When my husband and I were paying off our debt, we followed Dave Ramsey’s plan. For us, it was the simplest and easiest not only to understand but to follow. His plan worked in our life on almost every level. We bought into the idea of the baby steps, the debt snowball and even getting gazelle intense. Except our gazelle intensity wasn’t so much that of a true gazelle, but more of a hungover gazelle. We still moved fast but you could tell there was something a little sluggish about us.
Part of the reason we were a little slow was that we tried to save and pay down debt at the same time. This is really hard to do, but for us it was a necessity. We are in our thirties and are substantially behind in our savings. We had some ground to cover and if it meant throwing $100 or so every month to savings instead of towards debt, then so be it. Truth be told, it was a stupid decision and I don’t recommend it. Focus on one thing at a time. Follow the order of the baby steps. They’re listed that way for a reason.
Another reason we were a little slow is due to the fact that we didn’t have many every day expenses to cut. When we decide that we’re going to get all gazelle in paying off debt, one of the first places we go is to our daily vices and habits. Those small changes add up to big debt snowflakes. However, my husband and I were already packing our lunches every day, we didn’t drink coffee, we didn’t smoke, we didn’t gamble (for the record, we still don’t) and we used the library or Netflix for almost everything else (for the record, we still do). If we bought from iTunes, it was from a gift card. We needed high-speed Internet for our part-time jobs, so cutting that wasn’t even on the table. There were some days I wished for a habit just so I would have something to cut back on and somewhere to find extra money. Those were dark days.
The third reason is that we didn’t have much to sell. Some people are excellent at selling their things. I am not one of those people. For starters, I always forget about our neighborhood garage sale and I don’t have enough initiative to hold my own. Second, I’m too lazy to get organized enough to participate (this would also imply that I am organized). Third, we just don’t have a lot to get rid of. Yes, there’s baby clothes and toys and a treadmill that I’d be happy to let go of but other than that, there’s not that much. I never thought that for the amount we have to sell, it was worth it. So we never bothered to sell anything. I’m not sure that our debt repayment suffered and it was a lot slower than it needed to be.
That’s probably the biggest sticking point for me. When you start reading Dave’s book (we never took his class), he recommends that you sell whatever you can in order to build your $1K emergency fund. While there are other ways he suggests, this is the most common because it’s the easiest. When we took a look around and realized that short of selling the dogs, we had nothing, we felt hopeless. We seriously didn’t know where to start. How do you get gazelle when you have nothing to sell? Or you have no habits to break?
The quick answer? You don’t. The long answer? You do whatever you can and cut wherever you can to make up for the fact that you have nothing to sell. You don’t bother to dwell on it and you move on. If you focus on what you can’t do, you forget about the things you can do. That’s a huge hindrance and deterrent. If you’ve already developed the motivation to knock out your debt, the last thing you need is to focus on what’s holding you back from getting started. Find one place to cut or cash in your change jar. Use that extra money and just get started. You’ll be surprised at how quickly it starts to roll once you finally push go.
As for us, we eventually both landed part-time jobs which more than made up for the lack of anything to sell. On the bright side, it made us realize that we’re not packrats or hoarders. It also made us realize that when we move, packing is going to be pretty easy. That was good to learn. But if you’re like we were, and you have nothing to sell or any habits to get rid of to kick off your gazelle intensity, don’t worry. You’ll find somewhere to come up with the extra money. In the meantime, you can hang out in the lounge with the rest of us hungover gazelles. We may be slow, but we’re fun!