Debt Snowball: Letting the effect work for lupus

Are any DL readers out there familiar with best-selling author and radio personality Dave Ramsey, of Total Money Makeover fame? Not sure how I came across him (Probably Johnny, come to think of it), but I've read his book and it's great.

One of the steps in the Total Money Makeover is something he calls the Debt Snowball. The idea, as it applies to paying off debts, is to list all of your debts in order, and then work on paying off your smallest debt first, not your largest. Starting small allows you to obtain a quick "win" in the payoff category, building momentum so that you continue the behavior. He says:

The point of the debt snowball is simply this: You need some quick wins in order to stay pumped up about getting out of debt! Paying off debt is not always about math. It’s about motivation...When you start knocking off the easier debts, you will see results and you will stay motivated to dump your debt.

The same applies to the steps to living well. Your instinct might tell you to try and make the big changes first...that the little ones can be saved for later...when in fact, the exact opposite might work best. I unknowingly employed the Debt Snowball technique to my life with lupus way back when, and it worked wonders.

Here's what I mean:

In my book and throughout my blog posts, I cite three major changes that really secured my position on the path to living well. One was going part-time at work, another was starting Cellcept, and the third was cutting my hair. And I did them in the exact opposite order.

While I don't pretend that cutting off my hair cut was anything short of was the easiest and  lowest hanging fruit of the three. Why? Because, first, I had major concerns about starting Cellcept (although it turned out to be a miracle drug for me), and needed time to consider my options. And two, I knew approaching my company to discuss a part-time position was going to majorly impact my life (financially and emotionally), and I was reluctant to take the leap.

Cutting my hair, however, involved a relatively quick decision that affected me and only me- so the hair was the first to go.

And it was the first of many changes to come, as that single act started a series of events that literally changed my life forever (hence this blog, my book, and my bags...not to mention my two kids!) Once I cut my hair (which you can read about here), I was like a new person - empowered, confident, and encouraged. I felt a sense of self that I hadn't experienced in a long time, and with that momentum, I quickly made the next move with the Cellcept - as it was the second-least impactful change in my mind. While it was a major step that I considered carefully, it definitely wasn't as major as making a permanent change at work. I figured I could stop the medication at any time, and surely the side-effects I was so worried about wouldn't have time to kick in.

But soon after I decided to start my new medication, I made the decision to approach my boss about a change at work. It just felt like the right thing to do - the momentum from the first two changes so strong I was practically propelled into it.  To have broken the wave would have felt unnatural - I wanted nothing more than to continue the emotional boost felt after I cut my hair, and the positive impact of starting the new medication.

And truthfully, I don't know if I would have EVER made a change to my working situation had I not made those other two changes first. And if that change hadn't taken place, this post wouldn't even exist!

So apply Ramsey's advice today - make a quick list of some changes you could make that would allow you to start living well. Instead of making the big ones first, start with the small, incremental changes that are good for your health, but can be implemented relatively easily and quickly. Let the impact of those changes build momentum so that you continue making good-for-you decisions, allowing you to eventually make those major changes that will truly allow you to live well, despite lupus.


Sara, I'm thrilled that you put this post in a context I'm familiar with. I have always loved saving, and finding ways to get out of and stay out of debt, and I've used the debt snowball idea myself with great success.

Now that I am newly diagnosed with SLE, and realizing this tiredness, sickness and general malaise may never go away (though I hope the meds bring some relief!!), I really need some tools for getting my head around an approach to dealing with a chronic illness. Right now my mind is spinning in a million directions wonderin not only how to deal with immediate concerns, but how to tackle the fiancial burden, how to keep my job, how to somehow get my house back into acceptable order and, well, everyhijg else that comes to mind when you find out you're in for a life of docs and drugs.

If I can just find a way to make some smqll, but impactful changes to make life incrementally easier, hopefully the rest will fall into place.

I'm new to your blog, and I love it! You are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing about yourself and helping others know they are not alone, and that life can get better.

Sara Gorman said…
Believe it or not, Dawn, I am just seeing your comment now! (Back then, I didn't have comment alert on, so I never knew when folks were commenting. Eek! My sincere apologies for the 5 year delay!) It is SO overwhelming in the beginning - and you do a fantastic job of summarizing exactly how lupus encompasses and affects all aspects of our lives. I hope you have adjusted to life with lupus and are managing well. Feel free to stop back by anytime! Take care - SG

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