So, I've walked you through how to change your financial future in a brief summary kind of way. But you will never make this work without this piece of advice.
You must change your mindset.
Seriously...if you work hard and get completely out of debt but never change your mindset about how to use you money (rather than letting it use you) and never decide what you want your money to do for you, you will end up right back where you are.
If you need help getting started, I highly suggest Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. So many people will tell you about this book that it almost seems cliche, but from experience I can tell you that it changed my outlook on our money and our financial future. He is such a motivator, which is why so many sing his praises.
Amazingly, this struggle through debt repayment will likely make the change for you. The harder it is to do, the more of an impact it will make. Windfalls make debt repayment easier and much more manageable, but they do not help you learn HOW to manage your money. Trust me. We know from experience.
Personal TRUE story:
In 2006 we were deep in debt. We had about $40K in student loans, $15K in a timeshare, and about $20K in credit card debt as well as $20K in car debt. We received an inheritance and paid off everything but the timeshare (don't remember the (il)logic behind that one, but it was what we decided) and put approximately $15K in a money market account for savings. We were (almost) debt free and could have managed to pay off that other $15K either with that savings or within the year. But we didn't. We hadn't changed anything about our habits.
In 2007 we moved to Savannah. From that time to October 2009 we managed to rack up another $45K in consumer debt. The sad news is, I can hardly tell you what we spent that on. Some furniture for the new house I know, but no more than $5000. About $5000 for storm doors and such. And $6000 for a new transmission and catalytic converter for my son. But otherwise...no clue. That's ridiculous that we had that much debt and no idea where it came from.
We didn't learn anything from that windfall, so we ended up right back up where we were. And now we're walking the long, tough road. I promise you though, because of the struggle and the work it takes, I promise this time, it will stick.
So make sure this is a lifestyle change for you. Not that you can never enjoy nice things again. Not that you can never afford extras again. You will be able to, but you will (hopefully) be much more mindful about your spending thanks to the school of hard knocks.
Now, tighten those boot straps and join us on this road. We're proof that it works (right at $19K paid off in one year...and that was with some major bumps in the road). We'll be here to encourage you. We'll be here taking those steps with you.
I promise...you can do it. And you will be a better person, steward of your money, and parent because of it. And who wouldn't want that?