How to Combat Frugal Fatigue when Being Gazelle Intense

My husband and I recently added up our student loan and credit card debt, and we were shocked at the figure–$58,000!  What was this debt comprised of?  It is made up of nearly $38,000 in student loans, $6,500 on a business credit card for a business that failed and $13,500 of personal credit card debt spread over two cards (the smallest balance at $1,000), largely due to our current low income and some not so wise purchases.

What Gazelle Intense Looks Like for Us

Thompson's gazelles, Masai Mara, Kenya At the urging of everyone around us, we began to follow Dave Ramsey.  Because we do not yet own a house but would like to in the next 3 to 5 years, we decided to become Gazelle Intense, as Dave Ramsey says.  What does gazelle intense look like for us?  My husband is gone to work and away from the house for 10 hours a day.  After spending an hour with the kids when he comes home, he works on his dissertation and articles for publication for a few hours a night.  I stay home with the kids all day and blog, do virtual assistant work and freelance writing when the kids are napping and after they go to bed.  On the weekend, I typically leave the house for about 4 hours on both Saturday and Sunday to get more freelance work done.  I estimate that I am working 25 hours a week from home, and my husband is putting in another 20 hours a week at home doing work that will further his career and hopefully lead to a high paying, tenure track job in a few years.

Gazelle Intensity Works!

Our hard work is paying off.  In just two weeks, we “found” an additional $701 to apply to our debt beyond our regular debt repayment schedule, and we just paid off our first credit card with the lowest balance.  We plan to pay off the credit card with $6,500 within the next 4 weeks.

As anyone who has become Gazelle Intense knows, there is a period of adjustment when getting used to the austere lifestyle that is required.  Let’s be honest—most people who have credit card debt have at least some of it because of a lack of impulse control and planning.  Was all of our credit card debt due to that?  No, we had a very low income for awhile, and we relied on credit to make ends meet.  However, we also ate out more than we needed to.  (Do you ever need to eat out?)  Our debt now is higher than it might have been had we been more stringent with ourselves and our finances.

How to Maintain Gazelle Intensity for Months (and Years)

Because there is such an adjustment, to maintain your gazelle intensity and avoid frugal fatigue, consider rewarding yourself for each debt that you pay off or at a milestone you set.  If you have one large debt to pay off, maybe you will reward yourself for every $5,000 you pay off.  For us, since we love to eat out and now no longer eat out at all, we have decided that we will have one meal out every time we pay off a debt.  To maintain your drive, pick one thing you used to enjoy spending money on in your old, less frugal lifestyle, and commit to enjoying that activity once when you achieve your assigned goal in your debt snowball.  Keep it reasonable, less than $50, so you don’t derail your snowball, but give yourself that leeway to maintain your intensity.

Being gazelle intense definitely has rewards—put yourself in a painful place for an intense while until the debt is paid off, then, begin to reap the rewards of all your hard work by living like no one else, as Dave Ramsey says.  Yet, be careful not to become so strict with yourself that you give in to frugal fatigue and derail your debt snowball.  A small, planned out treat is often all it takes to keep you motivated and ultimately debt free.

photo credit: Paul Mannix

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