Is There a Downside to Gazelle Intensity?

If you’ve ever heard of Dave Ramsey, you’ve no doubt heard the term “gazelle intensity“. Gazelle intensity is the term Dave uses to describe the intensity with which one should pay off their credit cards. Basically it means do whatever it takes to pay off your debt.

Sometimes that can mean a second job. Selling stuff. Canceling a vacation to use the money to pay off your debt. Putting all of your energy into paying off those credit cards.

But I think there’s a downside to being gazelle intense. Don’t get me wrong. Especially after my Citibank fiasco, I’m all for paying off the credit cards as quickly as possible. But I think there’s a danger to being too intense about it.

If only one spouse is gazelle intense, it can put a real strain on a marriage. Any sort of budgeting and debt repayment plan is only as successful as it’s weakest link. If one spouse isn’t gazelle intense, that spouse may very well end up resenting the spouse that doesn’t want to spend any money.

But even if both spouses are on board, there are dangers to being gazelle intense. By focusing all of your energy and efforts into repaying debt, you may be missing out on other, more important moments. Did I just say more important? You bet I did!

I’m not willing to give up camping with my kids during the summer, experiencing their joy when they win a soccer game, or the experience they get from being part of a team. I’m also not willing to give up weekend trips to see far away relatives who won’t live forever. All of these things cost money that could theoretically be put toward debt.

When I became a stay at home mom, my mantra was and always will be

I will always be able to make up for money we don’t have, but I will never be able to retrieve time I didn’t spend with my children.

And that goes for time with anyone. People need to be more important than the process of getting out of debt. Sometimes the process of getting out of debt will be good for all the people involved. During those times, it’s OK to be gazelle intense. But when your gazelle intensity starts hurting other people (or yourself), it’s time to get less intense.

Another danger that comes with gazelle intensity is burnout. Often in Dave Ramsey’s radio shows, he suggests getting a second job to help pay off debt faster. I don’t have a problem with that, as long as it’s not hurting anyone. However, I can tell you that balancing two jobs and a family is no walk in the park.

My husband has been working two different part time jobs for about a month now. In our situation it’s a necessity. We don’t really have another option at the moment. However, if he were volunteering to do this in an attempt to help us pay off our debts quicker, I think I would beg him to reconsider.

The time and hours that my husband has spent at work over the last month has hurt our family. Not irreparably, but it’s been rough. The kids and I rarely see my husband anymore. Furthermore, because of the hours he keeps, he’s tired all the time, and so am I. The kids miss their dad. I miss my husband. Again, that’s time we can’t get back.

Fortunately for us, my husband’s schedule will be changing soon. We’ll all see more of him (and get more sleep, too). I can’t see subjecting our family to that schedule for the sole purpose of getting out of debt.

The bottom line is this. You certainly have to be focused to get out of debt. You have to weigh the decisions you make against your goal to get out of debt. But don’t sacrifice everything in an attempt to get out of debt faster. Some sacrifices just aren’t worth it.

For a similar take on this subject, make sure to read Gazelle Intensity, Not For Me Thanks at Gather Little By Little. And how do you feel about gazelle intensity? Feel free to share in the comments!

30 thoughts on “Is There a Downside to Gazelle Intensity?”

  1. Being intense is the ONLY way to get out of debt and still have time to save for retirement. Dave Ramsey is speaking from personal experience and he has lots of money now. So any smart person would listen to him. Also, he never would suggest a person neglect family to get out of debt. He says to take care of the family first and then the debt. But choosing an expensive camping trip over paying debt is putting priorities out of order. Camp in the backyard and go to a local lake for a few days. It is free and would be lots of fun:) Get intense or be broke…its your choice.

  2. Great post. One thing that I believe about the Gazelle Intensity theory is that it is designed to be as intense or not as intense as necessary. Striking that balance point of where you can manage must be incredibly difficult. I think you brought up many interesting and compelling points.

  3. Dave Ramsey doesn’t say you can’t or shouldn’t live life or that you shouldn’t visit your elder family members.

    It sounds like a lot of people are rationalizing their decisions. Different strokes for different folks; I like gazelle intense myself… the sooner I get out of debt the sooner that I can spend my own money and not have to use credit cards and such to buy things. /shrug.

    • I agree, with alot of things people are saying here. At the end of the day, it is important to live your life striving to reach your goals. Everyone has different goals.

      I can tell you that after reading and listening to Dave Ramsey, I got gazelle intense. So much so that we elimated our credit card debt and now we have time (AND MONEY) to visit our family, take the camping trips and watch baseball games. We can do this now with smiles on our faces and no worries in the back of our minds that interest fees are piling up while we are enjoying our fun time.


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