Have you ever had one of those days at work when things are so bad that all you can think about is ignoring your bag lunch and buying something delicious instead?
And then, just as you’re ready to treat yourself, you remember: I have debt.
You go back to your bag lunch and remind yourself that the real treat is sticking to your budget and getting yourself out of debt once and for all. The resolve you just showed is called “gazelle intensity.”
Gazelle intensity is a strategy many find useful in paying off debt fast. Read on to see if gazelle intensity may be your best way to pay off debt.
What is gazelle intensity?
Gazelle intensity is a term coined by Dave Ramsey in his book, The Total Money Makeover. In describing gazelle intensity, Ramsey more or less tells his readers to make debt an absolute emergency until it’s paid off. Here’s how he describes it:
“…the way you get out of debt is you run like a gazelle with a cheetah chasing you. You go crazy. Intense! So gazelle intense it’s as if you’re about to be eaten. You run!”
According to Ramsey, applying this kind of life or death intensity to your finances is key for paying off debt fast.
“That’s what gazelle intensity is – running for your life. That is the formula for getting out of debt. It’s not as much math as it is just going bananas.”
If you think it’s time to go bananas with your debt payoff, here are a few tips to help you reframe your mindset and start living with gazelle intensity.
Paying off debt fast with gazelle intensity
1. Strip down your budget
First of all, if you want to implement gazelle intensity, you have to strip everything you don’t need from your budget. That means cutting cable, removing your entertainment budget, and so on.
If there’s anything in your current budget that is be categorized as a nice-to-have, it has to go. You can’t be gazelle intense if you’re spending money on things you don’t need.
2. Find ways to do things for free
The next step to going gazelle intense is to find free or cheap ways to do things you would normally have to pay for. Think packing lunches, making coffee at home, even making your homemade cleaning products like detergent and shampoo. Gazelle intensity could even go so far as cutting your hair.
To be successful with this step, you have to rethink the services and things you’re paying for. Nothing is sacred in this category.
3. Drastically decrease your cost of living
Once you’ve reduced your expenses as much as possible, try to reduce them some more. For example, you could take on roommates to cut your rent in half or move in with family for free (or almost free).
Take a look at your non-credit card debt load. If you have a car loan, is it possible to sell your car, pay the loan off, and buy a car that you can afford in cash instead? That monthly payment you save can go straight to other debt.
It’s the same with your house. Would you be willing to sell your home and downsize to lower your mortgage payment – and energy costs? You don’t have to go this far if it doesn’t make sense for you to do so, but it’s an option many gazelle intense believers might consider.
4. Battle back against feelings of deprivation or fatigue
To stay gazelle intense, you’ll need to find ways to battle back against feelings of deprivation or debt fatigue. After all, maintaining this level of discipline for as long as it takes to pay off your debt requires serious willpower and determination.
One way to boost your morale is to sell any belongings you can part with and apply that money to your debt. Making a large extra payment always feels good and can reduce your overall time in debt. You could try achieving the same thing by applying your tax refund to your debt.
If you don’t have anything to sell and aren’t getting a tax refund, keep yourself motivated by celebrating all of your wins along the way. Create a visual chart to color in when you make a debt payment, share your success each month with an accountability partner, or simply remember to cheer yourself on every time you make a payment.
5. Don’t look up until you’re debt-free
With gazelle intensity, there are no breaks and there are no monetary celebrations. You have to keep going until you hit that beautiful amount: ZERO. Don’t look up, don’t spend extra money, keep on going until you’re debt-free. That’s gazelle intense.
Is gazelle intensity the best way to pay off debt?
Now that you know how to use gazelle intensity for paying off debt fast, the question is:
Could gazelle intensity be the best way to pay off debt for you?
It depends on who you ask. Some find this to be the only way while others deem it too restrictive and unrealistic. To help you decide if you should use gazelle intensity for paying off debt, here are some stories of people who’ve had success with it.
Carrie paid off $14,000 in 14 months
When writer and freelancer coach Carrie was just starting out in her debt repayment journey, she owed a combined $14,000 on two credit cards and an auto loan. She didn’t go gazelle intense the whole time, but when she did she saw major progress:
“I gained momentum as I saw my debt decrease and I revised my initial goal to July 2012 [from the original goal of December 21, 2012] – which took some serious motivation and sacrifice to hit.”
To do this, Carrie lived on only two-thirds of her income and took major steps to increase her income through freelancing on top of her full-time job. It paid off – she was finished in just over one year.
Matt paid off $15,000 in 10 months
Sports marketer and finance blogger Matt knew he wanted to pay off his student loans but didn’t get aggressive until he’d been paying them down for more than two years. Before that point, he and his now wife were more focused on building savings and paying for their wedding and honeymoon, while also dealing with inconsistent employment.
But when they decided to kick their pace up a notch, they used gazelle intensity to do it:
“Viewing our debt with this level of seriousness was paramount for us to speed up the process. I’m a huge believer that motivation is the single biggest key to paying off debt quickly. You have to make it your number one focus in your budget to start seeing the most progress.” (The Financial Diet)
It must have worked because they took their balance from $27,000 to $12,000 in just ten months. That’s less than a year to pay off more than half of their remaining balance!
Kyle paid off $33,000 in 18 months
Then there’s teacher and finance blogger Kyle, whose debt payoff journey we recently wrote about. Kyle went really gazelle intense to get rid of his $33,000 in student loans.
Kyle moved into his sister’s basement so he could save on rent, he took on side gigs like teaching driver’s education, and he even managed to cut his food budget to a minuscule $100 per month. He also lived with roommates for a time.
These changes may seem pretty extreme, but they enabled him to eliminate his student loans in just 18 months. Now he applies his new habit to goals such as saving for a home and paying cash for a car, wedding, and honeymoon. He even has a fully funded emergency account to keep him from using credit when something unexpected comes up.
Are you next?
The question of whether or not gazelle intensity is the best way to pay off debt doesn’t have a right or wrong answer. To engage in this type of debt payoff strategy requires such diligence that, if you’re not ready for it, you might end up burning out and going backward on your goals.
But that’s not to say you can’t borrow from the ideas of gazelle intensity and apply the ones you think you can sustain.
However, if you want your debt gone quickly and are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen, gazelle intensity could be your speed. Just make sure it’s something you can commit to. Then outline your plan, follow the steps above, and start outmaneuvering your debt like a gazelle can outmaneuver a cheetah.
You never know, your debt payoff story could be the next one on this list!
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