Till Debt Do U$ Part

I started watching a new TV show on Life Network call Till Debt Do U$ Part. It’s an unscripted reality series where a financial guru name Gail Vaz-Oxlade helps couples who are deep in debt get out from their financial abbess. Each episode takes an intimate in-depth look at the money and relationship issues of a unique family or couple as they try to get out from under a crushing debt load. The first episode I saw was call Drowing In Debt.

Bill and Tasia are sinking deeper into debt every month and they just can’t figure out why. They agreed that Tasia would stay home with their two small children, so the couple is living on Bill’s part-time income while he tries to get his own business off the ground. To friends and family, they appear to be a couple perfectly in control. But Bill’s health and their relationship are crumbling under the stress.

The second episode was call Dancing Around the Truth.

Wendy and Dan have been married less than a year and have a six-month-old daughter. They also have significant debt, loans from family that have ruined relationships, and a baby who needs special formula that costs $200 a week. Dan is working all the time to make ends meet, and Wendy, a dance instructor, is contributing a little cash by teaching. But their tiny income, disgruntled creditors and inability to meet their bills could be the curtain call on their relationship.

The first question one may have is why are these people going on TV and exposing their financial woes to the world? For money of course. Gail Vaz-Oxlade gives the finacially troubled couple tasks to do each week over a four week period. After the 4 weeks, if the couple does what is asked, they get $5,000. If they don’t do the required task, money is deducted from the $5,000. The task includes stuff like putting their credit cards in water and freezing it, making a budget, finding ways to make more money and cut back expenses.

The show is a real eye opener for me. I’ve met people who have gotten into financial trouble before, but never to the extent that they feature on the show. If the show is available in your area, it’s worth checking out. It’s Canadian based so it may not be available in the US market.

23 thoughts on “Till Debt Do U$ Part”

  1. Mike says:

    I would like to point out, that having just finished being taped for the show, that the financial trouble we were “in” is heavily drummed up for TV purposes. They took a month that was a little worse than others and without checking or talking to us first made very broad assumptions. Never talked to us about her findings and broke all the findings to us while on camera (for shock value). Then suggested that we had “unlimited credit” and would be 300,000 dollars in debt in a few years (we are actually less than $15,000 in debt, which still is not great). I did like the budget they provided, but when it comes how desperate the couples financial situation is….take it with a grain of salt. Thanks for listening to my rant.

  2. John Chow says:

    Hi Mike. Please tell me the title of the show you were on so I can be sure to watch it.

  3. Mike says:

    As the filming just wrapped up, the show has yet to receive a title (at least not one that I am aware of). The contract we have stated we were scheduled for Season 3. However the producer said it would be shown this fall. We are to be told ahead of time when it will air, and we are also supposed to get a tape of the show when it has been finalized. What I can say is that we did get the full reawrd for our challenges, and notwithstanding the differences I had with the assesment of our finances, (and one of my challenges) it was very educational. When I find out more info I will respond further.

  4. John Chow says:

    That’s great Mike. Please do let me know when the show airs. Thanks!

  5. Belinda says:

    Re what Mike said about this: They took a month that was a little worse than others and without checking or talking to us first made very broad assumptions.

    I’ve watched this show and the host repeatedly says that they review six months of their finances to come up with a monthly average. When’s Mike’s show going to be on so I can watch and see if something has changed? And did you know it was on AmericanLife now?

  6. Mike says:

    Yes Belinda, they do ask for your previous 6 months of Bank and Credit Card statements, but they did base everything on one month (at least with us they did). When they were taping the show, they used one month as an example (using Gail’s computer screen) and used that month as what we were doing financially “every month”, then came up with a figure that we were spening 4,000 dollars more a month than we were bringing in. I dont know about you, but we have had a 20,000 line of credit for quite a while now, and it would have been gone in 5 months based on her assumptions. I could go into greater detail on the other errors made by the “Financial Wizard” but rest assured, I made my feelings known to all in my post-interview (which will likely never be aired). I am not saying that we are financially “sound”, otherwise we would not have applied to be on the show. But we are a “far cry” from being as bad as was suggested.

  7. Belinda says:

    Gee, it sounds like you didn’t get very much from the whole thing. What a waste of time! I was thinking maybe me and my boyfriend would try and get on but I guess I won’t bother.

  8. John Chow says:

    Belinda – Mind you, if you do get on, you stand to make $5,000. 🙂

  9. Mike says:

    Not true Belinda, I did learn how to better manage my money, and yes, the $5,000 is nice. But my whole point in posting here was that, the families that are portrayed on the show are likely not as financially strapped as Gail lets on they are. Its like anything else on TV these days, they need to take it to the extreme to gain the viewers. Be honest, would you watch a show about a family who was $15,000 in debt, or would you watch a show about a family who was “supposedly” spending $3,000-$4,000 more than they earned monthly and was on their way to being hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. So I guess they question you have to ask yourself is this…… is a chance at $5,000 and a custom made family budget worth having you finances exaggerated on TV and having a film crew in your house filming your every move for better than 50 hours. I have yet to see the final tape of ours, but all I can say is that I wouldn’t want to do it again.

  10. Gail Vaz-Oxlade says:

    Hi y’all. I’ve found your discussion here very interesting. First, Belinda is right when she says that the show averages six months of figures to come up with a monthly average. Every single transaction done is posted — hours of work for some couples. And there’s no exageration on the overspending. In working with over 30 couples, there was only one where a partner knew what they were spending — all the rest have no idea, which is why they are in debt; they’re using credit to make up the difference.

    As for families not being financially strapped, they are. It’s frightening how badly off most of them are. And if they come out at the other end of a grueling process in a better position to deal with their realiity, then the whole process was worthwhile.

    For those families (and they are some) for whom the level of debt is not a huge issue, the overspending — and the ulimate debt — is, so that’s where we put our focus.

    We all work hard to portray our families fairly. And sometimes it takes a shock for some people to reaize the implications of their overspending.

    Most interestingly, the only family I’ve worked with this season with a “Mike” had over $100,000 in consumer debt. So, what part of your posting is a mis-respresentation, Mike: your name or your numbers?

    Gail Vaz-Oxlade

  11. Carl says:


  12. Steve says:

    Carl…I did not realize that kids actually read these blogs. Grow up and post something constructive, “leet talk” is for video game playing kids with low self-esteem.
    As for the discussion between Gail, Belinda and Mike. I guess my biggest question through all of this is Mikes accusation that no time is spent discussing with the “clients” their finances before going to air…what purpose does that serve? Is it for the TV shock value as Mike suggests? I would assume that when dealing with someone elses finances one would want to be sure to have all the information in hand so as not to err, especially when broadcasting them on TV.
    I have watched the show in the past, and have to admit that the numbers being thrown around seemed a little exaggerated, I really dont know how many of these families have a line of credit that would allow them to get as far in debt as has been suggested on the show.
    Anyways, when I watch “Reality TV”, I resign myself to the fact that for the most part, its “Phony TV”. But thats just my opinion.

  13. Lori says:

    I think Gail’s show very accurately portrays the level of denial most people are living in with regard to their financial fitness. I’d convinced myself I was doing okay until watching this show prompted me to take a long hard look at my own finances…. I requested a copy of my credit report and was shocked at how bad it really was! So cut Gail some slack, Mike; nobody likes to hear bad news, but please don’t shoot the messenger. Especially one that’s trying to help you.

    I’d also like to mention that I’ve met Gail several times (I used to work for her husband) and she is exactly the same in person as she comes across on TV – there’s no phoniness there at all.

    Looking forward to seeing your episode….

  14. Ken says:

    I take your comments with a grain of salt also, Mike.
    I’ve watched the show several times, usually because my wife had it on. I hoped it would make an impact on her, and can understand the people as they are portrayed on the program. I see the level of denial that these people exhibit on the show every day in my wife, and would not be surprised to find it in Mike or anyone else who you think, and interestingly they think, has a good handle on things.
    My wife comments on the situations of the participants, completely oblivious to the depth of our own financial hole. We owe $100,000 on a line of credit, and $30,000 credit cards that I know about. My wife has a card that she won’t tell me the balance on. Every time we watch “till debt do us part” I tell her where we are and what it’s costing us. By the end of the half hour, she has managed to dispose of the information. Budgets and financial analysis are simply ignored.
    I would love to find someone like Gail Vaz-Oxlade if she could help us to develop a workable plan and ways to stick to it. These situations often require a third party able to intercede dispassionately. But after years of trying to work with financial planners and accountants, I have found them to be less than helpful. They seem to want to give a quick fix and get your business, not provide a long term solution.
    Would I want to be on TV about it? No, but I hope she keeps watching the show, maybe something will stick. And I’d love to hear from Gail about how to find someone to help us.

  15. Mike says:

    I never suggested that I was in denial about our financial situation. If I really thought we had a good handle on the problem, I never would have applied to be on the show. All I suggested is that (at least in our case) that our financial problems were not accurately presented. If Gail had of taken some time to discuss it before going “on the air” to clarify things with us to either explain her findings to us, or, change her numbers to more accurately reflect our finances, then as a whole I would have no enjoyed the experience more. I still do not know why no such discussion took place, and untill I get a “resonable” answer, I will assume its done to make “good TV”. Other than that, I had no issues with Gail’s budget, or her as a person.

  16. Julie says:

    I am a frequent viewer of the show.

    I don’t understand why Gail should have to discuss the situation with the couple before the cameras start rolling.

    The couples are the ones who have decided to be shown on television. They should be filming the whole time.

    I don’t know the situation of the particular participant who is complaining but from watching the show there are a lot of people who as soon as something goes wrong they get a attitude and claim that it was all the shows fault or Gails fault.

    Especially that one young couple who as soon as they realised they had only earned $1000 were done and told everyone to leave.

  17. John Chow says:

    Julie – I think Gail was generous with that couple. I would have given them zero.

  18. Julie says:

    John – I agree. I was shocked that she gave them $1000.

    I guess they did partially do what she said. Even if it was a tiny amount so she gave them what she thought was right.

    I was disgusted by the couple though. I mean the fact that they would take out more money just to go out to a restuarant when their account was already at $0.

    I think the worst part was that they didn’t seem to care and she couldn’t get them out of their denial.

    I would love it if they had a special show where they go back and visit all the couples and see where they are now.

    I would especially love to see where that particular couple is.

  19. Delores says:

    I love this show, and watch it every week. This is strange because I am a very ANTI-TV type person.
    I always wonder why I enjoy watching it – because our finances, thank heavens, are in great shape. But, I always learn something. One of the best lines Gail made was something along the lines of “Money management isn’t rocket science, it’s self control”. It really made me think.
    And I agree with the former poster, why WOULD they disclose what they are going to air when you’ve given them the access to the files? Sure, it’s shock value, but it’s also real life! It would be a lousy TV show if everything is scripted!

  20. anonymous says:

    As a child of parents who have been on this show i know first hand that it has been exaggerated. In my opinon this show is to make Gail and the network money. The public likes drama and higher expenses make the show that much more darastic, and yes all the meetings and scenes are scripted.Just the secrets Tv Land doesnt want to reveal. This show has simply just been an embarrassment.

  21. Julie says:

    I have a 2 questions.

    Does anyone know how Gail decides how much money is allocated for the jars?


    I would be curious to know which show you and your parents appeared in.


  22. Mike says:

    It is based on family income, your necessary expenses like food, utilities, transportation etc., and is based on making the largest possible payment towards you debts. With small allowances for entertainment.

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