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The Case for Gazelle Intensity When Paying Off Your Debts


Gazelle intensity, in case you aren’t familiar with the term, refers to making sacrifices in spending as well as earning extra income to pay down debt as quickly as you can. Derek is clearly a fan of this method as he and his wife paid off $18,000 in debt in 14 months. My husband and I are currently in gazelle intense mode, and thus far we have paid off nearly $8,000 in 3.5 months. I am not going to try to sugar coat the situation; aggressively paying off debt is painful.

I once read that the best way to prepare a lobster is to put it in cold water and gradually raise the temperature to de-sensitive it. To add it to boiling water results in pain, but slowly increasing the temperature numbs it. Aren’t we like that with debt? We become numb to it and accept it. Our culture doesn’t help the situation; how many times have you heard that car loans are a necessity and a way of life? Many people also believe it is not possible to get through college without student loans.

Once saddled with debt, people often continue to numb themselves to the reality of how much money they are truly paying. Take my friend, Jill, who owes $65,000 in student loan debt. Her lender has generously given her 20 years to pay off the debt; she is looking for a job and working part-time, so she pays the minimum. At 6.8% interest, she is paying $496.17 a month. Over time, as she gets a full-time job and inflation takes its toll, the $496.17 may seem manageable to her. She may accept that debt is a way of life and make her payment each month.

Yet, by looking at the smaller picture, the monthly payment, Jill is missing out on the larger picture of the true cost of her debt. She is in her mid-twenties now; that debt will not be paid off until she is in her forties. In the intervening 20 years, she will probably marry and have kids. She may buy a house. Most likely she will find it difficult to get ahead financially because her monthly cash flow is impeded by her belief that debt is a way of life. What she fails to see is that by paying the minimum, she will pay $54,080.96 in interest! While she sees in her mind that she is paying back $65,000, she is really paying back a grand total of $119,080.96! She is paying almost as much in interest as she originally took out in student loan debt.

But what if Jill is different? What if she decides she doesn’t want to be shackled by debt and instead decides to become gazelle intense? What if she gets a full-time job and works additional hours at night and on weekends? What if she moves in with mom and dad to save on rent? What if she pays off this debt through hard work and discipline in only three years? Now instead of paying $496 a month, she is paying $2,000 a month. Now she is only paying $7,038.62 in interest over the life of the loan, and she is repaying a grand total of $72,038.62. She is saving herself $47,042 in interest. Just as important, she is increasing her cash flow every month by nearly $500.

Gazelle intensity is about sacrifice, discipline and hard work. It is painful. However, the rewards are well worth it. You can change your life and set yourself on a path to wealth. I would prefer that over living a “normal” life with debt, wouldn’t you?

This has been a guest post from Melissa at Fiscal Phoenix. Here, she encourages others to rise from the ashes of their financial mistakes as she is doing.



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. I never knew the term. Wow you guys practically paid off $1000 of debt each month. Nicely done. Inspiration noted.

    • Yep. Once we made the decision to pay off the debt, we never looked back until it was gone!

  2. Never knew that term either but my wife and I did the same. We thought consolidating would help but when I sat down and did the numbers we still would almost double what we owed if we made monthly payments. So be buckled down and paid off over 30k in 5 months. Like Derek says you cant look back or second guess.

    • Way to go! What was your strategy to pay down that much debt so quickly?

  3. Well, the lobster comparison certainly makes sense. There are definitely a lot of people numb to debt, and all the ads make it seem so easy to get out.

    • I would agree. People are disillusioned to how big of a deal debt is. They think they can just get rid of it any moment so why worry about it. Again, this is another way marketing has negatively influenced people’s lives.

      Congrats on paying off your debt so fast. That is awesome.

      • I find the vast majority of people don’t consider the interest they pay over the life of the loan OR the cash flow they are impeding with debt payments. They just look at the minimum payment and think they can afford it.

  4. We paid off almost $15,000 in debt in just under a year. We were definitely gazelle intense. We also are a one income family of five, so we took it seriously to say the least.

    I completely agree about being desensitized to having debt. A lot of people thought we were crazy to spend so much energy on this goal. A lot of people think debt is just part of life, that it will always be there. It’s very sad.

  5. People also often accept the interest payments as a forgone cost and forget that in addition, they are losing out on the interest they could have earned in an investment. So the real costs are actually twice the interest costs paid. That’s nearly $100,000 and a good chunk of change that could mean early retirement.

    Sometimes a little pain in the short term pays off big in the long run.

    • Excellent point, Wayne.

  6. When I first married my husband, I was shocked to find out that he had credit card debt. However, I soon learned why: his student loans had gone up (many do after do after so many years) and he switched to having them on credit cards to get lower rates (including transfers to 0% deals) so that he could pay off the loans sooner, and pay much less in interest.

    We paid them off with great intensity, despite having a very low income.

    Interest is a HUGE deal.The quicker you are out of debt, the better!

    • That might be something we consider after our credit card debt is gone. We both have student loan debt at 6.8% interest.

  7. Great post…We spend so much time working on growing income that we almost lose sight of the fact we can accomplish the same thing by reducing the expenses we have. I’m planning on being debt free (ex mortgage), with a focus on keeping the lifestyle from growing.

  8. Having your debt paid in just a short period of time takes a lot of sacrifices. But once it is fully paid, you can feel the relief and left behind the fears of losing something in the future because of the obligations you are into.

  9. Excellent work! Setting a goal and putting in the work to meet the goal is so liberating. Thanks for sharing your experiences and tips!

    • No problem Lisa! Thanks for the comment!

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