Gail Vaz-Oxlade is not afraid to give you a smack down.

Especially when you’ve been blowing your money on crap and are in loads of debt because of it.

Her hit TV shows, Til Debt Do Us Part and Princess provide a financial education and a chance for viewers to gauge our money knowledge against some of the clueless couples and princesses that Gail is sent in to deal with.

We had the chance to chat more with Gail and ask her for some financial advice:

Slice: Why do you think people emotionally shop?
Gail: People emotionally shop for all kinds of reasons: if they’re angry, if they’re sad, if they’re lonely. We’ve come to see shopping as a salve. We even talk about it with words like, “female bonding” and “aerobic workout.” We’ve forgotten that the point isn’t “to shop.” We’ve forgotten that shopping is just a means to an end. Now it has become the outing of choice.

Slice: How much should we have socked away in our emergency fund?
Gail: You should have six month’s worth of essential expenses. Go over your budget (you have a budget, right?) with a highlighter, identifying the essential costs you have to cover every month. Figure out the least on which you can get by. If you currently budget $100 a week for food, could you manage with less steak and more hamburger meat on just $60 a week? Do that for each essential expense. Add it up, multiply by six and get busy saving.

Slice: What is #1 mistake people make with money?
Gail: The biggest mistake people make with their money is not knowing where every penny is going. The Gail Way requires that you track every penny that you spend. If you’re not up to the task it’s a) because you’re lazy or b) because you really don’t give two hoots about your money.

Slice: Why is it so hard for many couples to communicate about money and finance?
Gail: Money is a hard thing to talk about because people behave so aberrantly with it. Let’s face it, if you have no debt, and you’ve got a whack of cash in the bank, and your buddy has the same, what’s hard to talk about? It’s when you have something to hide, or you come from a family that’s kept secrets, that you find it hard to talk about money. So ask yourself, “How’s that working for you?” Then spill the beans.

Slice: A financial makeover question: if you have zero debt, a healthy savings account and an RRSP that you're contributing to regularly, and plan to own a home in one to two years, where should you prioritize your money?
Gail: You’ve got to build up a down payment for that home you want to own...and that’s 20 percent of the purchase price. So if you want to buy a $350,000 house and you want to put 20 percent down, you’d need to save $70,000. If you’re planning to buy your home in two years, you have 24 months to save. So you divide your $70,000 goal by 24 and you come up with $2,917 a month. That’s how much you have to save every month to meet your goal.

You think, impossible! There’s no way I can sock away $2,917 a month. Well, you have three choices:

1. You can extend the amount of time you’re planning to save. Saving for five years instead of three means you only have to sock away about $1167 a month. (I know I’m not including anything for return on your savings here, but it makes this example a lot easier).

2. You can reduce the amount you have to save. Buy a cheaper home and you’ll need a smaller down payment. Or buy with someone and you’ll need to save half as much.

3. You can cut expenses and find more money or get another job so that you have the money to sock away.

Want more of Gail’s tips? Check out her fully updated edition of It’s Your Money: Becoming a Woman of Independent Means and visit her online at:

Lisa Ng is the Editor-in-Chief of The Hip + Urban Girl’s Guide, a lifestyle website that blogs daily about food, travel, fashion and events. When she’s not chasing after the best taco or donut somewhere around the world, you can find her in Toronto sharing her finds online.