Then you have to get tough.
You decide what you can pay on each debt, you call each company and say, “This is what I owe you, this is what I will be sending you each month and tell them that if they don’t send you something in writing agreeing on the situation, that you will gladly take the money you were going to send them and send it to another company that you owe debt to. They are not going to come after you and they are NOT going to garnish your wages. And whatever you do, do NOT allow them direct access to any of your accounts (i.e. automatic bill pay) because once they have access to your accounts, they can basically do anything they want (take as much out) and it will be between you and them to make them stop. (I work at a bank and the bank has no control once you give access to someone else….the agreement was between you and the other company, not the bank)
They will probably STILL call, you just have to learn how to deal with it and not let them put you on a guilt trip. I owed money to my dentist (the part that insurance didn’t cover) and I couldn’t pay it all. I called them and told them what I would be sending them each month and that it would be all I could do, but that I would be sending them money every month. They still put ugly yellow and red stickers all over the bill each month saying how far I was past due and that payment was due immediately. However, I didn’t let it bother me, cause I knew as long as I was consistently trying to pay it off, they didn’t have a leg to stand on.
OH and no one but the IRS can garnish your wages. And I don’t think they can either. You REALLY need to listen to the Dave Ramsey show, call in, or at least check out his website. He really does help you understand a lot about what is possible for you to do and what the creditors do to try and get their money. His messages are clear and “old school” (common sense), but he puts it in a way that makes it easy to understand and put into action.
These companies thrive on “scare tactics”. Unless they send a cop to your door (which they won’t) or a subpoena (which they won’t), they are not going to do anything but try to scare you. They can write off the money you owe them if they don’t get it. It is set up in their company to adjust for money uncollected. However, this is not a license to not pay them, you have to pay them to protect your credit score. You just have to get tough and stay tough.