Gazelle Intensity: How fast is it?

By glblguy


Gazelle Intensity is a term coined by Dave Ramsey that refers to how a Gazelle reacts when being pursued by a Cheetah. The concept of Gazelle intensity is even found in scripture.

One of the queries I seem to get fairly often is: How fast is gazelle intensity? Based on the number of Google searches I receive on a daily basis for this query and others like “get out of debt quick“, “how to get out of debt quickly“, and even “God’s way to getting out of debt quickly“, it seems lots of people want to get out of debt as fast as they got in. The reality is it takes far longer to get out of debt than get in.

Gazelle intensity works

The concept of gazelle intensity, or being gazelle intense combined with the debt snowball will certainly accelerate the process of getting out of debt, it isn’t a quick fix. The process takes time, discipline, and complete focus…intensity if you will. Just listen to the Dave Ramsey Show a few times, and you’ll hear story after story from callers on how the concept works.

Gazelle intensity is as fast as you want it to be

How gazelle intense you are is really dependent on you and the personal commitment you are willing to make. Dave Ramsey often refers to the term “Beans and rice“. For the most part, Dave doesn’t mean this literally, but is really referring to the concept of significantly cutting back on your expenses and living on as little as you possibly can. Everything else goes towards your debt.

Some people do this with ease, some cannot do this at all, and others like me do it in what I’ll call sprints. Returning to the Gazelle intensity analogy, the Gazelle doesn’t have to avoid to the Cheetah for long periods of time, but in short bursts. In between, the Gazelle is always vigilant, always watching for the Cheetah but not running away. If the Gazelle had to avoid the Cheetah constantly, it would quickly burn out and either die of exhaustion or be caught by the Cheetah.

Gazelle Intensity for me

For me, being Gazelle intense is about staying vigilant and sprinting every so often. My debt snowball is aggressive, but not as a aggressive as it could be. This is a personal choice I’ve made. For others being highly aggressive works better for them.

My debt payment, as I stated when I wrote about my 2008 financial goal was to pay $1000.00 a month towards my debt. It was a lofty goal, and one I haven’t met thus far, but I’ve been close. I budget out debt payment monthly, but do some only after taking into consideration other expenses that we will have. I certainly try to put as much as I can, but with 6 kids, we seem to always have something coming up that needs to be addressed: Field trips, new shoes, sports, book bags, etc.

Other things play into this as well that can cause us to have to take a break from Gazelle intensity. For example, this month we’re taking some of our debt snowball money and putting it towards some badly needed repairs for our home. Like the Gazelle though, while not sprinting, we are vigilant for the Cheetah. We don’t have any credit cards, every credit card offer or set of convenience checks we receive goes straight to the shredder. We are careful to only spend the money we have, and insure that our expenses are budgeted using You Need a Budget.

So how fast is Gazelle Intensity?

This is actually very simple, it’s as fast as you want it to be. How quickly you can get out of debt is driven by two primary factors:

  • Your Income – Of course the more income you have, the more money you have available to to put against your debt snowball. Many people not only work a primary job, they work a secondary job or have an alternative source of income. My alternative income is my two blogs: this one and Saltwater Each month some portion of my primary income and a large portion of my blog income is combined and allocated to our debt snowball. Occasionally we receive “windfall” money in the form of income tax returns, dividend checks, etc. These are immediately placed against our debt as snowflakes to further accelerate our debt snowball. I often do this with my blogging income as well.
  • Your focus and priorities – Let’s face it, the more diligent, determined and focused you are, the more quickly you are going to be out of debt. I am always inspired by the stories I hear on the Dave Ramsey show of people who almost literally lived on “beans and rice” for 2 years and paid off $50,000 in debt. These folks are focused. They sacrifice everything to accelerate their debt snowball as quickly as they can. If paying off your debt is your #1 priority, than you will put all of your focus there. For me, paying off my debt is high, but my kids are my priority and I find myself playing a constant balancing act of taking care of their needs and paying as much as we can on our debt snowball.

Gazelle Intensity is a journey

Over the past year and half, I’ve learned that being gazelle intense isn’t about speed, it’s about direction. Gazelle intensity is about moving in the direction of being debt free and staying focused on that direction. On most days you’ll walk in that direction, proceeding with a steady and planned pace. On others you’ll jog and maybe even run as you have more available cash and even energy. On others, you’ll stumble or maybe even fall due to unexpected events. Only to get back up and continue the journey.

Don’t get caught up in how fast you think you need to be going. Accept the fact that the journey to getting out of debt is a far longer walk than the journey to get into debt. Proceed with focus, and determination. Focus on where you are going and not on the daily or monthly events that impact how fast you’re getting there. Remember, each step you take is one step closer to being debt free.

How fast has gazelle intensity worked for you? Are you constantly gazelle intense or do you go in sprints as well? Add a comment!

18 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Gazelle Intensity: How fast is it?”

  1. Damsel Says:

    What a great post! I agree that we do our gazelle intensity in sprints, and that we aren’t “beans and rice” extremists about our remaining debt due to family priorities. I really like your point that it’s not always about speed, but it *is* always about direction. We were able to live with my parents for a couple of years, and we definitely had intensity and speed then. In fact, we worked ourselves completely out of credit card debt, bought my husband a car for cash, and saved some for a down payment on a house, among other things.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  2. This Mom Says:

    I would never last long on the plan if I had to go “beans and rice” or extreme gazelle… lol

    We budget our money, leaving adequate amounts in each envelope and sinking fund. Our bills are paid, we have money to do things we want to do, I’m able to shop when I want to, and I’m making double payments on our last debt (our car). We’ve eliminated over $100k in debt in 2 years (details on my blog)… So we’ve been working the plan, but we haven’t sacrificed a whole lot yet.

  3. frugalwannabe Says:

    We’re about to go ‘beans and rice’ intense for the next two months in preparation for my hubby’s leaving his job. We’ve been working on our debt for about 6 months now in the ‘occasionally intense’ mindset and have made excellent progress, but want to really pound the debt down while we still have a larger income.

    But basically we’re committed to becoming debt free no matter how long it takes…

    great article!

  4. Nate Says:

    First, thanks for being honest. You explained what exactly gazelle intensity is and how it works. But rather than blame circumstances or even Dave Ramsey for not necessarily qualifying you as gazelle intense, you took responsibility and said it was your decision, not somebody else’s.

    As for my experience with gazelle intensity…
    I too started with a commitment to pay 1k towards debt a month and finish in 2 years. The first month we didn’t quite make it, but the next two months we made considerable gain. Then I thought of all I could do that I wasn’t doing. I’ll be starting a part time job here shortly. We are literally eating beans and rice. We don’t go out to eat. And we say NO to a lot of things. We pushed our snowball up to 2k a month and to finish in one year. In our case a sprint is a year. It’s not easy, but we keep the goal in front of us at all times.

  5. SavingDiva Says:

    Wow! Nate’s sotry is equally moving. I think it’s great to hear about the focus people have to pay down their debts. I’m currently working on creating an emergency fund, so it’s been difficult for me to stay focused (and not spend).

  6. Ron@TheWisdomJournal Says:

    Very interesting post. I agree that direction is more important than speed. The problem is that if you don’t have enough speed, any little speed bump can be difficult to overcome. I’d suggest using the full snowball payment amount every month to generate momentum and get some early successes, but do not neglect allocating some fun money…every paycheck. If you feel like you’re just a mule with a job and nothing else, you’ll fall back into old habits much more easily.

  7. Michelle H. Says:

    This is a really good post! I also am a “gazelle sprinter”. I appreciate you including scripture in your posts. When I need a pick me up to keep on going, nothing helps like reading Proverbs!
    My husband is a pastor and has a favorite saying that actually refers to folling Christ but I think it could apply here also– “It’s not about perfection, but it is about direction.”
    Many blessings!

  8. paidtwice Says:

    This is a great post! And thanks for the links :)

  9. Debt Free Hispanic Says:

    Wow, I understand the need to be gazelle intense. stick with it, little by little like your title. I am also trying to get people towards debt freedom.

  10. Lynnae @ Being Says:

    I don’t feel like we’re as gazelle intense as we could be. And the little speed bumps in life that Ron mentioned tend to derail us some. But we generally move in the right direction. It’s sometimes a difficult balance to pay off your debt, yet make sure your children don’t pay the price for the mistakes of the parents.

    I think it’s easier to be all-out gazelle intense if you know you can pay off your debt in a relatively short amount of time. In my case, it will take more than a year even if we got really intense, and I think gazelle intensity would quickly backfire into an all-out splurge, making things much worse. Balance is the key.

  11. Mrs. Micah Says:

    Dangit, Gibble, that was a much more awesome version of a post I just wrote. ;)

    I’m 100% with you. Even as a gazelle rests or redirects its efforts that doesn’t mean getting into debt at the same time.

  12. jeflin Says:

    It is a very interesting term and I agree that getting out of debt is harder than getting in. Clearing debts involves lots of sacrifices and people tend to give up.

    It is a long process and I believe keeping a journal of your debts paid is useful as you see the results of your perseverance.


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