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You’ve heard the phrase tossed around, but do you know what it means?
While it might sound like something that only National Geographic would care about, we promise it actually does have something to do with money and your debt-free journey. So, lend us an ear, and we’ll tell you the tale of the Gazelle.
What is gazelle intensity?
Our very own Dave Ramsey coined the term after reading 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.”
In other words, when you’ve gone into debt, you’ve co-signed on a loan, or you’re in over your head with money problems, you need to work as hard to get out of debt as a gazelle works to run from a cheetah.
That kind of serious, “run like your life depends on it” action—that, friends, is gazelle intensity.
And here’s the deal: That Cheetah (aka the creditors) the Gazelle is running away from? It’s pretty fast. They can reach 70 to 75 mph at their top speeds! Not only is the cheetah the fastest animal on earth, but it can accelerate faster than a speedy sports car.
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Knowing all that, the gazelle doesn’t have a chance, right? Wrong!
Gazelles know the cheetah’s speed is limited to straight-line running. So, the gazelle bobs and weaves until the cheetah gets tired and just gives up.
All right, now that we’ve gone all Animal Planet on you, what does this weird animal metaphor have to do with your financial situation? Plenty. If you’re sick and tired of debt and all of the headaches that come along with it, then it’s time for you to think like a gazelle.
How to Become Gazelle Intense
If you’re working your way out of debt, ask yourself this: Am I gazelle intense or am I just moseying along? If you’re not gazelle intense now, what can you do to become more intense? Sell items in your home, start living on beans and rice, or stop buying new clothes for a year?
The level of gazelle intensity varies from person to person and situation to situation. But the more intense you get about paying off your debt, the quicker you’ll be free from it! Think about everything else you could you do with that money—like saving, investing, and building for your children’s future.
Once you lay it all out and see how much of your hard-earned money is going to other people each month with those annoying debt payments, you should be mad. And the madder you get, the more fire and intensity you’ll have to knock out those debts!
Paying Off Debt With Gazelle Intensity
Okay, so how, exactly, do you pay off debt with gazelle intensity? Here are four things you need to do to really ramp it up.
1. Get on a budget.
This may be the single most important tool in taking control of your money. The budget is the foundation for everything. Your budget will show you where you’re overspending, where you can cut back and even how much extra you can start throwing at your debt.
So, how do you make a zero-based budget? Start out simple. Write out your income for the month, then write down all your expenses, starting with the most important things, like food, utilities, shelter and transportation. We call these The Four Walls.
Next, subtract your income from your expenses until it equals zero. Now, that’s not zero dollars in your bank account. That’s just giving every dollar in your budget a job to do.
Making that first budget can be overwhelming—but that's okay. You’ve got this! The more practice you get doing your budget each month, the more comfortable and confident you’ll start to feel.
And if you aren’t game for going the paper and pencil route to make your budget, check out our free budgeting app, EveryDollar.
2. Cut up the credit cards.
Nothing jump-starts gazelle intensity like cutting up the plastic in your wallet. It’s a rite of passage, really. Find those scissors or shredder and go to town! Don’t stop until every last card is gone. With the cards out of your life for good, you won’t be tempted to take on any new debt.
We won’t sugarcoat it here—it might feel hard. It might even feel emotional. So, don’t be surprised if you notice some really strange feelings that well up when you go to ditch those cards. But believe us, once you take this step, you’ll probably be shocked at how free you’ll feel. Take a moment to acknowledge that, then get ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
3. Learn the 7 Baby Steps.
If you're brand-new to the Dave Ramsey world, the 7 Baby Steps are a simple, step-by-step plan to not only get out of debt but also to have true financial peace throughout life. It’s nothing shocking, but it’s straightforward, common sense advice that your Grandma would give you.
Here’s a pro tip: Don’t get ahead of yourself and work the steps out of order or do the plan-ish. No matter how tempting it is, don’t try to pay off debt while still funding your 401(k)—that split focus isn’t going to get the job done. For this to really work, you have to follow the steps in order. Trust us.
4. Find accountability partners.
You’re doing it! You’ve gone gazelle intense, cut up your credit cards, started paying down your debt, and are that much closer to living a debt-free life! Now, tell someone about it who can help keep you accountable. A lot of people find this accountability from others going through their Financial Peace University class—and some even lead a class to stay motivated!
If you want to keep it more low-key, try to find friends and family members who are walking the same journey and can relate. In your free time, get inspired by listening to others on The Dave Ramsey Show too. The most important thing is surrounding yourself with people and stories that will encourage you to “go gazelle!”
Be a gazelle and run like crazy to start getting out of debt now! Dave's best-selling book The Total Money Makeover is a great place to start, or if you’re ready to dive in, our nine-week course, Financial Peace University, will show you how to take it to the next level.