Dave Ramsey’s theory about getting out of debt as soon as possible with the intensity of a gazelle being chased by a cheetah resonates with many of his followers. But is it too much? Is the intensity Dave suggests just too hard for people to sustain for the long haul?
What Is Gazelle Intensity?
Dave Ramsey is a money guru who firmly teaches that debt is dumb. There is no room for credit card debt; cash is the way to a better life.
Gazelle’s intensity comes from a biblical verse, Proverbs 6:4–5, “Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.”
Visualize, if you will, the grasslands of Africa: the gazelle grazing and enjoying the sun and slight breeze. The camera pans over to a cheetah crouched in the grass, waiting to pounce.
Now you know that cheetahs are fast. But did you know gazelles can be FASTER? And they are smart. Our gazelle friend senses danger and gets a quick glimpse of the crouching cheetah in the tall grass.
The gazelle takes off on a flat-out run with the cheetah right behind him. The cheetah is gaining until the gazelle kicks it up a notch, like pushing the nos button on the final stretch of the race in Fast and Furious; that gazelle is GONE.
It’s incredible how fast you can go and how much ground you can cover when your life depends on it!
This is the point. You will kick it up a notch and get out of debt like our life depends on it. Debt freedom is within your reach, and the faster you get there, the more time you will have to do the things that matter the most to you.
You have built up quite a pile of debt. You feel like you are drowning, from credit cards to student loans and personal loans to that large mortgage. You are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and you feel like you make way too much money to be that poor.
Just like that gazelle, you will be toast if you don’t move at a pretty fast pace!
Debt Payoff With Gazelle Like Focus
Dave Ramsey’s debt payoff plan believes there are eight concepts that are the best way to have a gazelle-like focus.
- Have a budget.
- Sell everything but the kids.
- Sell cars and buy a beater.
- Eat rice and beans.
- Cut cable.
- Deliver pizzas.
- Have a starter emergency fund.
- No restaurants unless you’re working in one.
If you want to try one of these approaches but aren’t sure this is for you, try Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps instead.
Have a Budget
The Dave Ramsey Gazelle Intense Budget. It might be one of the most used phrases in Dave Ramsey’s books, blog posts, or videos. You must have a budget if you want to achieve financial freedom. It’s important to tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it all went.
Creating a budget isn’t as terrible as you might think. It makes having financial goals so much easier.
Simply, it’s making a list of all the things you spend money on (or your expenses) and then writing down all of the money you have coming in (or your income) and then making sure the expenses and the income equal out to zero. Setting up takes some extra work, but that hard work is worth it.
You do not want to be spending more money than you make. It might seem okay in the short term, but in the long term, it is unsustainable.
You can check out this article on Budgeting for Beginners for a more detailed explanation.
I also have an entire ebook on starting a budget with all the printables you might need. You can find that in the shop.
Downside. Having a budget sucks, and I hate it. I’m not good at numbers and organization and I feel like I keep failing. It’s exhausting.
Find a system that works for you. Personal finance is personal. Everyone can find their best system, whether it is an app or something mostly automated or old-school paper and pencil.
Okay, not really. But look at everything with a stern eye. Do you need a house, a garage, a storage unit, and a back shed full of stuff? it’s time to have a Garage Sale!
If items are more valuable than a garage sale will bring, consider Facebook Marketplace or Craigs List.
This may include the boat or motorcycle. It’s not forever. It’s only temporary.
I’m not a fan of the stuff, so decluttering is a fun project I keep up with regularly. I have a large bin in the basement that I add things to (regularly) for our annual garage sale weekend.
Wherever you can find extra money, please do it. And add that to your debt payoff.
Downside. What if I’ve done that already to buy groceries? What if there’s nothing left to sell? Where am I supposed to get this extra money?
Plasma donation? Your left arm? Kidding about the left arm. There are other ways to get money. Keep reading, and you might find some that will work.
Sell cars and buy a beater
The price of a brand new car today ASTOUNDS me. The base price of a 2020 Chrysler Pacifica is $33,495. That’s just the basics. With no money down over 45 months at 5% interest, that’s a car payment of $771 per month.
That’s a lot of money each month.
Buy a beater – a car that’s safe and cheap. It might not be pretty, but it will get you from point A to point B.
And yes, you can have a cheap car with kids. As a Financial Coach, I have heard a handful of times, “But I can’t buy a cheap car; I have kids, and I need to keep them safe. I can’t be broken down on the side of the road!”
Oh, yes, you can. It won’t be all shiny and fancy, but you sure can.
I have owned PLENTY of safe and reliable cars in my lifetime for under $2,000. Have a mechanic check it over before purchasing.
If you could sell the car you own right now with a $600 monthly payment and buy a $3,000 car with cash, that’s an added $600 monthly to tack onto that student loan debt.
Downside. I’m upside down on my car, and I owe more than it’s worth? What if it’s almost paid for? What if I believe my car is my kids’ safest vehicle? What if I don’t want to?
Can you make it work and still keep your car? You bet. But it will take a little longer.
Eat rice and beans
Eating rice and beans is not literal, sort of. It means to eat cheap.
Gone are the days of spending $300 a week on groceries. It’s time to learn how to spend $300 a month.
Your grocery budget is the one area of flexibility that’s easy to manipulate. You really can cut down substantially on your food budget.
This part of the gazelle intensity model will give you a great return on investment. You invest your time into planning; your return saves money to put toward debt.
Downside. I like food. I like good-for-you, organic, yummy food. The best I can get for my body. No chemicals and toxins will be allowed into my kid’s mouths, and our bodies don’t feel well with those refined carbs. It’s so important to have organic, grass-fed, sustainable meat. Anything less is a deal-breaker.
I get it. Just be aware that the gazelle intensity will be more challenging to come by.
Cut out cable
There are SO MANY alternatives to cable today. You have many options, from subscriptions like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ to Sling and Youtube Live.
There’s even a big comeback on the retro TV antenna – which is FREE after you purchase the antenna itself. I have a friend getting 56 channels off an extra-tall antenna – with no monthly charges.
Just keep in mind that these streaming services can add up. Pick a few of your favorites and the antenna. You have a pretty cheap and sweet setup.
I would cut out the cable entirely if it were up to me. But my husband is a proper channel surfer through and through. There’s no way he will give it up in the name of gazelle intensity.
I rarely watch any TV shows. I enjoy Netflix and YouTube.
As I get older, I would rather watch something I can learn from, except for The Office. I love that show!
Downside. There is NO WAY my husband is going to go for cutting cable. He says this is why he works so hard, so he can come home, eat dinner, and relax in front of the TV to watch his favorite shows. That is not going to happen.
Again, it’s okay. Can you call the cable company and get a better price? There are ways around it.
This is Dave’s way of saying – find a side hustle.
You will hear him say if you listen to his podcast or watch it on YouTube. “How much would an extra $1,000 a month change your life?”
I know people who LOVE the side hustle. They have mowed lawns, baked pumpkin rolls, rented out rooms in their house, and detailed cars.
Talk about some gazelle intensity – working your job forty hours a week and then working another 30 hours on the weekend? Determination and ‘gazelle intense.’
The list of ideas is endless.
What are you good at? Do you like kids? Babysit. Are you a night owl who enjoys people? Bartend.
Check out this article on how to make money for more ideas.
Downside. My job is stressful and exhausting. I’m too tired to mow my lawn, so there’s no way I will have enough energy to cut someone else’s lawn. The last thing I want to do on the weekends is to take time away from my family and friends to “side hustle.” Weekends are made for fun.
Yup. It sucks. And if your job is too much, then don’t do it. Again, this may be a deal-breaker. You can only cut back so much. More income means faster debt recovery.
Have a starter emergency fund
It is going to rain. Prepare yourself for the storm.
Knowing that you have a little bit of money set aside for things that unexpectedly come up will give you a beautiful sense of peace.
Use some of that money from selling all your stuff to build the $1,000 baby emergency fund before you start tackling that debt.
You can check out this article on how to build a starter emergency fund here.
Downside. I don’t need an emergency fund. Everything is fine. I will get a new credit card if I need money for an emergency. One that will only be used for emergencies.
How’s that credit card thing working for you? This area is where it’s imperative to have some emergency funds in a savings account. Easy enough to get to when you need it but hard enough to get to so it doesn’t disappear.
No restaurants unless you’re working in one
Going out to eat is a pleasure people often look forward to in our society. It’s quicker, easier, requires no planning or thinking, and is QUITE expensive.
Planning and buying the proper cheap groceries will save a lot of money.
This is gazelle intensity at its best and requires some great discipline. It’s a lot of work to start with meal planning, but it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it.
Most of us eat the same foods over and over.
With Pinterest and the wide variety of food bloggers sharing recipes online, choices for new ideas are plentiful.
Here’s a great article about saving money by eating at home.
Downside. I just can’t. I may lose my mind if I have to be in charge of meal planning, cooking, cleaning, and feeding these people every night for the next 100 years. Sometimes, I need a beak – get out of the house and let someone else take care of ME for one meal.
Boy, do I understand this desire. Try once every two weeks instead of a few nights a week.
Being Gazelle Intense Can Lead To Burn Out
It is SO hard to be this disciplined for as long as it takes to knock out your debt. There will be bumps, potholes, and bridges will be out. But if you continue on the route, you’ll make it.
You need to understand that the more relaxed you are about “the rules,” the longer it will take you to become debt-free.
If you are an all-or-nothing personality and discover how badly you want this, you will be willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
Things come up. Life happens. You will have setbacks and times with a more laid-back approach.
And don’t beat yourself up if it takes five years instead of three to pay off all your debt. Gazelle’s intensity doesn’t have to be intense all the time.
Enjoy your family. Those babies are only little for a short while.
Find the balance.
Give yourself some grace.
But keep your eye on the prize. Being debt-free is INCREDIBLE!