Desperate Times

"This is our fridge that has been empty for a few months now," Erin says. Opening a similarly bare cabinet, she says, "We have peanut butter and a lot of soup."

"Now I'm doing door-to-door sales, and my first paycheck came in for $71," says Erin's husband, Jay. "The next paycheck came in for $213, barely enough to cover our cell phone bills."

"It's a disaster. I'm working two jobs. I work seven days a week. I rarely get a break. I have a hard time getting to work sometimes because I don't have the gas to get there," Erin says.

"My rent is already a week and half late," Jay says.

"This should be the time of our lives right now. We just got married. Right after we got married, it was like: bills, bills, bills," Erin says.

Jay and Erin's income wasn't always so low. "Last year, I was making anywhere from $75- to $100,000. Everything was excellent," Jay says.

"He used to kind of brag about it when we first met: ‘You know, I make six figures,' and I was kind of drawn to that. Of course, any girl would be," Erin says.

"I really spoiled her," he says, "going out to dinner four or five times a week, spending a lot of money."

They show off some of their prized possessions. "We have the big-screen TV," Jay says. "It's a 57-inch, high-definition TV. It is my pride and glory."

[AD]This is my ever-growing shoe collection," Erin says. "It's kind of crazy, but I do have four pairs of pink flip flops. The last time I counted my shoes, I was up to 35 pairs."

"We thought it would be nice to invest in pots and pans because I like to cook," Jay says. "We ended up financing them for over $3,000. That was a huge mistake for us. We totally regret doing it. If I had a chance to just make them disappear, I would."

Erin remembers better times. "We moved into a really expensive apartment. I was going shopping weekly. We did not have a budget. We were spending money freely. It was great. I miss it," she says.

Erin says they fight about money every day. Her biggest complaint is how much time Jay spends on his unusual hobby, instead of looking for a better job.

"It is my dream to become a paranormal investigator," Jay says.

"I hate the ghost hunting," Erin says.

"When I get home from work, and Erin goes to sleep, I'll spend a few hours every night going through other evidence, or scheduling other cases or meeting up with other clients," Jay says. He shows off his ghost hunting tools. "This is some of my ghost-hunting equipment that we got: Camcorders and digital cameras, some digital and audio recorders, which allow us to capture EVPs, which is electronic voice phenomenon."

[AD]"I can't take it anymore. I just don't see any need for it right now," Erin says. "I feel like it's just a hobby, and it needs to go away."

"Erin says I should actually be looking for another job and spending more time with work rather than the amount of time that I spend with my ghost-hunting stuff," Jay says. "I would never ask her to give up something that she was truly passionate about. I just want to be able to live my dream, and hopefully some day it'll come true."

Jay has a commission-only job right now, but his last three paychecks totaled $284. Erin thinks he could do a lot more to help pay the bills.

"What do you want him to do? What are you looking for that you're not getting?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I don't necessarily want him to get a second job, but a better job than he has now," she says.

Jay has also fallen for some work-at-home scams and lost $450.

"You weren't looking for an easy ride, you were just looking for a way to make some money," Dr. Phil says.

"That's correct," Jay says.

Jay and Erin find themselves fighting about money every day. "I'm trying to make him see how important the bills are to me because sometimes I don't feel like they are as much of an issue to him," Erin says.

"How do you feel about him being, like, a ghost buster? Ghost hunter? Because you're not busting these guys, like, ‘Put your sheet against the wall,'" Dr. Phil jokes. "You don't want him doing that?"

"Not right now, no. It's taking up too much time when he could potentially be seeking a better job," she says.

[AD]"It's usually done late at night, well after she's gone to sleep and our day has usually ended," Jay explains.

"Have you ever seen a ghost?"

"We've gotten some pretty good evidence from a couple different cases we've been on," he says. "I won't say that I've seen a full-body apparition but as far as things like shadow figures and everything else that could lead to be paranormal, yes."

"At this point, you've got to look at results," Dr. Phil tells him. "And you could make more money than you're making right now doing almost anything, right?"

"Yes," he admits.

Dr. Phil introduces Liz Pulliam Weston, nationally-syndicated personal finance columnist and the author of Your Credit Score: Your Money and What's at Stake.

"Liz, what do you see in this situation that needs to change?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Obviously, income has got to come up, but right now you two are in a crisis situation," Liz says. "Now, in good times, it's smart to live on only half of what you make, and by that, I mean your transportation, your shelter, your utilities, minimum loan payments, any childcare you guys have has to be under 50 percent of your after-tax income, and that gives you some wiggle room when disasters like this strike."

"But if you're in a disaster, you're in a crisis, and you're in survival mode, I mean, that's a good idea but that's just not realistic, right?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Right. At this point, you guys do have to shift to ‘OK, what the heck do we do now?' So, you have to look at drastic measures," Liz says. "If you don't get that income up, you have to look at moving in with one of your parents, moving in with some friends. I know you don't want to do that, but [your rent] is a big chunk of your income. You have two cars. One of them is probably under water " You owe more on it than it's probably worth. I'm guessing the newer car? So, maybe sell the one that you have some equity in. Try to share a car. These are hard things to do, I know, but unless you get that pay up, this is what you're looking at."

[AD]Dr. Phil says they need to react immediately to fix their situation. "The sooner you react to it, the sooner you say, ‘Look, we've got to quit kidding ourselves here. We've got to cut down. We've got to get down to half of what we're making,' even in crisis if you can, by eliminating rent, eliminating car payments, doing things where you can start to give yourself some breathing room, so you stop fighting all the time. The worst thing is to see your relationship fall apart because of this stress and pressure. You don't want to see that happen."

Liz says it's a good idea to become a sellout. "Any time that you have something that can sell, you want to put it on eBay, Craigslist, have a yard sale, get that stuff moving," she says. "I know that you guys have a lot of stuff that you bought in better times. Let go of it. Declutter your house and raise some cash because that's the most important thing right now."

"We actually made a list here of things you told us, kind of inventory-wise, that you could sell," Dr. Phil says. "If you sell these things in a garage sale, you can generate money. You've got tops, pants, shoes, sandals, the 57-inch TV " which is your pride and glory, you said " Ab Roller bar, Xbox 360, guitar, pots and pans, Tupperware sets, all of this stuff. If people look around their house, they have things that others need that they could sell, and the estimate if you sell these at a garage sale would be $1,643. If you sell them on eBay or Craigslist, something like that, you'll probably generate close to $3,500."

[AD]Erin says selling the pots and pans would mean they would lose money because they still owe $2,800 on them. "We financed them for $3,200, we've been paying on them for over a year and the interest rates are just so high," she says.

"See, this is so unfair," Dr. Phil says, looking to Liz.

Liz says it sounds like Jay and Erin got scammed. She says, "I would contact your state's department of consumer affairs, whoever looks over consumer stuff, and bring this to them. See if there's any way you can get rid of this, because otherwise you're stuck with the debt, no matter what."