This Year Think Small

Worship services are held in the March Air Reserve Base Chapel each unit training assembly weekend. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Megan Just)

Worship services are held in the March Air Reserve Base Chapel each unit training assembly weekend. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Megan Just)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines the verb "snowball" as increasing, accumulating, expanding, or multiplying at a rapidly accelerating rate. New Year's resolutions can be a lot like snowballs. Just as a small lump of earth can increase in mass and speed as it rolls down a snowy hill, large and daunting goals can be equally easy to achieve when smaller ones are first accomplished.

Unfortunately, when goals are too large to begin with, they can be difficult to start and tougher to finish, which usually results in total abandonment. If this describes some of your past resolution efforts, try thinking small this year.

For instance, suppose your New Year's resolution is to shed credit card debt. Perhaps you have three or four cards you would like to cut up. Rather than making minimum payments on all of them, which can make their payoff a long-lasting ordeal, most personal finance managers recommend incorporating the "snowball principle."

First, identify which card carries the largest minimum payment or charges the most interest. Then, rather than making that card's minimum monthly payment, pay a little more. How much more? That is up to you -- what you can afford. Just remember, even a modest amount above the minimum is better than nothing at all.

Eventually the day will come when that first card is paid off -- congratulations, one less bill! Now, all your newfound wealth, ordinarily spent on the first card, is added to the minimum payment of your next largest bill. When that card finally goes, the money saved is then applied to the next. Do you see how this works?

Your debt-payoff snowball grows bigger and bigger, rolls faster and faster and before you know it, you are out of debt! Just think, all you did was pay a modest amount more on your first bill! Was this plan magical? No, not at all, just a little push in the beginning, some patience and help from math and physics.

Can you think of ways to apply the snowball principle to other resolutions of yours? You can consider setting goals that allot more time for family, or less time watching television and more physical fitness activities. The possibilities are endless. The key is starting small and consistently keeping at it. As time goes by, the momentum you have created will make your efforts much easier. Hey, you might be surprised at what big things result.

Happy New Year and God bless!