worth of student loans in just 16 months!

This is actually the same amount of time that it would take you if you chose to snowball student loans instead. BUT, it would save you about $400 because you started with the highest interest rate loans.

Want to try the student loan avalanche tool yourself? Here’s the free download in case you missed it earlier: FREE Student Loan Debt Avalanche Excel Tool Download

Is The Snowball or Avalanche Method Better?

Based on the recent example above, the debt avalanche method seems like the clear winner for paying off your student loans. But is it really? Could there be other factors that would make the debt snowball the best option?

What is an advantage to using the debt snowball method?

Spoiler alert. Yes, there is an advantage to using the debt snowball method.

In fact, Harvard actually touts that the debt snowball method is the BEST method for paying off debt!

Why?

Belief.

While the debt avalanche method might mathematically make the most sense in nearly every situation, it also might require you to pay off your biggest debt first…which can often take a LONG TIME. 

You know what happens when tough things take a long time? People never make it. 

People give up. They stay in debt. 

However, by using the student loan debt snowball method, you’d start with your smallest loan. Maybe it’s only $500 and you pay it off in the first month. That makes you feel GOOD! It makes you happy. It’s progress. Suddenly, you feel like you can do it. Then you pay off another loan, then another. BOOM! You’re energized and you’re trying to figure out how to go even faster!

The debt snowball creates momentum. With belief and momentum, way more people make it to the finish line.

What is an advantage to using the high rate method?

The advantage of the high rate method is that it saves you money in interest. By paying the highest interest debt first, you pay on it less, and you therefore save more money. 

So, if you followed the schedules exactly (with the debt snowball vs. the debt avalanche), the debt avalanche would pay off first every time and require you to shell out fewer dollars. 

Snowball vs Avalanche

Now we come down to it. What’s better between the debt snowball vs avalanche?

Both have their place honestly. 

If you have a debt that has crazy-high interest, you might just want to tackle that first and use the debt avalanche method. 

If, however, you have moderate interest rates and you’re interested in quick wins and momentum, then use the debt snowball method.

Should You Snowball Student Loans?

So what about you? Should you snowball student loans?

For most of us, I’d say absolutely yes. Most of us need the quick wins, the belief, and the momentum in life. It will propel us forward and we might even pay off our debts faster (vs. the avalanche method) because of the added belief and effort.

If, however, you’re more of a robot than you are a human being (or, if you have a debt with a super-high interest rate that you just want to tackle first), then you probably want to use the high rate method to pay off your student loans.

Now you know everything about snowballing student loans vs using the debt avalanche method. Which will you choose?

Get Out of Debt Money

AUTHOR Derek

My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

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