The Widlunds' Financial Struggles
Step One: Calculate debt and get your credit score
Glinda helps the couple look up Mark's credit score, a three-digit number that lenders use to determine credit risk. Marnie and Mark are disappointed to find out that Mark's score is 540. The median score is 700. "That means there's a lot of work for us to do," Glinda says.
Glinda also tallies up all the Widlunds' debt. With a second mortgage, Victoria's car payment and other loans, the Widlunds' total debt, including their home, is $210,000.
Step Two: Track your spending and find extra money to pay down debt
Glinda has identified four key areas where the Widlunds are wasting their money.
Late fees: $1,800 per year
Direct deposit advances: $1,440 per year
Transferring money toward Victoria's account: $2,640 per year
Food: $1,308 per month
If the Widlunds cut eating out by 25 percent and reduce other unnecessary spending, Glinda says they'll easily save more than $13,000 a year.
She establishes some tough new rules for Marnie and Mark and their daughters, 17-year-old Victoria and 15-year-old Gracie.
- Stop paying for Victoria's car.
- Stop funding Friday night dinners with friends.
- Stop incurring overdraft fees.
- Stop eating out.
- Stop giving the girls an allowance.
- Stop Marnie's shopping at the craft store.
After Marnie and Mark destroy their debit cards, each family member receives cash for the week in an envelope. All spending must be documented on the back of the envelope.
So that Marnie and Mark can be aware of each other's purchases, Glinda takes them to the bank to set up a new banking system—now two signatures are required on every check and withdrawal. Marnie admits that the cash-only spending plan is going to be tough. "I have to keep stopping myself from thinking of ways to get around this," she says. "I am sneaky."
"Things are going so vastly [better]," she says. "We don't fight. ... We're to the penny that we're supposed to have in our account."
The Widlunds have adjusted their spending to allow a little give and take—for example, Mark gets a six-pack every now and then, but it's not a secret expense...he includes it in the budget.
"It feels so strange and uncomfortable to change," Marnie says, "[but] it's wonderful. Paying bills on time is phenomenal!"
Deep down, Oprah says, the Debt Diet is about more than just money—it's about eliminating emotional debt and becoming who you were meant to be.
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