How I Paid Off $18,000 in Debt

Don Cobler used to get up before the sun and go to work. He’d get home long after dark, then he’d do it again the next day. And the next and the next.

“I was slowly killing myself,” he said.

Call it Death by Debt. Like millions of Americans, Cobler found himself buried in credit card bills. As hard as he shoveled, he could not dig himself out the hole.

“I just got in over my head,” Cobler said, “and couldn’t pay it all off.”

Four separate credit card bills would come in the mail every month. Cobler would wince as he looked at the numbers. They added up to $18,000, and weren’t getting any smaller since all he could do most months was pay the minimum balances.

Then one day Cobler got something else in the mail. It was information about debt elimination. He’s not sure how it ended up in his mailbox, but the ad was the start of a beneficial relationship.

Cobler called InCharge Debt Solutions, which set up a plan that would help Cobler get out of debt and get him a lot more sleep. That had become a scarce commodity after Cobler and his wife decided to open a video rental store in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.

It was a side business for Cobler, who was a materials manager at a hospital. The venture struggled and Cobler started paying bills with credit hoping the business would turn around. It never did.

“We bought the business and it didn’t work out,” he said. “And the marriage just went south.”

Sadly, that did not make him unique. Financial problems are the third leading cause of divorce in America, according to a study by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts. “Money issues” account for 22% of failed marriages.

One thing Cobler didn’t get rid of in the divorce was his debt. He was saddled with all $18,000 from the credit cards. They had varying interest rates that essentially stuck him on a debt treadmill.

Cobler said he scrimped and cut back on all unnecessary expenses. He even got a job at a fast food restaurant, which was not exactly the kind of thing a 50-year-old wants to do.

The alarm clock would go off early and he’d go to work at the hospital. He’d get off about 5 p.m. and head to the fast food restaurant, where he’d work until the midnight closing.

The 80 hours a week of labor paid the bills, but it didn’t produce enough for Cobler to put much of dent in his debt. He knew he needed help, but he wasn’t sure where to look. Then he got that ad in the mail and gave InCharge a call.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Cobler said.

A credit counselor reviewed his financial situation and explained the options. They agreed the best course was a bill consolidation plan in which InCharge would work with the credit card companies to lower interest rates.

Instead of paying separate bills each month, Cobler would make one payment to InCharge. It not only simplified things, the payment was appreciably lower due to the revised interest rates.

“It was $478 a month,” Cobler said. “I know it by heart.”

The counselor didn’t sugarcoat anything. Cobler was told his debt elimination plan would take four years to complete. He couldn’t use any credit cards, and non-profit debt counseling agencies like InCharge assess a monthly fee when consumers enroll in a program.

“I initially didn’t understand why I had to pay that,” Cobler said. “But as I went along, I became very appreciative and couldn’t begrudge them any part of that money. They saved me so much more than I spent.”

Between that guidance from InCharge credit counselors and Cobler’s dedication, the debt was paid off six months early. The last $478 withdrawal was in April of 2016.

Toward the end of the plan, Cobler got remarried. He and his new wife were in good enough financial shape to buy a house and car.

And his fast-food job? Cobler gladly retired from that.

“It’s great,” he said. “Like I said, I was killing myself working two jobs. I have a sleep debt I’ll never get back.”

But he has no more credit card debt, which makes for very pleasant dreams.

About The Author

George Morris

In his 40-plus-year newspaper career, George Morris has written about just about everything -- Super Bowls, evangelists, World War II veterans and ordinary people with extraordinary tales. His work has received multiple honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press and the Louisiana Press Association. He avoids debt when he can and pays it off quickly when he can't, and he's only too happy to suggest how you might do the same.


  1. (NA)(ND). Leading Causes of Divorce. Retrieved from