Here are some of the things we did to end the cycle of debt:*My husband made the decision to work on a college degree he needed in order to receive a promotion with the fire department. Although he had college courses, most of them did not count towards this degree, which meant he had to start all over again. The years he spent in school were the hardest years I have ever been through (raising 3 children 3 and under and being pregnant with my 4th. while he was working at least 90 hours a week and going to school full-time).
*To pay for school without creating more student loan debt, (as we already had over $11k in student loans) my husband applied for grants through financial aid. With having such low-income to family size, he was able to not only finish school for free, he also received his books at no cost through the school!
*A family member gave us Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book. Although we had already stopped keeping a revolving credit card debt, this book really gave both my husband and I the motivation to get rid of the rest of our debt. We don't use all the principals in the book, but we have used many of them. Had we not heard about Dave Ramsey, I'm not sure if we would have become debt free as quickly.
*We used our tax refunds towards paying off credit cards, putting money in the bank so we'd have enough to buy food and gasoline without having to use a credit card, and later to start a $1000 emergency fund.
*Once our credit cards were out of the way, we used tax refunds and stimulus checks towards our car loans.
*After my husband finished college and received his promotion at work, (and a raise), we put the extra money towards our car payment and paid the cars off over a year early!
*We made improvements to our house to increase equity knowing we would eventually sell. We used overtime and tax refunds to pay for the improvements.
*Last year, we sold our house and bought a bigger home that fit our growing family of 6. We found a foreclosure and acquired a low-interest rate which meant our new mortgage was not much more than we were paying before for our other house!
*With the car payments out of the way, we started focusing on our student loans. I upped our payments as much as I could, eventually increasing our payment to over triple what was required.
*This year, we put again put a large amount of our tax return towards student loans. We received money from a family member as a gift and put 100% of it towards the loans as well.
*2 days ago, I used savings to pay the remaining student loan balance off! I consider this to be only by God's grace as it would have been very easy to have continued on the path we had been early in our marriage. I'm thankful that he gave us the resources and wisdom to make a change when we did.
I believe the biggest help to getting out of debt is this: don't create more debt! Pay down debt as you can, and little by little you'll get rid of it. Buy only what you can afford right now, and if you can't afford it, don't buy it.
If you haven't checked out Dave Ramsey's site, do it now. The principals he teaches work, but you have to stay consistent. Things don't get better over night, it takes time and a lot of work. However, you can get out of debt. It was possible for us and I believe it's possible for others too.