Step One: Take Stock and Prioritize
Assess the complete damage before you get started. As brutal as it is to add up all those credit card statements, you need to do it. Make a list of everything you owe and what institutions you're indebted to. You're going to need to prioritize what debt you pay off first.
"There are different rules of thumb for which debt you pay off first," says Kofke. "Mathematically it makes sense to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first." But he also actually advocates for the "snowball method," where you pay off the smallest debts first. This keeps you motivated since you see progress toward your goal. "So you spend, for example, $30 each month paying off that first debt until it's paid, and then you feel good about it, plus you have another $30 to put toward the next debt."