I will start with a basic situation first with this one to show how crippling debt can be.
Imagine a family with 5 credit cards, and 2 car loans. We'll say that each card has a $1000 balance and minimum payments of 2% or $20 to each card every month, so total payments of $100 a month for the credit cards. The cars both have monthly payments of $300, for a total of $600, and a grand total of $700 a month.
$700 a month in minimum payments, and this doesn't talk about a mortgage or student loans which many people will also have.
Now the average family in America makes $40000 a year, so this family with $700 in debt is spending about 21% of it's income on minimum payments. Everyone should ask the question, What could I do with that extra $700 a month?
How do I get rid of that debt? after all I'm paying the Minimum.
The key is to pay as much more than the minimum as you can comfortably afford, lets say an extra $200. Simultaneously you stop using credit cards. This prevents your debt from increasing. With that $220 ($200 + $20 minimum payment) a month you will have one card paid off in 5 months. Now you have a spare $220 to put towards the next card $240 will pay it off again in 5 months with some change left over. Your third card gets paid off in 4 months with change left over and so on.
Reward yourself after you pay off a major debt. Take the family out to eat or something, thank them for their efforts. It is important that they feel good about eliminating debt so they don't make the same mistakes you did.
Once you have all your debt paid off, you are in a great position to save, set up a CESA (Coverdell Educational Savings Account) for your kids, or set it aside in a money market for a downpayment on a new home, or make an Emergency Fund. The more money you can put towards the debt, the faster it will be gone, consider cutting back on shopping, eating out, cigarettes, and alcohol if you want to see the most dramatic results.