Daily Archives: April 18, 2008

Snowflake State of Mind

When I first came across PaidTwice’s blog and her “Snowflaking: A Primer,” I was intrigued but didn’t really see how it could add up to serious debt repayment.  However, in the spirit of trying something new, I decided to sell a few things on Amazon and sign up for a few survey sites.  I figured these “snowflakes” would cover the interest on my credit cards, but not much more.

Now, just two months later, I think I’ll be able to pay off my first credit card four months ahead of schedule!  How did that happen?  I don’t think it’s because of the individual $5.30 I got for one survey or the $16.99 I sold my yogurt maker for.  Instead, it’s because my brain has shifted over to a snowflake state of mind. Here’s how just committing to snowflaking alters your behavior in other ways:

Little Amounts of Money Recalibrate Your Sense of Scale

At first, I was doing a lot of small snowflakes.  I sold movies on Amazon for $2.00 each.  I completed surveys for points, waiting for them to add up to $10.  I even found the smallest snowflake of all, the $0.01 jobs on Mturk.  This is a site sponsored by Amazon where web developers hire normal folks like us to be “artificial artificial intelligence.”  Sometimes, you click on something on a website; sometimes, you paraphrase a paragraph; sometimes you tell if two items are the same or not.  You get to pick which jobs to accept and get paid once your work is approved.  I’ve avoided the fishy blog ones and have just chosen ones that seem sensible. Some tasks give you twenty-five cents or more, but many are two to three cents.  Over the course of a month, I racked up $20.00 by pointing and clicking while watching T.V.  All these little snowflakes are adding up; I had an extra $250 last month.  More importantly, they are readjusting my sense of the value of money.  Literally watching pennies add up is making me much more careful about all my purchases. 

Snowflaking Opens Your Eyes to Opportunity

Have you ever learned a new vocabulary word somewhere and then started hearing it everywhere?  This happened to me all the time in my graduate school days.  Of course, it’s not like everyone started using that word just to help my learning curve.  Instead, once I was aware of it, my ears pricked up at any mention of the word.  The same thing is now happening with snowflakes.  Before, I’d walk right by a rebate or a special offer. Now that I’m tuned into the fact that little amounts of money are just as important as big ones, I’m much more likely to complete the paperwork, save the receipt, or go the extra mile to save on something.

Snowflakes Work in Reverse

Here’s the fundamental shift in my thinking.  I got into the debt I’m in from hundreds of tiny snowflakes of money. I didn’t buy $8,000 worth of furniture or a new computer or a brand new wardrobe.  Instead, all those mundane purchases added up.  I didn’t watch sales at the grocery store, so I’d go over budget by tossing whatever I wanted into my cart.  Then, I’d run short on cash, so I’d charge a $4 latte and a $12 book in order to avoid bouncing checks.  Every time I said to myself, “hey, it’s only $x dollars.”  I was right in isolation.  A $4 latte is just a $4 latte. However, day after day, treat after treat, little “I deserve it” thought after “I deserve it” thought, they all add up, to the tune of about $8700 in sixteen months.  The devil really is in the details of a budget.  Once I tuned into that fact, it’s become much easier to say “no” to all those temptations!

Now that I’m in a snowflake state of mind, I’m sticking to my budget and paying down my credit cards rather than running them up. Try doing just one snowflake, like selling something online or filling out a survey.  You’ll be amazed by how quickly it affects the rest of your thinking about money!