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Wage garnishment - How to survive it

Updated on August 18, 2011

Garnishment 101

No one likes to have their wages garnished, sometimes it seems just downright unfair, especially if they take a full 25% of your disposable income.  Disposable income is what is left after taxes and insurance, it is your ’take home’ pay.   Most of us have gotten to the point that we need every dime we take home and most of the time, even that isn’t enough. Living from paycheck to paycheck has become the norm.  If you’ve been living on, let’s say for example $500.00 per week, you will now be forced to survive on $375.00.

More and more companies are resorting to garnishments to recover monies due them.  With the economy in the toilet like it is, every dime that is available to get is going to be gotten one way or another. 

The question is, how will you survive?  Obviously if you would have had the money to pay in the first place, you would have done so.  So there is the good possibility that your credit is pretty much shot, and you aren’t going to be able to borrow from anyone to pay this.  Bankruptcy, I guess that is an option, depending on the amount of money you owe, and if there are other bills you will be applying to it.  If it’s just your day to day living that it going to be a problem, bankruptcy is not an option.

What to do?

So you’re just going to have to suck it up and let them take the money. The things you may have gotten used to are going to have to be stopped. Going out to dinner and the movies will be a thing of the past, for a long while. In fact any type of entertainment, other than sitting on your porch watching the world go by, will become a distant memory.

Keep your job!! That is the number one thing to remember, get that bill paid. You won’t do anyone any good by quitting. The garnishment will follow you to a new job and that just isn’t the impression you want to give your new employer. Oh, it may take a few months for them to figure it out, but it will happen.

The phrase ‘tighten your belt’ has become a catch phrase for many within our Government. At one time it meant to make your belt tighter so you wont feel the hunger pains. After this is over, you will truly know what it means to tighten your belt.

You may have to call a few people, your creditors to let them know what is happening, you don’t want to get behind on your current bills. Making a few phone calls now will save you a lot of heartache later. Some of them may work with you depending on how long your garnishment is for. You might be able to 'suspend' some bills for a few months, making a small payment to do so.

First you will need to dump a few things that are not necessary. You may have to decide what is more important, house phone or cell phone. You won’t be able to have both, if you are on a contract, you may have to try to get out of it, one way or another so you don’t end up with yet another garnishment down the road. A suspension may work with some cell phone companies, you will have to call to find out.

Get rid of that cable package. Watching movies is not a necessity, it is entertainment. If you need to be entertained, play ball with your child in the yard, if you don’t have a child, play with your dog. Run in place, twiddle your thumbs do something to keep yourself busy. Get an extra job if you feel there is too much time left in your day. Teach yourself how to do something constructive, maybe you can turn that into extra income.

Turn off unnecessary items in your house. You will need to lower that electric bill. If you have people in your home using up electricity, unplug it. Turn off that air conditioning, if you get to sweat, so can they. Take less showers and baths, rather than taking a shower every day, take 2 per week. Use the ‘washing up’ technique that your Grandma used years ago. The gas/propane or electricity used to heat your water will be cut down immensely.

Wash your clothes in cold water. Yes, even when washing whites, the hot water that is not used will cut down on your bills. Used the proper amount of washing liquid or powder, you will not only save money but you will also save your clothes. Clothes will wear out sooner if too much detergent is used. Instead of buying fabric softener sheets, spray an old washcloth with liquid softener, toss that in the dryer it will be just as effective. Reuse the same cloth over and over without washing it. Right now you are looking to keep the static cling down, and save money, you don’t have to smell like a laundry mat.

Call on a few favors. You may have done something nice for someone in the past, maybe they can help you out now. Even if it is something as simple as having you over for dinner once a week. If someone owes you money, now would be the time to try and collect it, or at least prepare their mind that you will be needing it soon.

If you live close to a library or someplace you can connect to the internet, discontinue yours temporarily. That extra money will come in handy, for buying groceries.

Check with your auto insurance company, see if there is any way you can lower your policy. Make your deductible higher, do whatever it takes short of dropping the policy altogether, that would be a big no-no. It will only cost you more in the long run. The start up costs again, being put into a high risk pool, if you have an accident etc…

If you live in a state that has bottle returns, collect bottles from the side of the road, garbage can or wherever you can find them. Every dime will count.

If you have to resort to selling items, make sure they won’t need to be replaced. This will only cost you more in the long run. Selling something that cost you $1000.00 for $200.00, well you do the math. It just isn’t worth it in the long run.

Shopping for groceries will be a challenge, particularly if you haven’t learned to cook. Ramen noodles may end up being a staple for you. Look for sale items, buy only what is necessary. Make a menu, plan to eat lean. Use items to make food stretch, pastas potatoes and such with lots of flavorings can help stretch the food dollar. Soups and stews can be made to last several days. Depending on how many people you need to feed a chicken can be made to last 3 meals. Cut chicken in half, using 2 halves for 2 meals and saving the bones from all to make either soup or chicken and dumplings. Potato soup is not only filling but a large pot can be made from just a few ingredients.

If you have a fair amount of people in your home you may have to resort to asking for help. There is no shame in that, in most cities you can find food banks. Locate one if at all possible or quite possibly there may be a church that will help you with food issues. This is not going to be a solution, you might be lucky to end up with 3 full meals. But what you will get is staples, and things that you can add to other things to make a meal. If you happen to have a few dollars extra that can go toward food, you might want to look into a food co-op, something like Angel Ministries if there is one in your area. How that works is you take your money and get twice as much food as you normally would buy. The draw back is you get what is selected for you. You don’t get to pick your foods, all you do is place your order, they shop for you in a sense. The other drawback is you will have to drive or get a ride to these places. There is no delivery available.

Conserve your fuel consumption. Make using your vehicle count. If you have to make a trip to the store, try to do it when doing something else. Don’t make needless trips. If someone you know needs to run to the store, offer to split the gas with them. Get rides when possible from friends.

You can try asking for more hours at work, but if that were possible, you might not be in the predicament you are in now. Remember the more money you make, the more will be taken in the garnishment, but the sooner it will be paid off. Keep a close eye on how is much is being paid, know how much you owe. You will get the paperwork from your boss, but it’s still a good idea to keep track of it.

Now - Pray

After you have done everything possible to lower your current bills, you can always pray. Pray that you will get through his without anything disastrous happening. Pray that the tires on your car won’t pop, pray that you won’t need any oil for it. Pray that what little luck you have left will hold out.

Once you have finished with your garnishments, try and keep up the conservation for as long as possible. Hope and pray that your bills have not gotten behind. Take a good look at those bills that have been coming with regularity, make an attempt to pay on them. Try to tuck back a few dollars each pay period so this can’t happen again.

Having a garnishment is not the end of the world, it may seem like it at the time. Learn from your mistakes and try not to let it happen again. Most companies won’t tolerate garnishments for long, you could possibly end up losing your job.


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    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Michigan

      Legally this is true, you cannot be fired for a wage garnishment.

      The company my husband used to work for stated "If you get more than 1 wage garnishment, your services will no longer be required". Was it in writing? No.

      Most States have begun to have a 'termination for any reason' policy. Having wage garnishments makes more work for those who work in the offices.

      There are many ways around terminations these days and the loyalty for workers have gone out the window. My daughter was terminated for getting pregnant while being a manager at McDonald's. She had been told "If you get pregnant I'm going to have to fire you", she thought it was a joke. Did she report it? Yes. Was anything done? No. She could not afford the Attorney's fees to take them to court.

      The Federal Laws that are set in place seem to be mostly for show, to keep those who are honest, honest. Those who like to ride slightly on the 'other side of the law' will always find a way around those laws.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You can NOT lose your job due to garnishment. That statement is false.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Yes, that too!! Thanks! Still works too!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      7 years ago from USA

      These are all great ideas for tightening your belt. Voted up.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for pointing out your Hub to me, I linked it within mine. Very helpful indeed!

    • Hunter Goodman profile image

      Hunter Goodman 

      7 years ago from Texas

      a lot of folks these days are being sued by their credit card companies. I wrote a hub discussing the topic:

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      I will say it was one of the roughest times of my life. I truly never want to go thru it again! When I wrote this Hub, I was in the midst of it, trying to keep a positive attitude.

      Thanks for the words of encouragement, and for stopping by!

    • Chatkath profile image


      7 years ago from California

      Thank you Sweetsusieg for your very honest and informative Hubs. It is so refreshing to read about how one survives and conquers some of the darker moments - that we have all experienced at one time or another! Not only are you helping others by sharing what you have been through, you are providing positive values and guidance for your kids! Bravo!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great advice! =)


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