In your experience, what are the best tips you can give someone who is trying to pay off their debts as fast and smart as possible?
One tip I can give is to budget by the 50/30/20 rule. With this, 50% of your monthly income goes to necessities, 30% goes to things you want, and 20% goes to paying off your debts. You can also flip the last two if you have more debt. The idea is to allow yourself to have enough money to get things you need and want while still being able to pay off your debts.
File for bankruptcy. (I am joking!)
While the wife and I had to do this and it is an option, we will needed to pay other debts off even with doing this. I learned through the process you want to prioritize where your money is going. Make sure it always pays the bills and the debts first. Even if you have to eat rice for a week, it will end up being worth it just to get the debts payed off faster.
In my experience, you do what you can with what you have. Sometimes you will have extra money, instead of using that to get something you don't need, use it to pay off debts. It can take some time but as long as you stick it out, you will get there. I focused on 3 cards last year and got them all paid off. It was such a relief!
Paying smaller bills first helps. If you have cards that have smaller debts, focus on getting those paid off first. If you have to skip a month or two on ones where you owe more, you are not likely to alter your scores, at least in my experience because the damage is already done.
Pay off what you can. If this means letting other debts go without paying them for a few months, let it ride. You can usually avoid paying a credit card for 3 to 6 months before it is filed and handed over to a debt collection agency.
Focus on the here and now. A lot of people tend to focus on a year, two years, or five years from now when estimating and planning out a debt paying strategy. Just do what you can without putting you or your family at risk for going without necessities.