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12 Real Extreme “Gazelle Intense” Stories & Ideas (Get Inspired)

Getting gazelle intense on your debt payoff will help you to pay off your debt years earlier than your creditors want you to.

couple in kitchen, woman on counter, toasting each other smiling with text overlay "debt inspiration: gazelle intense stories"

All over the country, people have gotten “gazelle intense” when paying off their debts, thanks to Dave Ramsey.

We’re not talking about servicing their debts by paying the minimums due each month – that will get you out of debt, but not very quickly.

Rather, we're talking about people obliterating their debts YEARS ahead of when the creditors want them to be paid off.

I would know, as my husband and I did the gazelle intense debt payoff method and declared our own debt freedom day from $25,000 in debt on September 1, 2010.

This was roughly TEN YEARS before our student loan creditor and two years before our car loan creditor thought we should have done it.

Psst: here's our total makeover success story.

This method worked so well for us, that I want to really dive into what gazelle intense means, gazelle intensity ideas to inspire you, and how to sustain motivation throughout your own debt payoff journey (because let's be real – it can be hard to stay the course!).

Gazelle Intense Meaning

First of all, what exactly does it mean to be “Gazelle Intense”?

Dave Ramsey calls an attack on your debt “getting gazelle intense”. In nature, the gazelle can outmaneuver the fastest animal on dry land: the cheetah. When you can outmaneuver something and not merely outrun it, then you will conquer it. It's going to the extreme in order to pay your debt down as quickly as possible.

The typical (and very effective) ways people have paid amazing amounts of debt down early is by going on cash-only diets, cutting back to the point of slight irritation, and throwing any extra cash that comes their way toward their creditors.

But today I am not looking for typical. I am looking for extreme. What are some examples of extreme ways people have gotten gazelle intense and melted their debts away?

Extreme Gazelle Intense Ideas

Inspiring gazelle-intense ideas to get out of your own debt, faster.

1. Participated in a Church with a Mission of Paying off its Congregation’s Debts

Mount Carmel Baptist Church in downtown Norfolk has made its mission to pay off the debts of its congregation.

The money-raising occurs about once a month in what’s called a “debt liquidation revival”.

The recipients of these very generous revivals are then asked to donate at least $300 in upcoming revivals to help others.

Debt Stats: $318,000 in debts paid off across 56 families in an undisclosed amount of time.

2. Sold Body Advertisements

Two college students with $80,000 total in debt (equivalent to approximately £50,000) sold advertisements on their faces.

Psst: before diving into an auto advertising campaign, be sure to check out my article on car wrap scams. It's quite eye-opening!

Basically, companies or individuals could buy a day on their website, upload an image, and the image would be painted on their faces for that day.

At the end of the year, they also created a graphic where you can click on each day of the year to show the image that was displayed (further advertising for the companies and individuals that signed up).

Bidding started at £1 and increased over the year. Their site shows they’ve pulled in £56,000!

Debt Stats: £56,000 paid off in 1 year.

3. Turned Their House into a Billboard

Scott and Beth Hostetler found themselves caught up in the housing crisis.

So what did they do?

They accepted a billboard on their house advertising the marketing company Brainiacs From Mars. In exchange, they received $2,000 per month to pay their mortgage for one year.

Romeo Mendoza, the company's founder and CEO, told Reuters that his ultimate goal is to turn 1,000 homes across the United States into giant advertisements in exchange for mortgage payments up to a year (38,000 people applied as of April 2011).

Debt Stats: $12,000 paid off in six months (apparently the neighbors had mixed feelings).

4. Sold Lots of Belongings

Jenny Newcomer had a chunk of student loans for a degree she was not using (either of them) still gnawing at her bank account.

Over the course of 9 months, she listed approximately 10 items per week on eBay and a few on Craigslist.

Debt Stats: $15,000 paid off in 9 months.

5. Credit Swapped to Pay Off a Large Chunk of Mortgage

Joe took out 2 credit cards with no-fee balance transfers and paid off $38,598 of his 6% mortgage with them (this left $62,000 on his mortgage).

Now the payments that he made on the $38,598 debt went 100% to the principal.

After the no-interest time period was up (and before interest was accrued retroactively), he paid off the balances entirely with money he had in savings. Joe estimates he saved approximately $20,000 in interest (at 6% over 15 years).

Because he was no longer paying interest on a large chunk of his mortgage, he was able to pay it all off much more quickly (note: the article states that he is completely mortgage-free from doing this; however, detail is not given on how he paid off the remaining $62,000, so we won’t include that).

Debt Stats: $38,598 paid off in an unspecified amount of time (though balance transfer 0% interest offers typically last between 12-18 months).

7. Teacher Lives with Sister to Pay Off $33,000 in Debt

Kyle figured out that he had to get gazelle intense after making the automatic minimum payments for six years and not making a dent in his student loans.

So, he put his food budget per month down to a crazy $100 and moved into his sister's basement to really kick his debt repayment into high gear. He also earned extra money from a side job (teaching driver's ed).

The combination of decreasing his living expenses and earning extra money enabled him to pay off the $33,000 in 18 months (he sent in $1,000-$1,500 per month).

Stories Showing Debt Can Be a Rewarding Motivator

When climbing out of debt, you need some mega motivation. It gets tough, so I want to show you that where you are RIGHT NOW is an opportunity that can boost your entire life forward.

Here are inspirational stories of people who found themselves in bad financial situations, and not only worked gazelle-intense hard to climb out of debt but at the same time, stumbled upon what they were meant to be in life.

1. MoneySavingMom.com Founder Crystal Paine

Crystal and her husband felt a strong calling in their path together.

Through her series of posts on Saving 100% Down for a Home, she reveals this calling – living debt-free as a married couple, moving away from family and friends to Kansas so her husband could attend law school, and saving 100% for a home, all while her husband could only work 20 hours per week and she being a stay-at-home mother to their children – and then details how it worked out financially.

Crystal became pregnant with their first child in the second semester of her husband’s law school, and because she was so ill, she had to quit working right away.

With their income slashed in half, Crystal researched work-from-home jobs from bed to attempt to find a way to make $200 per month so that they could pay their bills.

She nurtured an online bookstore and opened a blog throughout all of their trials and tribulations, and anyone who follows her knows the ending: Crystal found her niche as an amazing Mommy Superblogger.

2. Suze Orman

For almost a decade after college Suze worked as a waitress.

She pulled together a loan of $50,000 from her friends and customers to start her own restaurant. Without knowing anything about investing, she handed her money over to a broker at Merrill Lynch who lost it all within three months.

Now $50,000 in debt to people she was close with, Suze became very motivated to pay it back. She knew she could never do it with a $400 monthly income, so she signed onto a training program at Merrill Lynch (odd that she went back to the very people who had lost her money!).

The rest is history: we now know Suze Orman by her first name, her countless books, and her Saturday night television show centered around finances.

Psst: here's my article on Suze Orman vs. Dave Ramsey.

3. Adam Baker from Man V. Debt

Baker and his wife made the choice to sell all of their belongings shortly after their first child was born to pay off all of their consumer debt with the proceeds, live abroad, and pursue their passions without debt or belongings to hold them down (what a cool payoff debt challenge to take on!).

This launched a blog, speaking engagements, a documentary, and now he is retiring from blogging to join a filmmaking team. What an incredible journey, started by the motivation and desire to shed all of his debt!

So, how can YOUR gazelle-intense story be the next to make the news? Let me show you how to stay gazelle intense.

How to Stay Gazelle Intense

Getting started with your gazelle intense debt payoff is often easier than staying the course. That's because whenever you start something new and exciting, you have greater enthusiasm to do it.

And the end is really exciting, too – after all, the prize is near!

But what about the middle parts, when you grow a bit tired of living extreme frugality, and you're wondering if you'll ever get there, or if it's really worth the efforts?

Here are ways for how to stay gazelle intense when you want to give up:

  • Use a Progress Map for Visual Gratification: Get a free visual debt payoff tracker. Amy did this and created a business around it. She was in $26,000 of credit card debt payoff mode, so she decided to keep herself motivated by creating a visual swirly map of her progress. Each swirl was worth $100, so every time she sent in a payment, she would get to color in the corresponding amount on her progress map. In the end, she created a work of art…and a debt-free life! Not to mention she now runs a biz based on her progress-mapping creations.
  • Build in Rewards for Mini-Milestones: You're going to be on this gazelle-intense journey for a while. So, instead of waiting until you meet your entire goal at the end to celebrate, build in mini-milestone rewards. For example, for every $5,000 paid in debt, you treat yourself + your family to a meal out. This will keep the long journey ahead fresh – who doesn't like to be rewarded?
  • Fill Your Mind with Gazelle Intense Stories: Don't underestimate the power of filling your head with inspiring stories and finding community among others who are also working the gazelle intense debt payoff method. When you feel down and out, search for Gazelle Intense blogs, talk to people in Facebook Groups who are paying down debt, and just keep going, until you get to that debt-free lifestyle, yourself.
  • Put an Extreme Deadline on it: Get inspired by this article on how to pay off debt in one year.

With my husband and I being non-mortgage, debt-free since September 2010, I can honestly say that it is still the best policy to stay away from debt altogether if you can.

But let’s face it, life is not always perfect and our choices which may be good at the moment are not always the best for our future. So if you find yourself in debt, use it as motivation. You never know where you will end up when the forces of determination and necessity are with you.

There are many solutions out there for climbing out of debt. And while you're IN Debt? Well, just keep swimming.

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Amanda L Grossman

Personal Finance Writer and CEO at Frugal Confessions, LLC
Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here or on LinkedIn.


Sunday 29th of September 2013

Wow those are extreme, indeed. I remember watching a show on TLC before about "The Worst Tattoos" and there was a guy who accepted an ad during the campaign season and now regrets it. He now has the Mitt Romney campaign logo on his right temple.


Monday 30th of September 2013

Oh wow. I would never tattoo something on my body for an advertisement! At least these guys only painted it on their faces...I wonder how much he got paid?

Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter

Sunday 29th of September 2013

Nothing too extreme here. We have had roommates for 3 of the last 6 years since we've owned homes though. It's brought in about $20,000 so far spread out from 2008 to now...

Amanda L Grossman

Sunday 29th of September 2013

Way to go on your roommate income! My Aunt in D.C. has had roommates for the last 30 years+. She loves meeting new people and the extra company, and of course has saved a bundle off of rent/mortgage.

Bryce @ Save and Conquer

Thursday 26th of September 2013

I think I already mentioned in a comment on another post that we paid off our house in 9 years. Here are some details. House was bought for $350k with 40% down, so $210k mortgage. First loan was 7%, 30 year fixed. Required payments were $1,397, but we paid $1,500 per month. We refinance twice to get down to 5%, 15 year fixed. We increased our payments to $2,000 per month. Required payments after second refi were only $1,265. When mortgage got down to near $50k we paid it off from savings. There wasn't much of a mortgage interest deduction at that point.

Amanda L Grossman

Friday 27th of September 2013

Nice Bryce!

I was very surprised last year that we had no interest write-off on our taxes...we had to take the standard deduction. I'm thinking that might be greater motivation to pay our mortgage early, but we aren't decided yet. We still have 14 years on it.