I’ve discussed my love of paranormal reenactment shows elsewhere, but I rarely watch “reality” TV other than that. I do, however, occasionally watch an episode or two of the Canadian classic “Til Debt Do U$ Part.” (Yes, it’s spelled with a dollar sign.) The formula is simple: A stern-yet-bubbly middle-aged woman tells couples to spend less than they earn to pay off their debts. Now and then, a couple really is under-earning — but for the most part, they just overspend their income. By hundreds or thousands every month! I always wonder how such irresponsible people got the credit to do that in the first place.
It’s incredibly repetitive — almost soothingly so. The participants never have any idea how much they’re spending (although their estimates are often adorable in their naivete), but after some tough love and a few “weekly challenges,” they usually see the light and commit to being less dumb about their finances in the future.
I mean, how do you manage your life when you have no idea what state your money is in? How can you spend $4000 (even $4000 Canadian dollars) more than you make every month? I mean, it’s reality TV, so these cases were chosen for maximum drama — but still. HOW? These couples often owe the equivalent of 1/3 or 1/2 of an average mortgage in just consumer debt. And that’s without much medical debt, unlike the United States!
Anyway, I know that I’m closer to the Gail Vaz-Oxlade* side of fiscal responsibility (we have no debt) than the people on this show — and that it’s probably awful that I enjoy watching it so much. But even though it’s silly and often over-the-top, it has a valuable repeated message: Spend less than you earn. That’s good advice, no matter what.
(*She’s the show’s host and resident stern parental figure.)