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When “Gazelle” Becomes “Crazy”

This post was written by Jessica Streit. She is a freelance writer and blogger who has a slight tendency to obsess over things. She is a staff writer for Everything Finance Blog, the site about everything money and finances. 


A few years ago, I took to reading every book written by Dave Ramsey. I borrowed every book I could from the library, I listened to his radio program, I purchased a special cash envelope wallet thingy, I bought my kids banks that came from his site.

I became an obsessed, kool-aid drinking member of the Dave Ramsey cult.

That’s not to say that everyone who follows/reads/listens to Dave Ramsey is in a cult. Far from it. But the potential to feel like you are part of one is there.

Why is it that following the steps set forth by Dave Ramsey can lead a person to feeling obsessive? 

Because it works!

His steps make sense most of the time. We should have an emergency fund, we should pay off our debt and then grow a savings account equal to 3 to 6 (or 9 or 12) months living expenses. We should do all of those things because they make our lives easier and happier.

However, there comes a time when a being “gazelle intense” (a term Dave Ramsey uses to describe being REALLY dedicated to the process) can seem obsessive. It might be when you are sitting your house with the lights out reading (a book borrowed from the library) via candle light in an effort to save money on utilities. Or it may be the moment when you take all the extra jelly home from the restaurant after you used buy one get one free coupons, came on family night so the kids could eat for free, drank water and split one entree.

Whatever the moment may be when a person crosses the line into the uber-frugal, it might be time for an intervention.

My own intervention came in the form of my mother. We were cleaning out my basement and she kept finding shopping bags that I had saved. They were the paper type, with the sturdy handles. I could name many uses for them, they were/are very handy. However, I was saving every one I came across. Why buy paper sacks for lunches? Or even pay for a new lunch box when we had all of these perfectly good bags that we could use.

A portion of my rationale made sense. There are good uses for them and saving them is good for the environment. The action wasn’t the problem, it was the mindset behind it (and all the other “reasons” I had for keeping things).

What I was labeling as frugal or “gazelle” was actually bordering on hoarding and plain crazy. What I realized was life changing.

I had replaced one obsessive behavior (shopping) for another (saving money). 

Paying down debt is so empowering. It can be the encouragement you need to take control of other parts of your life (your health, your career, your relationships). It is important, however, to stay in touch with your behavior and the mentality that is going behind those behaviors.

Especially if you are like me prone to being crazy slightly obsessive about things.

About Andrea Whitmer

Andrea is a freelance web developer and mom trying to maintain a sense of humor in an otherwise chaotic world. She blogs in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over This, or connect on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google Plus. You can also subscribe to new posts via RSS so you never miss out!


  1. I saw gazelle and all I could think was maybe it should get together with the rhino for a new sideshow act.

  2. SmallBudgetBigDreams says:

    I, like you, can get slightly obsessive about things. When I do something I can't just partially do it, I have to do it 150%. When I first started my personal finance "makeover" I was couponing like a maniac and buying things I didn't really need just because they were free. Luckily my bf was there to remind me that we live in a one bedroom apartment and don't have the space to keep things we don't need/use. I donated a bunch and am back to more "normal" shopping habits.

    •  @SmallBudgetBigDreams It's exhausting isn't it?? I do that with so many things in life. I research everything to death too!! Sometimes I just need to do the "slow and steady wins the race" type of process.

  3. DontDebt says:

    I want to have that crazy gazelle intensity for a little while. Until I get out of debt, at least. Then I hope I can recover from the craziness part and simply live a simple life that doesn't include hoarding bags. 🙂

    •  @DontDebt So do I. I've gotten better at living a simpler life but every once in awhile I see a really awesome bag and I thin about what I do do with it. My grandmother was the same way with tissue boxes but we just blamed it on living during the depression.

  4. I was in obsessive, gazelle mode when I was paying off my credit card debt and also when I was building my 6 month emergency fund. Once I accomplished those two things, I eased up a lot. I still save aggressively, but I try to find a balance between obsessive frugality and out of control consumption. When I start paying my student loans back next year (when I graduate), I will reinstate the gazelle until they are paid off.

    •  @socarr For some people, that balance is so tough to find. Maybe it's a mental thing? I think for me it is. I am overly dramatic and lean on the obsessive compulsive side of things. But I'm working on fixing that.

  5. WellHeeledBlog says:

    It's a balance between being dedicated and then going so extreme that you can't sustain the progress or you get burned out and then "binge" on a bigger purchase.

  6. MarriedWithDebt says:

    Very important when dealing with money that we seek balance. Trading unhealthy spending behaviors for unhealthy saving or frugality still means you are a slave to money. Balance allows us to achieve true financial freedom.

    •  @MarriedWithDebt I love that "Balance allows us to achieve true financial freedom." I didn't really think about the ultra frugality as once again being a slave to money. Great comment! Thank you!

  7. I fee like a lot of people struggle with this but for some reason, not too many admit/discuss it. As with most things PF-related it's all about the balance as you've highlight but I think that balance can be achieved in many ways.
    While I was paying off my crazy CC debt and then saving for my house downpayment, I certainly took "gazelle" to a whole new level. I neared burn-out on more than a few occasions, but I think what saved me is reminding myself that it was temporary and not sustainable for the long run.
    I still have times where I feel like I'm slipping back into an obsessive pattern, but I've learned to realize them and immediately take control. Good for you for having that realization–now that you have the knowledge, you can take action!

  8. seedebtrun says:

    As green as we are in this race, we've already decided we are not going to be crazy!  I want to still be a normal family.  I want to buy my kids ice cream sometimes, and buy myself makeup (with a coupon perhaps!), and Jeff deserves to have a pair of shoes that don't have holes in them!  You can definitely go all 17th century with this money-saving stuff, but that's just not us. 😉  

  9. MoneyInfant says:

    It's very easy to exchange one addiction for another and if you have the type of personality that is obsessive it becomes even easier.  The best way out of obsessiveness is simply to strive for balance in as much as possible.  Sure, save the paper bags, but stop when you have a dozen.  Use coupons, but realize you don't need them for everything.  Go to the restaurant when kids eat free (probably good anyway since there will be lots of other kids there), but don't obsess about what the adults are eating, after all eating out is supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable.

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  12. I really enjoyed this post. It's so true. It is easy to become obsessive and in the end that doesn't work.

    I've had that problem when I first decided I needed to save for retirement. I conquered it by just setting up a auto plan and leaving it. Sometimes we forget that a major part of life is the present. When you forget that, unbalance sinks in.

  13. I was once obsessed with the Dave Ramsey approach. It's definitely, a good plan for killing off debt and works really well if you're risk adverse.

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