Friday, October 22, 2010

My New Roommate, Gail

Somewhere between spending money on the gym, the spa, concerts, booze, restaurants, music, and all that other crap, I would tune into one of my favourite reality shows: Til Debt Do Us Part. For those of you not familiar with the show, the premise is based on the fact that one of the most popular reasons for divorce is money. I don’t know about you, but I remember money definitely being the source of more than one argument around my home growing up, and I even see a pattern emerging in my current relationship from time to time. Each episode follows a couple who carries a $hitload of debt and usually has no plan to get out of it, and no savings to speak of. 

Gail Vaz-Oxlade will change your life!
Enter: Gail Vaz-Oxlade, Canada’s Financial Guru - and my hero. Gail uses a lot of tough love and shows people how they are spending their money, how much debt they are carrying, and where they are going to be financially in 30 years. The results are always astounding. Some people had the potential to be $750,000 or more in debt in some episodes!

Now picture me lying on the couch eating a box of Triscuits (with cheese of course) and thinking, man these people are stupid! And how can you eff up your finances so terribly? I thought I was in such good shape because I never did a rent-to-own system, and I only bought things I really needed – or was I? I started to do a “budget” back in April. Basically all I was doing was keeping a list of what I had paid that month to ensure that I had covered all my expenses. I calculated that I had only $1,500 of expenses every month. That figure included everything – Rent, Cell Phone, Power, Gym Membership, etc. That left me with lots of money to spend on whatever the hell else I wanted. I was paying more than the minimum payment on my debt, so I was doing fine - right? After 5 months of this and seeing my credit card continuing to climb higher (maybe I should have stopped using it for starters) I had a mini freak-out.

What was I to do? Who could I turn to? I don’t know anyone who actually wants to talk about how much debt they have. It’s so funny how we can boast about all our ‘stuff’ but the reality is that in comparison to my debt, I really don’t own anything I have. I wouldn’t even come close to $40,000 if I added the value of what I own. And then it dawned on me; Gail must have a book to help me out of the money manure pile - and she did!  I picked up her book – Debt Free Forever. The title alone promised me everything that I was looking for. Debt-free AND forever; how great is that? So headed down to my local Chapters (because it’s cheapest there) and picked up my new bible. It’s a bit embarrassing to shop in the “self-help” category and lucky for me it wasn’t there! I grabbed my book from the business section and headed down to the cashier. “This is my last frivolous purchase” I said in my mind.  When I handed the book to chubby cashier, hair adorned with the loveliest scrunchy you’ve ever seen, she looked at me and said, “this book is amazing.” She didn’t have to tell me, once you go Gail, you never go back.

With Gail in hand, I was ready to get cracking on my new debt-free life. However, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was getting myself into. Gail makes you work your a$$ off! My first experience was the adding up my debt process. I had always thought that I was sitting around the $30,000 mark when I finished school, but it wasn’t until I sat down and actually added it all up that I realized I was actually $37,193.12 in debt!! This was an especially harsh realization since I had quit drinking a day or two beforehand (for medical reasons, not by choice) and I didn’t smoke or even drink caffeine for that matter, and I really needed a fix of something after that! I went downstairs to my roommates proclaiming my shock and horror and told them Gail was officially moving in because clearly my budgeting approach was total weenuk (cree for dirty balls).

Now, don’t start thinking, oh, you’re doing the self help book thing? That’s lame, I’m not actually going to learn anything from you that I couldn’t just learn in her AMAZING book. But you’re wrong! Everyone struggles through their debt differently. My stories will help to inspire you, I promise. Up next, my spending analysis - get ready for more OMFG moments.



  1. way 2 go John! I'll be watching your decline ( money wise I mean! )

  2. Hi John,

    Great blog!!!
    I bought Gail's book last Christmas and my plan is to be debt free in one year.
    I have paid more than $11,000 this year by following a budget a la Gail.