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Paying Off Debt is Like a Winter Blizzard

winter blizzardThe US has had some crazy weather this fall and winter. The recent snow storm that hit the Northeast dumped two feet of snow and caused all kinds of mayhem. Southwest Colorado often gets hit with storms producing that much or more snow. While we don’t generally get the media attention that more populated areas receive, we know all too well how to deal with a winter storm. Actually when you think about it, winter storms are like getting out of debt in many ways. Tropical people bear with me as I show you how a winter blizzard can be used as an example of how to get out of debt.

Make a Plan

When the forecasters are predicting feet of snow, you check your pantry, buy batteries and candles, make sure the propane tank is full, and get out your snow boots and shovels. No one wants to be stuck at home with no food or heat.

Likewise when you are facing a mountain of debt, you need to get your plans in order. List all of your creditors and their interest rates and make a budget consisting of how much money you expect to make vs what you expect to pay out. Next, make a plan of how you are going to pay back the debt. Don’t get buried in the blizzard before you decide that you should have made a plan.

Don’t Get Sidetracked by Volume

During a huge snowstorm, you might wake up to find feet of snow surrounding your house. If you look at all that snow, it might seem like you’ll never get out of the driveway. The best way is to start with each area that you need to shovel. Maybe do the front walk first, then the area around the cars, until you have made a path. Keep remembering how much great exercise all this shoveling is!

With debt, don’t get discouraged by the total number. Divide the debt into how much you owe each creditor. Always make minimum payments on all accounts, but take one balance and concentrate on that until it’s gone. Then apply that payment toward the next. It doesn’t matter if you use the debt snowball, avalanche, or some combination. Start with one debt and go from there.

You Will Get Stuck

Even if you prepare perfectly, have snow tires, and always carry a shovel in the trunk, you will get stuck in the snow if you live in a wintry climate. It’s a terrible feeling to know you need to be somewhere and all you can do is spin your wheels. If you get stuck, do you abandon your car? No way! You start calling your family, your friends, your cousin Jed with the big 4×4, until you find someone who can pull you out. Worst case, you’d have to call a tow truck, but eventually, you’ll get back on the road.

If you are in an agressive debt repayment plan, you will have setbacks. You might have a medical emergency, a car or house repair, or you could make less money than you expected. This doesn’t mean you have to quit. Get back on track when the crisis is over. Worst case would be that you have to use a debt service or possibly file for bankruptcy. You can recover from that if you are willing to change the behaviors that got you into debt.

Calm After the Storm

Although I make comments all the time about how I would like to live in a warmer climate, days like yesterday make me eat those words. We had stormy, gloomy weather for four days, and then the sun came out. Sun on fresh snow is one of the most beautiful sights. With my new found freedom, I took half a day to go cross country skiing. Being in a forest covered in snow where the only sound is your skis and the whoomp of snow falling off the pines is incredible, and makes me realize how lucky I am to live where I do.

I am not completely debt free, and it will probably be a few years before we achieve that goal. However, paying off all of our credit card debt last year was the most amazing feeling. It was the mother of all debt storms for many years at our house, but the sun finally came out. While I wouldn’t encourage debt just to experience the feeling of how good it feels to pay it off, you get the point. If you can think ahead to when your debt is gone, it can keep you pretty motivated.

While we can’t control the weather, we can control whether or not we choose to get out of debt. If you need some help trying to find your way out of a blizzard of debt, check out the people who have joined the Debt Movement to get started and find strength in numbers.

How have you weathered a debt storm? Any tips to get through the cold winter months?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Make a budget plan and always have a savings for rainy days. Proper financial planning will not get you into financial trouble or debt.

  2. I always love analogies! My tips for the cold winter months involve watching energy bills! 🙂

    • I watch mine go up! No, we try to keep the thermostat down, but it’s been really cold for the last month, and I do like to be warm.

  3. Great post!! I know you have been reading my stuff, Kim, so you know I was in a blizzard. Horrific debt. I have been tackling it for 16 months pretty ferociously with NO setbacks, per se (watch my tub fall through my ceiling now). I have had lapses in massive payoff each month, and I am not as frugal some months than others, but it has gone well. 4 more months!!!!

  4. Great analogy Kim! Thankfully we’ve been spared a big dumping of snow this winter, but I like to try and plan ahead so we’re not fighting people for the last loaf of bread in the store. 🙂 I completely agree with not getting discouraged by the total amount of debt. You need to get your plan down and go at it with all you have to get it knocked out.

    • I remember a few years back when we had a mother of a storm and the roads into and out of our area were blocked for several days. Funny, but the thing the stores ran out of was bananas. Not a banana to be found!

  5. Kim, thanks so much for this inspiring post. We are feeling like we’re in the middle of a storm debt-wise right now, and your inspiring words were just what we needed!

  6. I love the way you brought the two things together in this post Kim.
    We recently got stuck with our debt (apparently babies can do that), but as of next month we should be right back on track again 🙂

  7. Wow! Excellent analogy. I especially like the reminder that you will get stuck and it’s important to pull yourself out. After my year without income, I had to remind myself that all the time…just pull myself up….

  8. Good analogy. I feel like I’ve weathered many storms, as well as debt storms (although debt has never been my biggest issue-just poor money decisions and lack of saving). I think the biggest thing is to prepare. I’m doing that now with what may be slow freelance months in the summer. Just because I’m getting big checks now does not mean I can spend freely and get careless.

  9. Did the elephants get cold and go home?

  10. Awesome analogy! We are trying to build up our savings as much as possible. Life has taught me to prepare for the unexpected!

  11. I like your analogy. Alas, we’ve barely had any snow this year along the Front Range.

    • We had nothing until almost the end of January, and it’s been great since. I still think we’re down for the average, but it has improved tons in the last month.

  12. I love it when the sun shines after a snow storm as well. The thing I do not enjoy is driving, especially when the snow turns to ice and stays there until May.

  13. What a way to put it together Kim. I have been in the debt storm before, but after I chose the write clothing to wear and the right equipment, I was able to shovel my way out of it, section by section.

  14. When you get two feet of snow, many people choose not to shovel all at once. They’ll go do a few inches at a time. Paying through a huge debt has many of the same principles, so keep in mind it won’t all happen at once.

  15. Methodically tackling debt (and snow!) is an excellent way to get unburied. We have quite an accumulation of the white stuff here and the glistening surface really is lovely. The wee mite and I were just outside throwing snowballs at each other. 🙂

  16. Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom

    great story. We just had a huge storm too. I shoveled the driveway three times, and was searching cheap tropical destinations in between. It sucked, but the beautiful trees when the storm was over was inspiring. It was a great analogy.

  17. Love the comparison, especially the point about getting stuck. We make great plans to reduce our debt and start off with a head of steam. Then life throws us a curve ball (or a snowstorm) and it can take awhile to work our way around that issue. It’s important at that moment not give up…just re-evaluate, make the necessary adaptations and move forward again.

  18. The blizzard was a disaster but I like the way how you incorporate this phenomenon to a list of wonderful guides in achieving a debt-free life. You’re right, getting a plan will help to know what you should do to settle things and prioritize the one that needs most attention. (Sorry for the typo on earlier comment)

  19. Absolutely love the blizzard analogy. It is not by coincidence that it is called a debt snowball. I have taken my debt and broken it down into segments that I really want to focus on–namely credit card, higher interest rate, and higher payment debt. Once that is done, I can move on to the next segment of debt.

  20. Debt can really overwhelm a person until their life caves in. But as you said, the sun never shines brighter when you’re finally debt-free. Every day I meet with people who are followed by a debt storm and just laying out all the pieces – makes the storm lessen. A great analogy and a great post, Kim.

  21. I think having a plan leads to the best results and is insurance you’ll get out of debt.

  22. Preparation for any storm is key, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

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