If you’ve been sued by a creditor, your wages may be garnished which means your creditors get to take a portion of every paycheck before you ever see that money. Having your wages garnished can put some serious strain on your budget and leave you feeling stressed, but there are things you can do to make the situation more manageable.
Identify your needs, your wants, and establish priorities. What is non-negotiable? What can you give up? What are you wasting?
If you truly can’t take care of your basic needs while your wages are being garnished, get help. Talk to friends and family, or consider filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy often stops wage garnishment, prevents foreclosure, and halts repossessions. (Source: AC Waring & Associates Inc) Bankruptcy can eliminate debt and give you a clean slate with which to start over. If bankruptcy isn’t an option, explore other debt solutions—consolidate your debt or talk to attorney about negotiating with creditors for reduced payments.
If you can meet your basic needs and you just need help tightening up your budget, use the following tips to find some wiggle room.
1. Track your income and expenses
If your wages are being garnished, you will need to keep close track of the income you do have. For at least a month, track everything. Make a spreadsheet on your computer or organize a notebook at your desk to track your income, your savings, and everything you spend money on. Keeping track of all of your expenses will help you figure out how much you are spending in certain budget areas and give you ideas about where you could make cuts. You may find that you are spending more than you thought on things you don’t need.
Tracking your expenses will also motivate you to be accountable. Knowing you have to write down everything you spend money on might deter you from buying shoes you won’t really wear or a movie you’ve already seen.
2. Reduce spending in flexible areas of your budget
You may not be able to change your mortgage or rent payment, and your car payment may not be negotiable, but other areas of your budget are flexible. People often spend a lot of their budget on food and entertainment. Use these tips to reduce spending in each area.
- Plan simple meals for busy evenings. Make sandwiches, scrambled eggs, or other quick easy meals instead of getting take-out.
- Make a list before you go grocery shopping so that you aren’t tempted to buy things you don’t need.
- Replace expensive ingredients with cheaper alternatives. For example you can use ground turkey instead of ground beef for many recipes. You can also often use margarine instead of butter.
- Pack a lunch instead of going out to eat at work.
- Rent movies or go to matinees instead of paying full price at the theater.
- Have friends over instead of going out for drinks or dinner.
- If you do go out, go to lunch instead of dinner when prices are lower.
- Visit the local library instead of the book store.
- Look for free community events like concerts or sports competitions.
- Spend time outside going hiking or taking a picnic to your local park.
3. Eliminate wasteful spending
Once you know how much you are spending and what you are spending money on, cut things that are wasteful. Common wastes include unused gym memberships and subscriptions to magazines that never get read. Are you spending a lot of money on your cable subscription? Do you really need unlimited data on your phone plan? Could you live with slower internet?
If your wages have been garnished, don’t despair. Establish some priorities, explore your options, and be creative with your budget to make this difficult time less stressful and more productive.