Glinda, Marnie and Mark

Marnie and Mark Widlunds' super-sized debt has sent their lives into a tailspin, but financial expert Glinda Bridgforth has a plan. Glinda is setting up shop in the Widlunds' home! It's time for the Widlunds to roll up their sleeves and get started on the first two steps Glinda says are essential to tackling their debt.

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.
Glinda's rules for the Widlunds

Glinda says the Widlunds must go on a cash-only plan if they hope to reign in their out-of-control spending.

She establishes some tough new rules for Marnie and Mark and their daughters, 17-year-old Victoria and 15-year-old Gracie.
  1. Stop paying for Victoria's car.
  2. Stop funding Friday night dinners with friends.
  3. Stop incurring overdraft fees.
  4. Stop eating out.
  5. Stop giving the girls an allowance.
  6. Stop Marnie's shopping at the craft store.
The family is happy to make their Friday dinner a potluck and follow Glinda's other guidelines, but the issue of Victoria's car payment is less negotiable. Marnie says she told Victoria they would pay for half of her car payment while she's in high school and she's not willing to go back on her word. The family reaches a compromise by encouraging Victoria to help with expenses related to her car, such as gas and maintenance.

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."
The Widlunds' troubles get worse

Marnie doubted she'd be able to stick to Glinda's strict plan and she was right. Hidden cameras catch her red-handed with a secret debit card. "It's Victoria's extra debit card," she tells Mark when confronted. "I'm sorry. It's in my name, but I've never activated it!"
The wily Widlunds cheat the system

Mark also finds a way to cheat the system. When tracking expenses on his envelope, he lists $26.71 for gas...even though only $20 went in his car. He spent the difference on a case of beer.
Marnie and Mark learn to live on the Debt Diet

After struggling initially, Mark and Marnie say they're finally learning to live with Glinda's rules—and they're reaping the benefits.

"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.

More from Oprah's Debt Diet
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.