Amy, when we were still renting people would talk about their homes and I wanted to cry. I was in default on my student loan, had crap credit, and could only get a secured credit card. Hubby had great credit, but had tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt. It was HARD. Took Hubby six years with a credit counseling firm to get the credit cards paid off. Luckily for me, getting married to Hubby made me almost immediately credit-worthy... and then I racked up high balances
But it's taken TIME... I think I really, seriously started around 2003, when I finished grad school. First the credit cards - paid one off and that became my pay-off-every-month card (for ordering on line and stuff) - that took about a year or more. Then the other credit cards - pay and put nothing on them (consolidated at a lower rate a few times to speed things up) - that took more like 3 or 4 (or five). Then the student loan - another year and a little more, then the car loan - about a year, then the 403(b) loan - another 9 months or so. And it goes soooooo slooooow at first but once one account is gone, the pace picks up. I couldn't bring myself to do the lowest-balance first (or that would have been my student loan), I had to do the highest-interest first (the credit cards) because I couldn't pay on one thing while watching the interest charges build on the other things or I'dve had constant hives or something
But they were the largest balance, so it took a while. The nice thing is the special-interest-rate offers give built-in incentives to pay off fast, before the special rate expires. Some of it got rotated three or four times, but the fees were still less than the interest charges would have been.
So yeah, it's slow and it doesn't show a lot at first but whoo-eee, once it picks up it feels great