The biggest key to getting out of debt is unbridled focus and intensity. If you focus on that and that alone, and attack it, it can be done.
Dave Ramsey calls it "Gazelle Intensity," based on a show he saw on the Discovery channel. (He tells the story in his book, "The Total Money Makeover.")
If you are spreading yourself across several goals, you will not get to where you want to be quickly. For the debt snowball to really gain some traction, you must scrape up every last penny you can, which brings us to a very difficult decision – should I stop putting away for my retirement?
This is a sticky point. If you work for a company that provides a match for its 401(k) plan, you should be thankful. How can you turn away that "free" money? It's tough, I know.
But if you are trying to pay off a bunch of debt, and you are also sending some money to a retirement plan, some to a college savings plan, a little to this credit card, and a little to that savings account, nothing gets done! You are spread too thin!
Dave's advice is to stop all other saving and attack the debt. In most cases, you will be able to make up for lost time after you are debt free by saving much more than you are today. You will finish the second Baby Step faster, and get on with your plan for financial freedom sooner. You will knock that retirement savings into the stratosphere after your debt is gone.
But, in the real world, this is difficult to actually do. My wife and I struggle with this. We have not stopped investing in our retirement accounts. Both of our companies have match programs, so we are contributing as much as the match allows, but no more.
Remember, there are recommended ways of traveling down this path. But in the end, you and your spouse much be in agreement and do it together. If one of you is not comfortable with stopping retirement savings, then adjust your plan accordingly.