How Reality TV Schooled Me

One of my guilty pleasures is reality tv. I’m not a huge fan of the “follow people around while they lead their lives” type of show (with the exception of Teen Mom; it’s like a car crash and I just can’t look away!) I prefer the “set up challenges and watch people learn” kind of show -the ones with all the experts, deadlines, and big reveals. One of my all-time favourite reality tv gurus is Gail Vaz-Oxlade. Host of Til Debt Do Us Part and Princess, because this cough cookie is one smart (and helpful) lady.

According to her bio, Gail has written 13 books on personal finance, hundreds of articles for the financial media, published a financial magazine for women, hosted three prime-time television shows and worked with Canada’s leading financial services companies to help educate employees and clients. Some people learn personal money management from their parents, or financial planner, or a councillor. I learned most of what I know from Gail. On her shows, she helps people address debt and finance issues, and her website offers a multitude of resources for getting on track with your money. I often veg in front of the tv as a break from work, but by the time the credits roll on one of her shows, I feel like I need to start getting my receipts in order.


A few of Gail’s tips:

One In, One Out
Make a deal with yourself that every time you buy something, you must get rid of something. This avoids falling into the trap of simplifying and then going shopping to replace everything you miss. It also makes you prioritize. If you must have that new doodad, what are you prepared to give up?

Coffee Costs
The Specialty Coffee Association of America, which watches consumer spending of high quality coffee says that Americans spent $12 billion in 2006. TWELVE BILLION DOLLARS! On coffee? Wow! If you’re saving $20 a week by drinking less coffee (or taking it from home) and you’re 30 years old, eliminating that one bad habit will mean $84,000 in your pocket. Yup, $84,000! That some pretty expensive coffee.

ATM Fees estimates that Americans pay more than $4.3 billion in ATM fees for withdrawing money from a banking machine that charges fees. If you’re using your banking machine like a wallet, paying a $1.50 fee for a $20 withdrawal, you’re blowing your brains out on fees. It’s doubly bad if you end up having to pay that fee twice: once at the bank machine you used and again at your own bank for using a machine that was out of bounds. Stick with your own bank’s ATM to save money and plan your spending so you only have to go to your own machine a couple of times a month.


Her website includes:

Articles on credit, investing, student loans, divorce, home ownership, entrepreneurship…

Interactive worksheets for budgeting, student cash flow, debt repayment, and more.

Readers’ questions answered – She answers one question a week, so write in with your issue.

A blog – full of more helpful articles.


As I mentioned, I’ve found these resources to be incredibly helpful. Where do you turn for financial information or inspiration?


image source: Jessica Blaine Smith

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