Meet the Widlund family

The Widlunds say their super-sized debt has sent their family into a tailspin. Marnie and Mark's combined annual income is over $75,000—but they have no retirement savings, no college savings for their two daughters, Victoria and Gracie, and no life insurance. They are $81,000 in debt.
Marnie Widlund

The Widlunds' budget includes many unessential expenses—"fat" that can be trimmed during their debt diet. Marnie estimates that the family spends about $150 a week on take-out and another $200 each weekend on entertainment.

Marnie's obsession with crafts is also digging them deeper into debt. Marnie admits she buys on impulse, a habit that resulted in her owning $1,000 worth of beads and $1,500 worth of scrap-booking supplies. "I feel really guilty about spending the money on [crafts]," Marnie says, "but, at the same time, you cannot always just focus on everything horrible in your life."
Are the Widlund daughters spoiled?

When it comes to their children, Marnie and Mark have a problem many parents can relate to—the disease to please. While Victoria, who's starting college in a year and a half, has no college savings, she does drive a brand new car. "It's newer than both of my parents' cars and I love it," she says.

Marnie and Mark admit that they are easily manipulated by their teenage daughters when it comes to spending money. "My love for them probably clouds my judgment," Marnie says. "I think I'm very overindulgent with them. I give them everything I possibly can, to the detriment of my husband, my marriage and our finances."

On one window-shopping excursion, Marnie ends up giving in to the girls' pleading—using bill money to purchase clothes. "I have her wrapped around my finger," Victoria says with a smile.

Tensions reach a boiling point over the holidays when Marnie and Mark's checking account dwindles down to $235, and payday is a week away. "Christmas couldn't come at a worse time," Marnie says. "But, as usual—no matter what—the girls are not going to suffer." To help pay for gifts, Marnie borrows money from Victoria. "It's bad enough to borrow money from my mom and dad, maybe my sisters, but from your children?" Marnie says. "It's pretty deplorable."
Marnie and Mark

The never-ending stress from their mounting debt is taking a toll on Marnie and Mark's relationship. "I blame Marnie for the debt I'm in," Mark says. "I've been angry enough that I've broken the back door slamming [it]."

Money problems have affected their sex life. "When you're all anxious and tense you don't want someone to touch you. I think we've both kind of withdrawn a lot."

"Having money problems isn't sexy at all," Mark agrees.

Ironically, the financial trouble that has put the Widlunds' marriage in crisis has also prevented them from separating. "On a couple different occasions [arguments over money have] almost ended our marriage," Marnie says. "Fortunately, neither one of us could afford to move out."
Glinda Bridgforth coaches the Widlunds

Financial expert Glinda Bridgforth, author of Girl, Make Your Money Grow!, coaches the Widlund family.

Glinda targets three areas of spending that she'll help the Widlunds get under control:
  • Cutting back on Marnie's arts and crafts purchases will save the Widlunds $4,000 a year.
  • By preparing more meals at home and relying less on takeout, Glinda says the Widlunds will cut their food budget in half—saving $7,000 a year.
  • Victoria has to make a decision, Glinda says—either she gives up her car or pays for it herself. By not paying half of their daughter's car payments, the Widlunds will save $1,800 a year.
"We certainly have to get Marnie and Mark to end that friction that's going on, so we definitely have to work on some things regarding the relationship," Glinda says. "But I also feel that [the marriage] is going to begin to heal itself once [Marnie and Mark] start to deal with the finances."