How to Utilize Gazelle Intensity When You’re Facing Years of Debt Repayment

Dave Ramsey, debt payoff, gazelle intensityThe following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Melissa Batai.  Melissa is a freelance writer who covers topics ranging from personal finance to business to organics to food.  She blogs at Mom’s Plans where she shares her family’s journey to healthier living and paying down debt.


If you’ve spent any time listening to Dave Ramsey, whether it be on his popular radio show or his Financial Peace University class, you’ve likely heard his explanation of gazelle intensity.  This explanation includes an amusing bit where he imitates the gazelle seeing the cheetah, screaming CHEEEEETAAAHHH!, and running for its life.

That’s how Ramsey advocates people paying down their debt–like a gazelle running for its life from a cheetah. 

Are you getting tired running like a gazelle?  Too bad, Ramsey’s thought process goes.  A tired gazelle gets eaten by a cheetah.

Getting out of debt is hard work, and if you want true freedom, you need to keep going strong until the debt is gone.  He even references the Bible 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.”

That’s fine if you have a year or less of gazelle intensity to get completely out of debt, but for many people, paying down a large amount of debt should be more of an endurance race than a sprint.

Making Gazelle Intensity Work When You’ll Need Years to Pay Down Debt

So, if you’re facing tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and years of hard work, how do you make gazelle intensity work for you?

  • First, understand that one component of Ramsey’s gazelle intensity is avoiding any new debt.  That means cutting up the credit cards and paying in cash.  Even if you do have years to pay down debt, this is one aspect of gazelle intensity that you should embrace. You’ve likely seen friends or even bloggers who say they are committed to paying down debt, but then they let their debt increase every few months.  After a year or two, their debt isn’t much lower than it was when they started.  Make the commitment to avoid any new debt when you decide you’ll be dedicated to a life without debt.
  • Second, consider being gazelle intense in spurts.  We started our debt repayment journey 20 months ago.  At the time, we had nearly $58,000 in student loan and credit card debt.  Even worse, our yearly salary was much less than our total debt.

We were gazelle intense for about 5 months before we got fatigued.  Then, we didn’t accrue any new debt, but we began to pay it down more slowly.  This let us take care of other expenses like car repairs and school tuition.

When our large expenses were paid, we became gazelle intense for a few more months.  Then we took another break.

If you have a great deal of debt to pay down, you may find that being gazelle intense for a few months and then taking a break works best.  We took a break for most of this winter, but now we’re on a four-month gazelle intense spurt.  If everything goes well, by the end of the summer, my last student loan will be paid off.

The Gazelle Intense Period Followed by a Rest Period Can Keep You Motivated

Being gazelle intense is a bit like going on a crash diet.  There is only so long you can maintain such strict discipline before you give up or worse yet, gorge yourself and gain the weight back.  If you’re gazelle intense for a few months and then ease up, you’ll likely find it easier when you’re working hard to get out of debt.

I’m certain if we would have tried to be gazelle intense for 20 months, we would have given up by now.  Instead, we’re energized to meet our latest goal of being free of my student loan.

How about you all? Have you tried to be gazelle intense in spurts during your journey to pay off your debt?  If so, did it work for you?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of


  1. I’m on a gazelled intense streak right now. If all goes well, I will be debt free in July. Seeing the finish line has me a bit apprehensive as I’m wondering waht’s going to happen to make me trip up. I still need more discipline than I’ve exhibited over this journey. And since my savings goals are far short of where I need them to be, I just can’t afford lifestyle inflation after I do cross the finish line.
    Sass recently posted…Almost CavedMy Profile

  2. We tried going gazelle intense for spurts and it was good for debt, but it burns you out. I think treating it like a marathon is the way to do it. Create reasonable expectations for yourself that will work in the long term. I think paying off debt is all about positive habits. This short sprint won’t build long terms habits needed to pay off debt.
    Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa recently posted…Student Loan Legislation Plans: Part IIMy Profile

  3. I’m trying to be gazelle intense to save up for a down payment for a house, but it doesn’t seem to work as well as when paying debt. It also doesn’t help that hubby doesn’t mind spending more money. I do the best I can:P
    Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen recently posted…Flexing Your Consumer MusclesMy Profile

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