Broke beyond broke.
December 11, 2008 10:47 AM   Subscribe

We just found out that my husband's not getting his paycheque this week. I'm currently unemployed and have been actively looking for work, to no avail. What to do?

His pay has been lovingly garnished by his employer due to overpayment spanning the last year, and we're not even sure he'll be getting a cheque at the end of the month.

He's appealing to his employer this afternoon, and I'm trying to reach the food bank to set up an emergency ration pickup, but their line is busy.

Is there anything else we can do? We don't have any assets, and nothing to pawn. I'm afraid that we won't be able to get continued assistance from the food bank because his salary is decent (when he's receiving it!). All we are promised, if I can get through, is a 3-5 day hamper.

Although we weren't planning on anything big (this is our first christmas together away from family), it would be kind of nice if we could eat/feed our pets.

I have been poor before, but have never felt so destitute. We have 20$ until god-knows-when, with no one to get a loan from.

Get rich quick schemes, anyone? Anything I'm not thinking of?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm assuming you've considered credit cards to tide you over. The other option is using a site like Prosper to get a quick, small loan.

Are you a member of a church or community group? This might be a good time to seek assistance from them or call in any favors from friends/neighbors/relatives.

Just whatever you do, don't get one of those payday loans -- the debt would snowball. Good luck.
posted by spiderskull at 10:59 AM on December 11, 2008

Can you call family members for a small loan for a few weeks?

There are plenty of short-term loan organizations around, they generally will give you money, with interest, against your next paycheck.
posted by rumsey monument at 11:00 AM on December 11, 2008

I know you're anonymous, but it would help if you could let us know where you are (based on your misspelling of 'check,' Canada? The UK?). Contact an admin.
posted by pullayup at 11:02 AM on December 11, 2008

Yeah, don't have real high expectations for the food bank, times is tough and they are strapped as a general rule right now. If he's showing income on paper it's going to make it tough to apply for food stamps but you can use a food stamp calculator to get a rough idea if you might be eligible for something. Contact some local churches/synagogues and plead your case, I'm sure they're getting plenty of calls like this and many faith based institutions are mobilizing right now in anticipation of an increased need for essentials on the holidays.
posted by The Straightener at 11:04 AM on December 11, 2008

(based on your misspelling of 'check,' Canada? The UK?)

Exceptionalist much? Maybe the US misspells, it, hm?

OP, ten top of my head ideas...

(1) I'm surprised you have NOTHING you can sell or pawn. Can you rethink that, maybe?
(2) Credit cards a bad option but they will work for a single month of stress.
(3) Try one of those instant money-lending shops where they give you an advance on your next paycheQUE if you prove you're employed.
(4) At Christmastime, lots of places hire temporary workers, even if it's a second or third job night-shift retail it's better than nothing, right?
(5) You could (gasp) sell one of your pets. I know, drastic.
(6) Ask distant friends or family for a short-term loan? Western Union or bank transfer.
(7) Depending on your skills, sell some quick service on elance or ebay.
(8) Amazon's Mechanical Turk. $10/day is easy, $30 is possible.
(9) Churches of any faith. They may give you money directly, or lend it to you, or pay you for work cleaning or such.
(10) Door to door offering to (depending on locale) wash windows or shovel snow.

Others will have more I am sure.
posted by rokusan at 11:10 AM on December 11, 2008 [6 favorites]

Having been at this sort of point myself, my sympathies. I had to do some thinking about whether "no one to get a loan from" meant no one who had money to give me or no one who had money and would leave me with a shred of dignity for the rest of my life. Family often fall into the latter group, but you'll know those details better than I.

Agreeing that you shouldn't get a payday loan. We used to call it debt peonage or the company store, and it's no less a trap if there's a middleman involved.

If it were me, I would skip Christmas (ouch, I know) and look at plasma donation - not glamorous, but with two people, enough to keep you in ramen and canned beans for a month. Wear a couple sweaters and turn the heat down and unplug every appliance that's not absolutely necessary (even the drain of standby mode can save you a few bucks next month when the energy bill comes). Dry cat food goes farther, dollar for dollar. I'd also call your utility companies and tell them your situation - he's still working, but there's a short-term problem. They may be lenient and you have nothing to lose. (At the very least, you'll know what their late payment policies are.)

In what part of the country do you live?
posted by el_lupino at 11:15 AM on December 11, 2008

His salary may be too much for you to qualify for public assistance, but you don't have anything sale able to show for it? Did you spend it all on hookers and blow? =p

NE-who, at least here in Washington state, the private foodbanks I've volunteered with didn't have any screening process to determine if you deserved to eat. If you showed up and asked for help, they gave it to you, period. You didn't have to prove you also qualified for govt benefits, or that you'd even tried the state route.
posted by nomisxid at 11:22 AM on December 11, 2008

Can your husband work overtime at his job, or talk to the HR people at his job and get hired at some other (second) job at his company and work a massive amount of overtime in the next week? You'll have to figure something else out in the short term, but that would help with the problem and depending on how in-the-hole you are, get you sure of a check at the end of the month, from a sure source. If you have direct deposit, it's even better.

Got a car? Could you or he deliver pizzas? They used to hire pretty quickly back in the day, and with the weather (depending on where you are) colder, and with lots of sports (ncaa basketball, nba, ncaa football championships, nfl playoff races) on television, a lot of people will be ordering and tipping. Plus gas prices are really low at the moment (again, depending on where you are). Good luck.

Also, from mefi jobs (I think it's still open?).
posted by cashman at 11:30 AM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ask your employer if they can take out 1/3 of the amount owed over the next three pay periods so as not to put your family in financial jeopardy.
posted by mrmojoflying at 11:31 AM on December 11, 2008 [9 favorites]

Things from the last time I was in a similar position (not sure if they apply, but oh well):

Depending on where you're at, utility companies may well let you slide (I just completely spaced off paying an electric bill for a month and wound up with a whopping $0.64 late penalty on the next one). Student loan providers will probably give you a forbearance or deferment based on financial hardship; other forms of debt may be similar.

I used to get a lot of free (or very, very cheap) day-old bread from sandwich places. Ask near closing time. Jimmy John's is good for this, if there's one around, though local places may be even better. Maybe local restaurants in general?

I know people who dumpster-dive for food behind supermarkets.

If you're looking for quick extra employment, temp agencies like Manpower can often set you up with short-term gigs very quickly. I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that at this time of year they're looking for people to work retail at odd hours.
posted by brennen at 11:40 AM on December 11, 2008

Are you posting this from your own computer? Sell it.
posted by desjardins at 11:53 AM on December 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Also, UPS is always looking for package handlers this time of year, if you or your husband are physically able. Probably FedEx, too, but my bro-in-law got a job with UPS in a matter of days.
posted by desjardins at 11:55 AM on December 11, 2008

I just completely spaced off paying an electric bill for a month and wound up with a whopping $0.64 late penalty on the next one....

I forget to pay utility bills for three or four months... often... and I even have the money!

In other words, you might safely be able to be late on many payments, you just don't realize it.
posted by rokusan at 12:02 PM on December 11, 2008

I would consider talking to a local church.

If a total stranger came into our church with your circumstance, we'd take them shopping and fill their pantry. We wouldn't give them cash, but we'd darn well make sure that food wasn't on their list of problems.

Be honest. Be straightforward. Be clear as to what you're asking for ("Would it be possible for the church to help us out with two weeks' worth of food? We don't want money?")
posted by DWRoelands at 12:18 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Skip the bills this month, other than rent/mortgage, phone and any credit card bills. Utilities will wait. I think you should talk to your employer about spacing out the repayment of the overage - 100% garnishing isn't legal as far as I know - California at least limits it to 25% of your paycheck. Find out the law in your state and let your hubby's employer know that they are in violation of the law.

You can also get seasonal work right now - just go to any department/toy store and fill out an application - you'll likely get hired on the spot.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:29 PM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sell some books / CDs / other small stuff on Amazon or ebay. Amazon is best for books.
posted by hazyjane at 12:33 PM on December 11, 2008

Also, UPS is always looking for package handlers this time of year, if you or your husband are physically able. Probably FedEx, too, but my bro-in-law got a job with UPS in a matter of days.

FedEx not so much
posted by jalexei at 12:40 PM on December 11, 2008

Noting hazyjane's suggestion about selling stuff on Amazon or eBay. Did a bunch of that myself. For what it's worth, both of them generally fix the amount that you get for shipping from the buyer and it was barely the actual amount or slightly less in my experience, even if you shipped book rate. They also take a commission on the sale, which tends to nullify the shipping you get. An $8/item sale price was a sweet spot of sorts, where it left me with about $5/item. Anything less than that wasn't even worth taking to the post office.
posted by el_lupino at 12:43 PM on December 11, 2008

I'm surprised 100% garnishment is even legal -- in fact, it might not be, so do check that out.

Consider Modest Needs as a possible source of funds to pay some of your most pressing bills or buy food.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:47 PM on December 11, 2008

Re:not paying utilities
Call them. When I was in a situation, I called my (public) company for the heating bill, and they were willing to give me three months to pay without penalty. YMMV.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 2:06 PM on December 11, 2008

15% of gross pay is typically the most that creditors are allowed to garnish from a debtors paycheck. Check it out.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 5:41 PM on December 11, 2008

Anytime you're living paycheck-to-paycheck, taking on a loan of any kind is dangerous. If you do a cash advance, you could end up in a cycle. Are you really going to have that extra money to pay back that loan next month?

An odd job or six would be a better solution. How about:
-Rake leaves
-Shovel snow
-Clean homes
-Mow lawns
-Walk dogs/pet sit
-Wrap holiday gifts (charge a dollar or two per. It'll add up!)
-A good temp agency might be able to get you working quick, and they usually pay within a week or so too. You could do data entry, or basic manual labor.

I realize that it's too late for "should'ves", but this is why everyone should have some kind of emergency fund. I'm sure this wasn't seen coming.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 7:48 PM on December 11, 2008

That's a tough situation. You need cash NOW, and most of the solutions don't really address this urgency. If you can't borrow money from anyone for free, credit cards are probably the best option. Maybe your bank can set up up with a quick loan?
posted by gjc at 8:27 PM on December 11, 2008

A location would have helped target our responses. Here in Ontario you can get emergency welfare immediately, call up social services where you are and see if there is something similar. You would probably have to pay it back when the paycheque was sorted out but it would at least give you a buffer. Do you have any recent purchases that you still have the receipt for that you can return to the shop for quick cash (or exchange for something practical like food)? In terms of food, look at what is in your cupboard now and plan meals ahead with what you have (this is where having a box of pancake mix is handy, just add water and your choice of topping and you have something to fill you up). Soups are cheap and nourishing too. Hillbilly housewife is frequently cited in these cases. Are there any local volunteer opportunities that will feed you as a reward?

It IS stressful to suddenly be without money but you know this is temporary and at least you have each other.
posted by saucysault at 1:04 AM on December 12, 2008

A payday loan would be okay if the reason you currently have no emergency fund is to do with Christmas or some other infrequent event. You can scrimp a little at the start of 2009 to pay it back.

If you routinely live paycheck to paycheck then DO NOT TAKE OUT A PAYDAY LOAN.

Other suggestions:

Hit up Freecycle. You may be able to find gifts or things that you could sell for some quick cash. (This is technically against the Freecycle ethos, but this is an emergency, not something you're making a habit of.)

Do the rounds of freebie sites. You can pick up anything from coffee to light bulbs this way without doing much more than filling out a short online form.

You say you don't have anything to sell, but that's probably because you're thinking "I couldn't possibly sell my computer/cellphone/whatever." If you're prepared to make hard choices you can sell those things... or at least hock them until after Christmas.

Go on Craigslist/Gumtree/your local equivalent and offer your services as a tutor/cleaner/babysitter/whatever.
posted by the latin mouse at 5:03 AM on December 12, 2008

Absolutely do not use a payday loan, that will only make your problems worse later on. If you have a checking account, you can almost certainly get a signature loan from your bank for the small amount you require to skate by. The interest rate may be high, (like, 12% in the US) but the terms will be better than from a Credit Card. People never seem to realize how happy banks are to make such loans. A $2K loan, paid back over 2 years, is the simplest thing in the world, if you have a decent credit rating.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:09 AM on December 12, 2008

If you're in the US you could contact Modest Needs.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:39 AM on December 12, 2008

spiderskull: "The other option is using a site like Prosper to get a quick, small loan."

Due to some SEC issues, Prosper is currently not accepting any new lenders or borrowers (although they will attempt to fulfill new loan requests through alternate sources).
posted by IndigoRain at 11:59 PM on December 12, 2008

Also, please do not Not NOT go to a payday lender. They charge extremely excessive interest, in some cases up to 800%.

"Payday loans, which offer quick cash secured with the borrower's paycheck, can saddle borrowers with huge fees and interest, " sometimes as much as 800 percent." The numbers in the report are staggering—the average payday borrower pays back $793 for a $325 loan." source
posted by IndigoRain at 12:06 AM on December 13, 2008

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