Is Gazelle Intensity Worth Your Health and Family Time?

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The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Melissa Batai, of Mom’s Plans. Enjoy! 
Is paying off your debt with gazelle intensity worth affecting your health?  Is it worth missing out on time to spend with your kids when they are little?

Everything Is Great–Until It’s Not

As a nation, we seem to have a love affair with debt.  Our credit cards enable us to buy items we want NOW, and for quite some time, we feel we are living the good life.  We may not be able to afford everything we buy, but that is what credit is for.
My husband and I accrued quite a bit of debt, both student loan and credit card, when I quit my job because child care for our two youngest children, who are 17 months apart, was prohibitive in our large city.  Unfortunately, my husband was finishing his Ph.D. and was working as a graduate assistant.  We knew we would rack up some student loan debt, but we took the risk planning on rising future incomes–his after he graduated and mine when my freelance career grew after the kids got older and I had more time.
Could we have done things differently? 
Yes, definitely. 
We may not have been able to completely avoid student loan debt, but we could have tried to find ways to make more money and to cut our expenses even further.  Yet, we convinced ourselves we could afford our lifestyle because of the student loans and credit cards.

Gazelle Intensity–It’s Not for Everyone

Dave Ramsey, in a very animated way, describes a gazelle being chased by a cheetah.  He says when you are paying off debt, you should work as hard as the gazelle who is trying to run from the cheetah.  Get a second job, slash expenses, live like no one else so later you can live like no one else. 
I love the principle of gazelle intensity, and for a year now, my husband and I have done our best to be gazelle intense.  My husband has a full-time post-doc position, and I am freelance writer.  Because I also care for our kids to save on daycare costs, I typically wake at 5 a.m. to do some work, stop at 7:30 a.m. to take my oldest to school and then work for an hour at naptime and then again after the kids are in bed from about 7:30 p.m. to 10 or 11 p.m.  In between, I am caring for the kids, cooking, and cleaning.  Most nights, I average 5 to 6 hours of sleep.  Every weekend, my husband watches the kids so I can do my work.
In a year, we have paid down the equivalent of 30% of our income on our debt.  While our finances are looking better and our debt is decreasing, my health has been affected.

Stress–It Doesn’t Do a Body Good

Each month that I got less and less sleep, I felt worse and worse.  I started drinking coffee to stay awake, but the coffee would make my heart race.  I ate sugar for a quick pick me up only to crash a few hours later.  I was grouchy with the kids because I was so exhausted.  The kids could sense the tension, and they would misbehave.  As a family, we were miserable.  When my hair started falling out in clumps, I went to the doctor.
Luckily, the problem I have is curable, but the doctor said that stress could have been one of the main contributing causes to getting sick in the first place, so my first order of business was to decrease my stress.  We hired a babysitter for a few hours a week and made some hard financial decisions.
For the moment, we are no longer gazelle intense.  Instead, we will continue to live on a tight budget, and as we “find” extra money and our salaries increase, we will put that money on our debt.  We may not get out of debt as quickly, but both my husband and I will be healthy, and we will be able to enjoy spending time with our kids again.

Gazelle Intensity–Have a Limited Time Frame

As much as I love the premise of gazelle intensity, it doesn’t work for everyone.  If you have $10,000 to pay off, yes, you may be able to be gazelle intense for a year and knock the debt out.  If you have more than that and are looking at several years of debt repayment, gazelle intensity may not be good for you, your health, or your family.
As for us, we still plan to pay our debt off in the next 5 years, if not sooner.  It is not as fast as I would like, but considering many people take 10 or more years to pay down their student loan debt, five years doesn’t seem that bad.  I am learning to slow down and accept that the path to financial freedom will be a little longer than I would have liked.
How about you all? Has your health been compromised by being gazelle intense?

    ***Photo courtesy of


    1. krantcents says:

      I am intense by nature! I go all in until I either achieve success or get exhausted trying. I work at keeping things in balance and it is still work in progress.

    2. That's my trouble too! That's why I ended up like this. It is hard to slow down.

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