Lisa and Steven Bradley one year ago

One year ago, Oprah challenged America to get out of debt. Millions got on board, including Lisa and Steven Bradley, a North Carolina couple who seemed to have it all. Lisa, a case manager, and her husband, a government employee, made $102,000 a year, lived in a new home with their children and owned four cars.

Secretly, the Bradleys were drowning in bills and were $170,000 in debt. On the verge of financial ruin—and divorce—Lisa and Steven agreed to work one-on-one with Jean Chatzky, a Debt Diet money coach, to see how much debt they could pay off in one year.

Jean traveled to North Carolina to help the Bradleys take control of their finances and start saving for their future. At first, Lisa resisted Jean's cost-cutting measures…did the Debt Diet work for this family?
Jean Chatzky, Lisa and Steven

A year ago, the Bradleys owed more money than they made in a year. With Jean's help, Lisa and Steven paid off $50,000 in debt in just one year!

Jean says that after some initial resistance, the Bradley family got serious about paying down their debt. They sold two cars, which brought in $30,000. They also paid off $7,000 in medical bills and $3,000 in credit card debt. At Jean's insistence, the Bradleys took back a big-screen television, which saved them an additional $2,000.

The key to their success was that once Lisa and Steven started saving, they did not start spending again. Jean says Lisa saved $5,000 by not going to the mall every day and $6,000 by not eating out three times a day. They also managed to increase their income by a whopping $26,000. How'd they do it? Lisa took on a second full-time job, and Steven worked overtime.

Although Jean was worried when she first met the Bradleys, she says she now sees an incredible future for this family. "You really did it!" she says.

Currently, they have $6,500 in savings, and they're saving another $2,500 a month for the next year. Then, Jean suggests that they scale their savings back to about $1,000 a month. When Lisa and Steven are ready to retire, Jean predicts that they'll have $1.7 million in the bank.
Lisa and Steven Bradley renew their vows.

When Oprah first met Lisa and Steven, they argued constantly about finances and admitted that their marriage was falling apart. Divorce seemed inevitable, but thanks to the Debt Diet, Steven says things have really turned around.

"We're doing wonderful," he says. "This Debt Diet has been a blessing. The arguments are almost nonexistent now."

Lisa says she and her husband have improved their communication and learned to rely on each other for emotional support. "I lost a lot of friends through this process, and I realized my friend is Steve," she says. "We learned to lean more on each other, which made [our relationship] stronger for our family."

To symbolize this new chapter in their lives, Lisa and Steven renewed their wedding vows. "We wanted a new start," Steven says. "A fresh start."