Jean Chatzky and Lisa Bradley

Financial expert Jean Chatzky moves in with the Bradleys to coach them through the Debt Diet! As soon as she arrives, Jean and Lisa get to work sorting through the Bradley's massive piles of bills and paperwork to figure out how much debt they really have. It's a painstaking process—and Jean is beginning to realize that the problem may be even bigger than she expected. Jean discovers additional bills that weren't on the Bradleys original credit report. "This is unbelievable," says Jean. "We knew the situation was bad. We didn't know it was this bad."

After 12 grueling hours of work, Jean questions how serious Lisa is about getting out of debt. "I think she has secrets," Jean says. "I think she is lying about a number of things and I am going to call her on it—because unless she is honest with me, I can't help her."
Jean spells out the steps

Jean develops a simple spreadsheet for Steven and Lisa to calculate their debt—step one of the Debt Diet plan. Then, Jean targets areas where Steven and Lisa can cut back on their spending and start saving up.

Step 1: Calculate debt and get your credit score
Cell phone: $130 per month
Gym membership: $75
Car payment: $560 per month
ATM fees: $273 per year

Step 2: Track your spending and find extra money to pay down debt
In order to help Steven and Lisa track their spending, Jean asks them to write down every single cent they spend. Jean also tells Lisa and Steven they must deposit their paychecks directly into a joint account. Then, Jean delivers some tough news. "Steven's in charge," Jean tells Lisa. "And he's going to pay the bills. You are going to get an allowance and he is going to give you $20 a day."

Lisa begrudgingly agrees to Jean's plan. "I'm going to the bank today to get rid of my womanhood," says Lisa. "So I'm transferring all of my money from my savings account into Steve's checking account, so that he can be the man now and manage the money and take control of Lisa Bradley."
Jean's advice

After a few days of tracking their spending, Jean sits down with Lisa and Steven to assess their progress. Jean totals up their weekly spending and discovers that Lisa spent $284—that's twice her allowance. "That is money that is not in your budget," Jean says.

Lisa says part of the reason she went over the budget was to buy a new outfit for her daughter Madison. Steven says Lisa isn't admitting the whole truth. Finally, Lisa confesses that she also took Madison to get her hair done at a salon. "I know you love your daughter and I know you want her to look good," says Jean, "but you've got to watch it."

Jean says Lisa needs to consider how her shopping will affect her children. "Your image is a lie," Jean tells Lisa. "You don't want your daughter to grow up feeling like she needs 'things' to make her happy. ... We're going to strip away all the layers of your onion and you are going to realize what an incredible person you are without all the stuff."

"That's what real living is," says Oprah.
Lisa struggles

Jean says there are many things the Bradleys simply cannot afford. Lisa struggles to come to terms with this news, but Jean insists that Lisa needs to make some tough choices. "The $2,000 piano is not an option," says Jean. One week later, they trade out their expensive piano for a cheaper one—that's $2,100 saved.

The Bradley's owe more than $2,000 on their big screen TV. Jean says it has to go. Five days later, Lisa gives up the TV, gaining an additional $2,300 towards their debt.

The Bradleys spend $130 a month on cable, yet another cost Jean says the Bradleys need to reduce. Lisa says she needs time to process this move. "I've never set myself up for failure and I'm not going to start by saying something that I know I can't do," says Lisa.

"I'm not here to see you fail," says Jean. "But I think that you really do need to think about what you need, versus what you want." Six days later, Lisa complies and returns all four cable boxes for a yearly savings of $960.

Lisa spends $30 a week getting her hair done, and Jean confronts her at the beauty salon. Lisa refuses to cut back on her weekly visits. After a heated argument, Jean discovers there are some areas where Lisa will not budge. "The hair is not a compromise that Lisa is willing to make," says Jean. "And that's fine. ... This is about making the choices in your life that work for you. It's about saying, 'I'll cut my food budget. ... I will cut a lot of other things in my life and I will choose to do this because I am deciding.'"
The Bradleys and Jean Chatzky

Despite the ups and downs, Jean applauds the Bradleys for the amazing progress they've made on the Debt Diet. "It has been hard for them," Jean says. "They are incredibly brave to be here. This is hard. And they are doing an incredible job. They're making their own choices."

Lisa says that one of the hardest parts of the plan has been the reaction she's received from unsupportive family and friends. Jean offers Lisa and Steven words of encouragement. "You are out there," Jean tells the Bradleys. "You're honest, you're open, you're real. You are embracing your problems."

More from Oprah's Debt Diet 
FROM: The Debt Diet: Part 2
Published on January 01, 2006
Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.


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