The Exchange|How We Reacted When We Learned Our Tax Refund Was Garnished


I have been contemplating for months whether or not I should share this story. It is one that I’d prefer not to tell because it exposes one of the most fragile areas of my life, which is my finances. I never thought I’d be in a position of financial strain, because my grandparents always taught me to save, pay off bills and invest. Unfortunately, post college life, I made poor decisions financially that are still impacting me today.

As I prepare to share with you, I am reminded of Brené Brown words that so often help me overcome the fear of sharing hard stories. She says, “vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

When my husband and I got the news that we wouldn’t be receiving our tax return this year due to delinquent school loans, our hearts instantly dropped. Just like many of you, we had already made plans to spend the money on bills, car repairs, traveling and special needs.  It was a significant loss for us, especially since we were already struggling financially due to living off one income for a year.

Many different emotions surfaced for us as we sat there trying to figure out what we were going to do. Instantly we realized three things:

  1. We need to ask for help!
  2. We need to pray now!
  3. We need to address our debt and create a plan to tackle it!

Days passed and of course, we were just sad and lost for words. But there was no way, we were going to survive the mountain of unpaid bills calling for our attention without our tax refund check. We were in a position where we had to ask for help immediately. Suddenly, The Exchange came to mind. It is a concept I learned about in one of my graduate classes that derives from CCDA’s finest leaders John Perkins and Wayne “Coach” Gordon which says,

 “There should always be an exchange so that people can take responsibility for their lives and have a consciousness of their own dignity and worth that comes from being able to have such control.”

What this means is that if I am in need, I am able to ask for help, and in doing so, offer something that is of the same value in return. For instance, I knew we needed help financially and so I reached out to 15 of our closest friends and asked if each of them would donate $100.00.

But I did not stop there. In exchange for $100, my husband and I offered to use our skills to help babysit, DJ, clean and complete DIY projects. We were able to maintain our dignity, give back and receive the help we needed to overcome such a huge financial hurdle. The response from friends was very generous and gracious. Just about everyone we asked responded and as a result, we were able to take care of our immediate financial needs. This process was very humbling, but the outcome strengthened us and made us extremely grateful for the community God has given us.

Months later, we both are working full-time jobs and finally sitting down to analyze our finances and create a plan. We desire financial freedom. We desire to be debt free and that can only be done if we are intentional about looking our messy finances in the face and creating a plan. I am tired of living paycheck to paycheck, borrowing money, paying bills late, missing amazing opportunities and living in fear because of debt. It is time to make a change right now. I refuse to keep repeating the same cycle over and over again. I want financial freedom for myself and for my family and I will do what it takes to get it!

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.


What tools and resources would you recommend to a young family that desires to get out of debt?

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3 thoughts on “The Exchange|How We Reacted When We Learned Our Tax Refund Was Garnished

  1. The Exchange is a wonderful idea!
    You sound very in tune with yourself and your values so my system may work for you.
    I meditated upon what was important to me (family, being able to ‘afford’, the environment) then worked my spending plan around that. Every month I look ahead and see what expenses (birthdays, parties, hosting obligations, etc.) are coming up and create my spending plan around that.
    If I’m torn about something I see if it fits in with the items I declared important to me. This has helped me save but has also helped me be more true to my self. My entire blog was created for me to track, celebrate and forgive myself as needed on my financial journey.
    Hope this helps!


  2. I deeply resonated with this post, Stephanie. Thank you for being vulnerable and speaking on this very sensitive topic that many people don’t like sharing due to feelings of shame and fear. You are a blessing!


    1. Hey Deb! Thank you for taking th time out to read this post. It helps to know that we are not alone and that our financial struggles are not uncommon. Let’s keep sharing to overcome those feelings of shame and fear. Thanks again, Deb for your encouragement and support! 🙂


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