In addition to our usual commentary on bankruptcy in Canada, we occasionally review books that may be of interest to our readers. You can see all book reviews in our book review section.

Today we review Debt Free Forever: Take Control Of Your Money And Your Life by Gail Vaz-Oxlade, the host of TV’s Til Debt Do Us Part.

As anyone who was watched Till Debt Do Us Part will know, Gail Vaz-Oxlade has a very “no nonsense” approach to money problems. She strongly believes that ultimately you are responsible for your behavior, so only you can change your behavior to eliminate money problems. I like that approach.

That no-nonsense approach is easy to see in Debt Free Forever: Take Control Of Your Money And Your Life. As Gail Vaz-Oxlade starts at the same place I start in every meeting I have with someone in financial trouble: Figure Out Where You Stand. She gives practical tips on how to analyze your spending, and, most importantly, how to face up to your debt.

In my experience facing up to your debt is the hardest step to take in your journey to financial freedom. It’s hard to make a list of all of the money you owe, but it’s absolutely essential if you want to go on the next step, which is Part Two of the book: Make a Plan.

Her advice is always practical; you don’t need a math degree to follow her advice. She keeps it simple, using her trademark “jar” method of saving, where you put cash in your food jar, gas money jar, and so on to keep budgeting simple.

Speaking of budgeting, that’s Chapter 4, Create a Budget That Balances. Again, Gail gives practical advice on how to create a household budget, and how to cut expenses to make your budget balance. She illustrates the concept with what she calls the “Life Pie”, where money is allocated to life’s expenses, and you have to learn to divide the pie up to keep your spending in check.

WhileDebt Free Forever: Take Control Of Your Money And Your Life focuses on budgeting, spending control, and setting goals, Chapter 11 does deal with subject matter near and dear to my heart: Cope When the Caca Hits the Fan. She starts the chapter off by telling it like it is:

One of life’s hard truths is that it doesn’t matter how carefully you plan, how hard you work, or how diligent you are in taking care of the details, crap happens!….It’s nice to think that life is predictable, but it’s not ………Having made a budget, made a debt repayment plan, made up your mind to live your life consciously and take care of your money, you may dream that it’ll be smooth sailing from here on in, but it is only a dream. Sometimes life sucks.

Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Every day I meet with Canadians who were doing well, but then they got sick, lost their job, got divorced, or had some other tragedy derail their dream of financial independence. Sometimes, stuff happens. Fortunately, Gail Vaz-Oxlade carries her “no-nonsense” approach to the discussion of bankruptcy in Canada as well. Here’s what she has to say:

Bankruptcy isn’t the worst thing in the world. Living in the hell you’ve created is….

For many people, the decision to go bankrupt isn’t an easy one to make. It’s a thorny path. But if that’s what it’ll take to get you out of hell, then do it.

Wow. No-one will ever accuse Ms. Vaz-Oxlade of “sugar coating” her opinions. She’s right: in my experience it takes the average person six months of soul-searching before deciding to file bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a last resort for dealing with your debts, but sometimes it is necessary.

If you are looking for a book that contains practical, easy to understand advice, Debt Free Forever: Take Control Of Your Money And Your Life is just what you are looking for. The advice is easy to understand, but it’s not easy to implement. Making change is hard, and it takes sacrifice, but if you are up the challenge, this book can help.