Maintaining Your Relationship When You Are Gazelle Intense About Paying Down Debt

by Melissa

Dave Ramsey made the term “gazelle intense” common vernacular among those who follow his advice and want to get out of debt.  Gazelle intensity means to work as hard as you can to throw as much money at your debt as possible to get out of debt as quickly as possible.  Often, to do this, people must take on an extra job (or two), in addition to selling things around the house.

Gazelle intensity works because as you pay off your smallest to largest debts, you become encouraged to see that you are making progress.  It is supposed to be difficult, but the motivation is that you only need to be gazelle intense for a relatively short period of time and at the end, you will be debt-free.  However, gazelle intensity may be required for anywhere from a year to several years, depending on how large your debt is and how much money you are able to make.

While the strategy is great for your financial life, it can wreak havoc on your personal life if you are not careful.  Here are some strategies to maintain your relationship while being gazelle intense.

  1. Make sure both parties agree to be gazelle intense.  Having one or both spouses work extra jobs can create problems, especially in a family with young children.  Making sure you are both dedicated to becoming debt free as quickly as possible can help avoid resentment and anger when you are both exhausted from working so hard.
  2. Have a positive mindset.  Sacrifice is required when working so hard.  You may be short on sleep and energy.  Feeling sorry for yourself is easy when you are in this state.  Instead of having negative thoughts, turn them into positives.  “I am working hard to improve my life and my financial situation.  I am lucky to have the opportunity to work so hard; many people can’t find jobs.”  Remember, you and your spouse ultimately made the choice to become debt free in an intense way.  As Dave likes to say, “Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else.”
  3. Be open to changing course, if necessary.  Working hard for 18 months to become debt free rather than paying the debt off slowly over 10 years is usually the smarter financial decision.  However, being debt free quickly does no good if it leaves your relationship in shambles.  If one spouse decides they can no longer handle gazelle intensity, slowing down the debt snowball for the sake of the relationship is important.  You may be able to pick up your speed again later.
  4. Make time for one another.  If you are both working crazy hours, it can be hard to make time for one another.  Although it may not sound romantic, if you are both short on time, make sure to schedule time to both talk and have romantic evenings together.  You may not get to go out on the town and spend a lot of money, and you may not get to spend as much time together as you would like while you are being gazelle intense, but being together to reconnect is important.
  5. Sit down together to review your progress.  Dave Ramsey says that there is always one financial geek in the relationship and one who is not so interested in the mechanics of the family budget.  Regardless, make sure you both sit down together monthly to review your debt snowball and see how much debt you have paid off.

Many people know about gazelle intensity, but not many people talk about how it may ravage your personal relationship.  There is no point being gazelle intense if you destroy your relationship in the process.  Follow the suggestions above to both eradicate your debt and maintain a loving relationship with your partner so you can emerge debt free and happy together at the end of your gazelle intensity.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle

Great advice. It’s always good to make sure that the benefits are outweighing the costs. Otherwise, as you said, it’s time to consider shifting course. The good thing is that even if the intensity level has to be dialed down, as long as you don’t add new debt, you still got a bunch of it paid off in that time, which will only work to your advantage.
Money Beagle´s last [type] ..We Need A New Dishwasher


20's Finances

I particularly enjoy #3. Being flexible is very important when it comes to finances. You have to find what works for you and if it isn’t working – don’t keep doing it because someone else says so.
20′s Finances´s last [type] ..One Saving Goal at a Time or Many?


Jon -- Free Money Wisdom

I think there is a balance in everything. I think you should hit debt as hard as you can, but as you said, if it is destroying relationships–slow down and reevaluate. If you go overboard, it more than likely won’t stick. Create a plan that is manageable, stretches you, but that won’t KILL you.
Jon — Free Money Wisdom´s last [type] ..Renter’s Insurance Basics



Great post! My husband and I are currently following Dave Ramsey’s plan and it has been a roller coaster ride. It’s true what they say that money problems can ruin marriages. I agree with all the strategies listed and its hard to say which is most important. #3 and #5 are pretty important to me. We review our progress monthly when we sit down to go over our budget. It’s exciting to see our progress and it keeps us motivated. It’s very important to be open to change because not every month will be the same and you will always encounter challenges along the pathway to being debt free. I can definitely say I have encountered several.
Ariane´s last [type] ..Back on Track….Update on our Debt Snowball!


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