What Are You Gazelle Intense About?

no stress relaxThis post was inspired by the recent Get Rich Slowly article on pushing vs. relaxing in personal finances.  A “pushing” phase is when you are super intense about your finances and making sacrifices in other areas of your life, like relationships and health.  Circumstances that should bring about pushing are living beyond your means, feeling a lot of stress about your finances, or when you are nearing default on a loan.  Similarly, Dave Ramsey would say that you should be “gazelle intense” while paying off non-mortgage debt.  A relaxing phase is when your finances aren’t stressing you out and you can moreover coast.  The author suggests that the normal course of events is to push for a period in your life and then relax for the rest.


I think there are circumstances besides debt payoff that could bring about pushing in one’s financial life, like saving for a big goal or living on one income when one had been accustomed to two.


In thinking about my own life, I can’t point to a period in the past when I pushed so intensely that I sacrificed in other areas.  I have a pretty tame debt payoff story.   However, I can fully anticipate that we will have some periods in our future when we might want to push with our finances.  For just one example: We want to buy a home in San Diego (if everything goes exactly how we dream it will), which will mean saving up a huge down payment and then taking on a ginormous mortgage.  While saving for the down payment, we’ll probably live somewhere tiny and cheap to free up cash flow, which to us would be “pushing.”  We also want to have kids, which could certainly introduce some “push”-worthy circumstances regarding balancing employment with childcare.


But I don’t think we’re completely relaxed now – more so automated.  Or maybe that is balanced between pushing and coasting?  Perhaps, to other people’s eyes, we even look like we’re pushing.  We’re certainly doing a lot better with saving and spending in high-value areas than we did when we first started grad school.  We increased our retirement savings rate from 10% (me) and 0% (Kyle) to 17.5% now.  An $80/month eating-out budget is not exactly “you don’t see the inside of a restaurant unless you’re working there!” but it could be challenging for some people.  Not everyone is cut out to have a Republic Wireless smartphone, either.  🙂  But we’ve made all these changes so gradually that we have been able to assimilate each one with relative ease.  That doesn’t feel like pushing but it’s not nothing, either.


I would say that if we are really putting effort into any area of our finances, it’s budgeting/tracking and our targeted savings accounts systemWe’re regimented in the way we use money from our targeted savings accounts, treat extra income, and zero out every month.  But this isn’t a deprivation issue or anything like that, just a system that we’ve put in place.


What areas of your finances do you push in and which do you relax in?  Have you pushed in the past or do you see pushing in your future?


photo from Free Digital Photos


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33 Responses to "What Are You Gazelle Intense About?"

  1. FI Pilgrim says:

    We are gazelle intense about paying our mortgage off at the moment. We’ve been working on it for 4 years like this, and only 20 months left! There are quite a few things we are putting off until we get done with that.
    FI Pilgrim recently posted..Get More Done: A Few Favorite Productivity Methods

    1. Emily says:

      That’s quite a long time to be so intense! You must want it really bad. What are the things you’re putting off until it’s paid?

  2. dojo says:

    We usually try to be focused on getting a better financial situation. We do relax in some ‘areas’ and are ‘intense’ on the others. Sure, there are times when we can save way more and times when we still need to take care of other issues. Saving / debt payment and all other things we need to work towards are not a sprint, they are a marathon, so we need to push and also know when to relax, so that we push again.
    dojo recently posted..Are we complaining too much?

    1. Emily says:

      Sounds like interval training – very effective!

  3. I think we’re a lot like you guys in terms of attitude at this point. We’re not feeling deprived, and we’re saving at a rate that we like (which is pretty darned high), so while it’s not coasting, most of the time it feels like “wash, rinse, repeat”.
    Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..Mr PoP’s Thoughts on Small Business Valuations – Part 1

    1. Emily says:

      I think that’s the beauty of having systems in place. You can accomplish a lot without the stress of making new decisions every month.

  4. We have been mostly relaxed when it came to saving. We typically save 50% of of our income. The one thing that was done with intensity was when our son was a baby. My wife and her sister, who has 2 daughters, made an arrangement where they traded off day care throughout the week. I think my wife had the kids on Monday, Wednesday, and half of Friday. Her sister had them Tuesday, Thursday, and half of Friday. My wife worked as an Aerospace Engineer during those times.

    The younger niece was sometimes a real handful, too. And left my wife crying when the day was over. (It’s not that our niece was mean or ornery, she would just scream and cry for her mother for 8 hours.)

    We figure my wife saved at least $70,000 in day care costs over the 7 years they did this. Her sister saved even more, although she did pay my wife something (I’m not sure how much) each week due to her having an extra kid. It still was much less than day care would have cost.

    I would call that saving with gazelle intensity. All that money saved went into our retirement accounts, and our son was raised by his mother and aunt (and vice versa for our nieces).

    My wife is awesome.
    Bryce @ Save and Conquer recently posted..New Theory on Retirement Safe Withdrawal Rate

    1. Emily says:

      That does sound like an intense time of life! But it seems like you hit upon a good solution, even if it was hard sometimes. Working part-time and bonding with family sounds great, even given the trade-offs.

  5. We pushed hard to pay off the mortgage (less than 3 years, end to end). We’ve also found that we push pretty hard to save for our next home, too, so maybe there’s something about real estate in our subconscious that triggers intensity. But, like you and Kyle, I don’t think we’re straight up denying ourselves anything. It doesn’t feel that way to us. Though from the outside, I’m sure the view is different…
    Done by Forty recently posted..Do It Now!

    1. Emily says:

      That is very fast! Yes, you are obviously motivated by real estate. We are not into deprivation, either. I guess it is a bit like running – what at first seems to you like a challenging, fast pace later becomes just a regular trot.

  6. SarahN says:

    I was quite gazelle like when I save for my deposit for a house. I had a year off buying clothes! Whilst this in a tiny slither of most people’s budgets (and mine too), it was just another way to ‘get there sooner’. On the other hand, at the same time, I took big holidays. I budgeted for the downpayment savings, and the holidays, so the holiday was a release from the saving and the regimented plan, but still fully ‘safe’ as I’d saved all I needed for the holiday.

    Interestingly, for the two year’s (almost) that I’ve had the mortgage, I’ve not been gazelle like in paying it off. I chose a fixed loan so I could relax with payments, knowing I could save cash outside the mortgage for other things, and if not, put on the mortgage once the fixed conditions were over.

    In the non BF sphere, I’m gazelle like with rubbish! I want minimal trash, minimal waste. I’m constantly thinking how to do away with single use options. I know it’s a little esoteric, but it doesn’t discourage me one bit!
    SarahN recently posted..Zero Waste Wednesday Weigh In

    1. Emily says:

      It sounds like you were pushing for the down payment but you knew your limits so you pushed on vacation savings as well to give you some breaks. You just had two priorities instead of one.

      That is interesting that you are pushing so much with minimizing your waste. I’m not sure if I’m push in any other areas of my life right now – I have in the past but maybe it’s not much in my personality!

  7. Matt Becker says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever been “gazelle intense” with my finances. I’ve always tried to keep a fairly balanced approach of making sure that I’m making good progress on the long-term goals that are important to me while still allowing myself to enjoy the present. Luckily I’ve been able to do that pretty well. I’ve considered getting a little more intense on early retirement, but I’m not really sure that’s for me either. At least, not at the exclusion of doing fun things with my family now.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Building a Secure Financial Base for Your Family

    1. Emily says:

      I like the balance, too. ER isn’t for us at the moment either.

  8. I was gazelle intense about paying down my student debt and saving for a downpayment for a house. Now that we’ve done both we’re not as gazelle (we’re actually trying to save at a moderate pace and enjoy life a little bit-something we couldn’t do when we were super intense).
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..The Best Things in Life are…Vera Bradley?

    1. Emily says:

      It sounds like you followed the more classic pattern. You deserve this period of relaxation!

  9. We’re gazelle intense about staying out of trouble. Debt is a total no-no. Because of that we’re super-conscientious about making sure there’s enough in the emergency fund to handle emergencies without resorting to debt. Beyond that, we’re pretty laid back…
    William @ Bite the Bullet recently posted..Dividends, Part 1

    1. Emily says:

      I guess we have the same attitude about new debt, aside from a mortgage. I really don’t want to have any consumer debt.

  10. We’re done with gazelle intense. But we were totes what DR recommends our first years out of college until we had a nice savings buffer and I felt we could relax a bit on the spending. Though I had never heard of DR, just have a depression-baby immigrant father and abhor high interest rate debt (and love high interest rate investing!).
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Sometimes people listen even if they pretend not to

    1. Emily says:

      Do you think you won’t push again because you won’t need to or you don’t want anything bad enough to do it?

      1. Isn’t that the same thing?
        nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Emergency office supplies

  11. SP says:

    We have been really putting effort into the next stage of our careers, and sacrificing a lot in the short term to do it. We lived apart a lot (sacrificing optimal relationship) and tracking money has gone out the window. (Savings is still increasing, but not at the rate it potentially could be if we were more frugal right now.)

    In the next 2 years, we’ll continue in career building stage but be able to have less sacrifice to our relationship, then we’ll buy a house and likely start a family. At that stage, I’m going to take a step back and see what is next for me career wise.

    1. Emily says:

      It’s nice that you see an end to the gazelle intense period – and that what you’re intense about is very positive (unlike paying off debt).

  12. I am gazelle intense about paying off my credit card debt by the end of the year. If nothing else, that reduces the amount of cash I need to save for the winter each year by 25%. It’s going to be really close and the amount of driving I’ve been doing for work has really been getting in the way of saving money, but I think it is going to happen.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..What’s in Your (Virtual) Wallet?

    1. Emily says:

      That’s awesome! Great job at going for your goal! It’s nice that it’s a fairly short time-frame so you don’t have to be so intense for long.

  13. I’m in a bit of purgatory with our savings/debt because we’re not 100% following a strict budget so I can’t say I’m intense about anything financial! Your plan for San Diego sounds great though and it looks like you guys are ready. 🙂
    Tara @ Streets Ahead Living recently posted..Getting up and dusting yourself off

    1. Emily says:

      There’s no requirement that you have to be intense about anything at a given time!

      We are certainly looking forward to moving to SD but we need JOBS!

  14. Cash Rebel says:

    I’d say that your strategy is a more sustainable one. It’s just like running a marathon, you don’t want to go crazy gazelle intense right at the beginning unless you can keep that pace up the whole time.
    That being said, every once in a while it’s nice to have a PF blitz to see where you’ve grown lazy and decide how it’s best to live.
    Cash Rebel recently posted..You’re poor because you made bad decisions

    1. Emily says:

      Throw in a “power 10” (that’s from my rowing days) every once in a while to mix things up!

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