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
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. 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.