Gazelle Intensity, Not For Me Thanks

By glblguy


Timothy 4:4-5- Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer.

If you have ever listened to Dave Ramsey or read his book Total Money Makeover you’ve heard him say many times to be Gazelle Intense. What Dave means by this is that when you are attacking your debt, you need to be as intense as a gazelle trying to avoid being eaten. If you haven’t listened to Dave, I highly recommend you do. You can listen to one of his local radio broadcast or listen to his podcast.

I’m not gazelle intense, and I’m ok with that.

Being gazelle intense is a great thing, don’t get me wrong. The more focused you are, the more quickly you’ll get out of debt. We are sometimes gazelle intense, but not always. When you are gazelle intense you are taking any and all money not needed for life basics and putting it towards paying on your debt. Doing this means no eating out, no vacations, no trips to the amusement park, no movie nights, no visiting the fair, no nothing. Gazelle intense means being completely and 100% focused on paying debt. When you are gazelle intense you can pay off your debt quickly, generally within a couple of years, maybe more, maybe less.

I have 6 kids and have found they are growing fast, way too fast. Being 100% gazelle intense means we have to give up some things that I am just not comfortable giving up for my kids sake. A really good example of this is our recent trip to the fair. That was a great night. Sure it was a little expensive, but worth every penny. Had we been gazelle intense, we wouldn’t have gone. We also enjoyed a number of trips to our local amusement park this summer and a few camping trips. Again, had we been 100% gazelle intense we wouldn’t have done these.

Another example that comes to mind is our trip to Guatemala to bring our daughter home. We decided to bring our 2 oldest son’s with us, not only to be part of the adoption experience, but to let them experience Guatemala. It was expensive, but I have no regrets. They gained more out of that trip than you could ever put a price on. I think the strong bond they have with our daughter is a direct result of them being part of bringing her home.

Does this mean we aren’t focused? No. Does this mean we’re not getting out of debt? No. Does it mean I’ll be in debt longer? Yes. It also means that we are working to find a balance. We’re cutting back and reducing expenses, but not going completely crazy about it. Don’t misread, we are finding other more frugal ways to entertain ourselves, and we fully recognize that every family moment doesn’t have to involve money.

My kids are growing up fast, every minute with them counts. There are things I want them to remember, experiences I want them to have. Sure 2 years in the scheme of things isn’t a large amount of time, but 2 years of my children’s lives are.

Compared to how we were doing this time last year, we’ve come a long way. We pay more than 45% of our income towards our debt (this includes mortgage, cars, credit cards, and 401k loans). This time last year, we were paying less than 20% and that was due to the required minimums. Not only did we pay minimums, we continued to incur debt. No more, we cut up our cards. Could we be doing better? Yes, absolutely. At some point though you have to consider that it wasn’t our children’s fault we’re in debt. It’s ours. How much should they have to pay for our mistakes?

Are you gazelle intense? Whether you are or aren’t, what are your thoughts? How do you balance between saving and paying off debt and enjoying life a little?

33 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Gazelle Intensity, Not For Me Thanks”

  1. paidtwice Says:

    So true.

    My kids are younger, so I can “afford” to be a little more gazelle-intense about it. But still, there are things I don’t give up. My son is doing gymnastics this fall. I’ll be doing mommy and me swimming with my daughter. The end of your post really hit home for me – it isn’t my children’s fault I’m in debt.

  2. PaulaB52 Says:

    You’re right, it’s not the kids fault we’re in debt, it’s our own fault!

    We won’t give up baseball. Both my sons play on traveling select baseball teams. Just about every weekend from March-Mid July we are at a tournament, which usually includes eating out, hotels, extra gas for the car, gate fees, drinks, etc.

    Does this affect my budget & debt repayment? You know it! But they are worth it. We can do this without obtaining MORE debt while still paying off what we owe. Next year, I’m hoping we are debt free so this won’t be an issue.

  3. glblguy Says:

    @paidtwice and PaulaB52 – Thanks for your perspectives. Listening to Ramsey, I was kinda thinking I might be on the wrong track. Seems were not alone.

  4. Kyle Says:

    Excellent points. By doing some special outings (fair, amusement park,etc.) with the kids, I have found that they cherish them more and get more out of the actual experience than if we went someplace “fun” every weekend. Like you said, it is all about balance for the entire family.

  5. glblguy Says:

    Kyle, you’re exactly right.

  6. Erin Says:

    I feel like my dh and I are pretty gazelle, but maybe that’s only compared to how we were living before. We still do fun things with the kids, like our recent vacation to Maine. We budget stuff like that in. But if we were in a situation that some find themselves in (like not being able to buy food and the basics) then yeah; I’d be even more gazelle intense and would have skipped the vacation.

  7. glblguy Says:

    Erin, sounds like you are like me. We’re intense, but not gazelle as Dave seems to advocate. I’ve heard him say a million times, “no vacation” for a while. Sounds like you’ve found the balance I am referring to. Read about your trip, looks like you did pretty good financially…trips like that can be expensive, and wow that’s a long drive!

  8. Hilda Says:

    Right this moment, I am gazelle intense. My motivation is to someday become a stay-at-home mom and I know that getting rid of my debts now will make things a lot easier. I just hope I’m able to sustain these ‘attacks’ I’m doing before I run out of steam (or get pregnant.)

  9. glblguy Says:

    Hilda, I’m sure you can. If I didn’t have kids I would be as gazelle intense as it gets. You can do it, just set your self a goal and more importantly blog or tell people about it. Stephen Covey says that you are 90% more likely to achieve a goal if you write it down and tell someone about it. That is one of the many reasons I started this blog.

    Hey, just commenting above makes you 90% more likely to make it ;-) Thanks!

  10. Bunk Says:

    I agree with alot of your points. I like Mr Ramsey myself and know of the gazelle intensity . However as you stated, being a father with children can tend to take your focus off of a one track mind to pay off debt completely.

    Its one of those things where you have to ask yourself “Is it really worth it to rob my children of fond memories because I did some stupid stuff back in the day?” You have to look at evertyhing from a balanced perspective mind you, but I understand where you are coming from.

  11. justin Says:


    Everything has its place. Dave is way too focused on treating everyone like they are unable to think for themselves, or to be able to understand that if you can prioritise your spending you can accomplish freedom from debt and not miss out on life for weeks, months, years or whatever.

    While a lot of the people I have heard call him, and some of the other “experts” like Orman etc. are too uneducated in financial matters to understand what they can and can’t afford, just because you have these people calling you doesn’t mean everyone is that way. From my experience, people just need a gentle push in the right direction and they start straightening up right there.

    What’s the point of being debt free if you missed 3-5 or more years of fun and memories with family and friends? The old adage, I never heard anyone on their deathbed say … also applies to “I’m so glad I spent that portion of my life alienating my friends and family while I paid back my credit cards”.

  12. glblguy Says:

    @Buck – I think finding the right balance is the key. This same argument could easily be used as an excuse for the “not so disciplined”.

    @justin – I think Dave focused like that because that is his primary target audience, the financially ignorant. I can say that, as I think I may have been one of them. I agree that most people just need the nudge, or at least a little scare to make them realize. LOL…love the deathbed comment!

  13. April Says:

    I totally agree with you! We have 4 kids and a TON of debt. We cut back wherever we can, but I do not think the kids should be punished for our mistakes. They still do one sport and one musical instrument each. We go on trips to visit family out of state every other year. If no kids were involved, of COURSE we would be gazelle intense!

  14. glblguy Says:

    Hi April, sounds like you’ve found a balance as well. 4 kids, good for you. I love hearing about large families like mine.

  15. Debra Says:

    Hi there! I love your blog! I’m all about balance, but when there is a big enough snowball to justify it. Kids also don’t need their parents to be stressed for 5 plus years when they could have had 2 years of gazelle intensity. This is coming from someone who’s dad worked super hard (60-80 hours per week)building his new business and I never felt neglected at all. He is (and was) an awesome example and someone who I will forever look up to. Kids often don’t know what they are even missing unless parents make a big deal out of it. All those years ago, when my parents were struggling, I just thought they bought Mac N Cheese for dinner because we loved it! Little did I know it was because we didn’t have a large food budget! I just found out a couple years back about this!

  16. glblguy Says:

    Hi Debra, very glad you like it! Thanks for adding a little different perspective. I’d be fun with Mac N Cheese…I love it!

  17. Speedy Says:

    I like Dave Ramsey for the most part, but there are two things he suggests that I cannot do. One is paying the lowest balance debt first, rather than the one with the highest interest rate. The other is foregoing saving for retirement while paying off debts. Another two years of funding my retirement account now, even though I am paying off debts, will make a huge difference when I reach retirement age. So I guess “gazelle intensity” is not for me, either!

  18. glblguy Says:

    Speedy, thanks for the comment. Dave gives you a plan that works. He’s done it, and so have thousands of other people. Doing something different can certainly work just as well as you have found out. If what you are doing is working for you, than I think that’s great. Would Dave agree? Probably not…that’s ok too.

  19. m Says:

    I’m with you as well. I believe in finding balance, and for me moderation is key. With or without kids, I will not give up life’s pleasures and joys and the pursuit of all that fuels and replenishes me, simply to pay off debt a bit earlier than I could otherwise.

    I’d much rather pay a little more slowly and still enjoy this one life–the only one I’m given so far as I know, with nothing but today guaranteed–than to put off today’s pleasures and livling for a promise of a debt free future somewhere in the distance.

    I’m not saying I spend like crazy, but that the parts of life that I love that require some money, I will work to find ways to still enjoy, while also managing to pay off debt at a healthy pace. On my death bed, I won’t regret having lived life to the fullest I could while being responsible at the same time, but I will regret putting off living life, because I was busy paying my debt off one year (or however long) earlier than I would have otherwise.

    We each have to find what works for us. For some it is that gazelle intensity. For others that would only lead to a sense of deprivation and even potentially depression, which would make sticking to the original goal a struggle anyway.

    For me, finding a balance makes all the difference. I work continually to create and maintain a lifestyle that allows for pleasure and responsibility in unison.

    I don’t believe one way is better than another. It is about what works for the individual and their family. I don’t judge others for choosing a different method than I choose; I know we each have to pick what is reasonable and suitable and possible for us, based on many, many factors–many of which are not visible to the outside eye.

  20. glblguy Says:

    @m – very well said. Thanks for the insightful and well written comment!

  21. Mrs. Micah Says:

    I think being able to put 45% towards your debt is amazing! That’s probably better than many gazelles. Since I don’t have kids yet, this is the best time for me to sacrifice. While reading Dave’s book, I realized how different it would be if I had kids. When he did it, he’d hit rock bottom and didn’t even know if there was going to be money, which is an excuse for not spending it on kids.

  22. glblguy Says:

    Mrs. Micah, thanks! I agree with you on Dave, when there is no money you don’t have much of a choice. I am fortunate enough to have a well paying job, so that helps a great deal. Thank you for the comment!

  23. Says:

    you can eat out and do things, you can rent movies… but you budget for it and pay cash… no borrowing. no credit cards. no more going into debt. it means buying garage sale clothes for the kids for a period of time…. being on a budget and living within your means.

    pay for things with cash, or do without… common sense… living life with no borrowing. Like my grandmom did.

  24. glblguy Says:

    @GazelleIntense – I agree with everything you are saying, but that is not what Gazelle Intensity is about. What you are saying is what being debt free is about. Gazelle Intensity is about how you get out of debt, it is a technique and an aggressive one.

  25. Siena Says:

    Although Dave is about gazelle intensity, he is also a big believer in budgets. And in every budget, Dave is clear there needs to be an amount called “blow money.” This is money that he says everyones need to budget for to spend on whatever frivolous thing we want–whether it being entertainment, hobbies, etc . . . Dave is pretty clear about this in his book–we can have fun and spend money so long as it’s in the budget and we stick to the amount budgeted.

  26. glblguy Says:

    Siena, I’ve read that and have the book. I’ll be honest though, when you listen to his radio program, the way he portrays Gazelle Intensity is very different. His radio show portrays it as an all out attack on your debt, no eating out, no vacation, no nothing…complete and utter focus on getting out of debt.

    I have no issue with this, and I think it is a highly capable way of eradicating your debt. It’s just a little too intense for me.

  27. Justin Says:

    @glblguy: Yes. Even his book makes references to it. Eat rice and beans, beans and rice, cut out all the fun that costs money from your life until you have everything paid off. Get a second job, sell everything worth anything. Live like no one else, etc.

  28. Rob Says:

    I think Siena is more on the right track. The budget is what will help you remain Gazelle intense (or close to it) while still freeing up some income for the little outings. If you get a bonus of $50, technically yes.. Gazelle intense the way it’s portrayed would mean that $50 goes straight toward debt. Obviously circumstances have an effect on how practical you can be with this. It is much easier for the single person living in a rented studio to sacrifice whatever thing the $50 would’ve bought than the family of four with a scary mortgage payment. I think of Gazelle Intensity as having levels..let’s say 1-10. Most people aren’t willing to sacrifice enough to be a straight 10 for years of their life, but I think they could handle being 7-8, have a little bit to play with, and still be far ahead of the people lounging about at 2-3. The budget is what can allow that to happen once people start paying attention to where their money is going.