‘Till Debt Do Us Part Is Ridiculous and Humiliating


What to do with 15 minutes to kill over a quick lunch and nothing good on TV?  I’m scrolling through the 800-channels-but-nothing is on digital universe, when I come across a title that says, “’Till Debt Do Us Part.”  It didn’t exactly sound scintillating, but as a personal finance author I figured I should at least take a look.  The show was mildly entertaining in a “reality tv is extreme and ridiculous” kind of way, but it was humiliating and so “elementary” as to be almost useless.  I think the strongest allure of the show for the average person would be tuning in to feel better about yourself.  You might not be very good at managing your money, but at least you are better than these handpicked extreme examples right?  Hey, I watch Canada’s Worst Handyman for the same reason, but at least my ears aren’t bleeding after I watch that one.

This Just In – Canadians Like To Borrow Money

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of Gail Vaz-Oxlade.  Maybe I’m just jealous of her success, but I find her patronizing advice to be overly simplistic and her style extremely annoying.  The few times I have seen interviews with Gail, seen her featured on other blogs, or on TV, she is always touting the exact same advice, and it is such obvious common sense stuff to me.  All that being said, I understand the need for the common sense solutions that Ms. Vaz-Oxlade presents, and there is little doubt that many Canadians could benefit from a core message of “get out of debt,” but what is so great about the way she says it?

Verbal Advice On Steroids

till debt do us part
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+

The one episode of the show that I have watched, and numerous columns of hers in the Globe and Mail are always talking about the fact that people borrow too much.  Um… yah, they do.  You yelling at them probably isn’t going to make it much better.  I understand a lot of this is to build a brand and become a sort of “Biggest Loser” money edition, but I think that if the classic David Chilton can sell millions of copies of his eloquently stated The Wealthy Barber, and The Wealthy Barber Returns, then Ms. Vaz-Oxlade could tone down her act a little.  Yelling things at people like, “No more borrowing, borrowing is evil,” seems a bit redundant to me.  Obviously I’m not her target audience, but I just think who in their right mind would listen to this woman if they have to get past her abrasive exterior?  I thought to myself on several occasions, how would Ms. Vaz-Oxlade feel if someone yelled at her about her weaknesses?  We all have things we are not great at, to be treated like a moron because you have a deficit (albeit a mind-numbingly severe one) of financial literacy is not cool.  Would Gail like it if someone screamed at her in regards to her appearance, or how about if they gave her relationship advice at the top of their lungs?  These sound mean when I state them so matter-of-factly, so why is it ok for her to yell at people about bad financial decisions?

The Revolutionary Jar System

Now one of the things that actually logically upsets me is the Vaz-Oxlade be-all and end-all of personal finance – the jar system.  For those of you that have never watched the show or bought one of Ms. Vaz-Oxlade’s numerous publications, the jar system is where Gail yells at you about getting into debt for five minutes, then tells you that you are not capable of understand how a debit card or credit card works, and finally informs you that your life will be saved by putting money into jars.  I swear to god, this is an actual system that people claim changed their life and a gimmick that has probably made Gail hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Instead of showing people how to properly use financial tools, and explaining gently why they probably shouldn’t use credit for a while given their prior experiences, she confiscates their cards, makes them use only money (how much of a useless PITA is this?) and then separates the money into jars.  Gail, seriously, online banking and a spreadsheet babe, it’s 2012.  If people have to rely on these methods to not go into debt, you still haven’t taught them very much in my opinion.  It would be hugely insulting for me to have someone yell that I needed jars to figure how much to spend on supper that night, I can only imagine what it would be like to have that happen on national TV.

What gets me most about Gail and her jar system, and likely why I am more than a little jealous, is that she has legions of diehard supporters (2021 EDIT: and they come hoarding through this article ever since 2012).  Really, REALLY, putting money into 8 jars changed your life?  Having a mortgage explained to you at window-breaking decibels really improved your understanding of the matter?!!  I guess I’m just not creative enough to come up with a persona like that in order to market myself.  If I “taught” kids like that at school every day they would make my life a living hell because they realize they shouldn’t be talked to like that.  Why can’t we realize the same thing?  Needless to say, the best part of lunch was my food, and I’m not a very good cook… maybe I’ll watch Hell’s Kitchen to try and learn a thing or two.

1.4 16 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sounds like every other inane survival tv show – made for kindergartners! I’ve never watched this one and now won’t waste me time.

9 years ago

Although your comments are things I don’t disagree with, I personally love the show and think her simple system is all that can work for some people who don’t know a thing about money! Reality shows like this are out there to change people who are choosing to make a difference in thier lives. If she wanted to go be on “The Biggest Loser,” to lose weight, it would be nice for her to be with people who are specialized in what they do to get the results she desires.

I’ve never heard of Gail, but her jar system sounds a lot like Dave Ramsey’s envelop system, which is simplistic at best and mind-numbing at worst. I had to laugh at your comments about her approach, though. She sounds irritating.

9 years ago

I’ve seen thisshow and I think the humiliation suits these extreme cases very well. Got to drill it into them somehow so the jar system helps. You’re dealing with financially challenged kids on this show!

Financial Uproar
9 years ago

I wish I would have written this post. Well done.

The worst part of the show for me is when Gail points that, on their current pace, their debt will be whatever ridiculously high number in 5 years. Because apparently creditors never actually cut people off.

9 years ago

I watch the show and enjoy it. Some of the couples aren’t quite so cringe worthy. While I agree with many of your points, I disagree with you about the jars. I don’t need a jar system, but for some people it really helps them. When they see a number, it doesn’t connect completely for them. The need something more visual so they can connect with their money. Some people have way more difficulties spending a $20 than pulling out their card because they visually see the money leaving them. For people who need to learn to live within their… Read more »

9 years ago

Ouch, although I agree with some of your points.

Gail is blunt and direct, but that approach is needed for many of Gail’s clients.

Using jars, envelopes, tupperware containers… it’s all the same.

The way I see it, there are two willing parties here. Gail wishes to help, and may humiliate in the process, and the clients agree.

Like any other “reality show”, you can always turn the channel and watch a good documentary instead. I think we’d both prefer that stuff :)


9 years ago

LOL OMG YOU WERE CHANNELING NELSON IN THIS POST! :) There are SO MANY people who are a big fan of Gail. I actually like watching that show and I like her no-nonsense attitude but I do agree the jar thing is a bit elementary. But maybe these people who are “now $40,000 in debt and in three years will be $500,000 in debt” need to hear it straight up and be elementary. Sometimes “seeing is believing” and with many people, taking money out of a wallet or using a credit card- you don’t see the cash leaving your bank… Read more »

9 years ago

Wow. Gail is Gail. You are you. There’s room in the universe for everyone. She seems to have found her passion so she’s using her strengths to help others. Should we all be that fortunate.

I was hoping to pop over here, this morning, to, possibly, glean new information. Instead, I now have to adjust out of this negative energy.

Won’t be back.

David O.
9 years ago

I have to agree with this article. If, as adults, we need to be treated like children then we have far more issues to deal with than our debt.

This type of reality TV does nothing to educate only to humiliate and make money at other peoples expense. Shame…..

I’m a fan of Gail’s and like the show. Gail has a big personality and I totally get that that’s not everyone’s style. I do think though that sometimes that’s what’s needed. Let’s face it, most of the people on her show have no clue about money- if gentle reminders that debt were bad and a spreadsheet were going to help them then they wouldn’t be in the mess that they’re in in the first place. I think the show does a good job of showcasing a lot of different couples with a lot of different reasons for being in… Read more »

9 years ago

“quit buying crap that we don’t need.”
this is something gale says all the time. I wonder if that would also be:
“humiliating and so “elementary” as to be almost useless.”
“patronizing advice” or “overly simplistic”?

Do you two really have something in common?

I have to agree with Maria. What a negative post. I wont be back. Not even to read your sarcastic reply to this.

9 years ago

I really like Gail’s attitude. While the aspects you talk about are present (such as yelling at people, being in their faces), she’s also quite empathetic. She gives her harsh dose of reality, and when she sees that the people involved are getting the point, she’s much more willing to empathize with them, discuss various solutions, options, etc. She’s said herself that there’s no magic in the jars. It’s just to help people visualize their budgets as they are starting off. It appears that most people do find them helpful. The show is formulaic, though, and I would like it… Read more »

9 years ago

I am a pretty-well educated person, a psychologist, make a good salary, and have a decent understanding of finances. Long before I ever heard of Dave Ramsey or Gail Vaz-Oxlade, I started separating my money into piles. I find it much easier to budget my money in this way. I am very computer savvy. I do all my banking online and use complicated software in my work. However, for some reason, budget software and spreadsheets have just never worked for me. I do use linked bank accounts for the larger amounts of money but, for the day-to-day, I prefer divided… Read more »

9 years ago

I do agree with what you have wrote. But chances are, you are probably already pretty knowledgeable in terms of personal finance. However, the people profiled in this show are oblivious to what is going on in their finances and therefore anything other than simple, common-sense advice would further confuse them. If Gail is able to save some people from the financial abyss, then I think she’s done well. What amazes me is that there are so many people out there that are so reckless with their financial well-being.

9 years ago

Hey T-Man – To join up with the other psych, I am also a fellow teacher. I am just wanting to point out a few things. 1) I think your issue is more with reality TV, then it is with Gail. As far as brain numbing, I believe Paris Hilton’s “my new BFF” or the many versions of Bachelor(ette) really take the cake there. Gail is extreme – but no more so then Nanny 9-11, or SuperNanny which humiliate children for our amusement and judgement. 2) As a teacher – you acknowledge that we need to start with fundamentals. Agreed… Read more »

9 years ago
Reply to  CB

CB – my initials are M.R. Don’t overthink everything.

Reply to  Teacher Man

This is one of the funniest posts I have ever read. I agree with many of the comments but I am not sure that this show is as popular as it was a few years back.

They cover a lot in 1/2 hour.

Not proud
9 years ago

I was on this show in the past and must say you are %110 right. I’m no financial guru but here was the break down after I was on the show. 6 weeks of filming 2 days a week (wed and sat) My work schedule is tue-sat so I had to 12 days off from work at $250 a day. My girlfriend had to take 6 days off at $200 a day. -$4200 already Of those days 4 of them were on location in downtown T.O we live in oakville. And had to use our own transportation. We had to… Read more »

9 years ago

I agree with you that Gail can be abrasive, but if you pay attention to the revealing words of the couples on these shows, you’ll soon see that she needs to be tough to cut through their fog of financial folly. There are a lot of people who spend money mindlessly and create huge financial messes. They clearly do not know how to create or use a spreadsheet, and their concept of Internet banking is figuring out how to obtain more money they have little or no intention of ever paying back. Gail is trying to get them (and the… Read more »

9 years ago

Ive read your post and the comments and I think you are choosing to ignore anything positive that comes of the show. I also think you are being rather insulting, clearly these people (and many others) are in the dark about money and how to spend it or they would be like you and they would have one account, know almost exactly what their bills are, put their money into savings retirement etc. You seem to be questioning their intelligence because they need a simple break down of their finances and where their money is going. The jars seem like… Read more »

9 years ago

Glad to see you are coming around and realizing yet your close minded and negative!

9 years ago
Reply to  Teacher Man

The Wealthy Barber didn’t get me out of debt. Watching Gail did. Case closed.

Not all of us are as smart as you so let Gail teach us little peons in the way she does and you go teach your smart peons in your way. The two don’t need to meet.

9 years ago
Reply to  Teacher Man

You are sadly out of touch with the world if you can not see the value of Gail’s show. The guy above who had is but kicked would have come out ahead IF he had completed the challenges. Getting 3,000 means they failed some of the challenges. And, as has been pointed out, he could have said no to doing the show.
You do seem to have closed your mind and formed your opinion. I can see that nothing that I, or anyone else for that matter, can say will ever change that opinion.

9 years ago

Hahah I think Jo has an excellent point, the couple above only managed to get $3000 of the $5000 reward money… If the show and all of gails ideas are so simple and elementary how did they fail?

Not proud
9 years ago

Well hind sight is 20/20.
Perhaps I could have said “no”. Although the contract that we signed pre filming of the show does not include anything about cost that we would have pay “on our own”.

As for failed challenges.
How about you sell all your belongings for 1/2 of the retail price because you need to reduce your debt.
Then go and replace them. At full retail price when you have money for them.
Does that make sense to you!
To me your only paying retail +1/2 in the long run.
And that is how you save money.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Share This